Nikki Van Hightower
Houston Area Women's Center
For some of us the women's movement
created a revolution in our minds—a
rebirth, I have heard some people call it.
I, for one, was so primed for its happening that understanding of it was immediate, and adherence to its rationality
It has been in the decade of the 1970's
that the contemporary women's movement has taken form and come into its
own. I was a graduate student at New
York University in 1970, working on a
Ph.D. in Political Science. I became totally engrossed in this movement. For the
first time something was happening on
the political scene that was directly relevant to my life. The theoretical forms and
images of politics and political structure
suddenly took on a depth and dimension
that they had never had before. Suddenly
politics left the classroom and entered my
home and intervened in every social relationship I had.
I kept anticipating that the awakening
would reach a plateau once the well-kept
secrets were let out of the closet. I am beginning to wonder now if the gender-
based secrets have not been compiled for
so long that it will take generations to
seek them out and air them in the light of
reality. Whole social systems and political
structures are based upon these secrets.
Discovery could prove to be very disruptive.
Uncovering the secrets of ourselves
and our capabilities has brought about a
new popular vocabulary that was once
the private domain of sociologists and
psychologists. Socialization and stereotyping are now familiar concepts. The
1970's has been an era of self-examination for women. We have diligently been
involved in making the distinction between what being a woman means to each
of us personally, and what we have been
told that it means. In the course of doing
this we have been faced with dilemmas.
At what point do we stop excusing ourselves for our weaknesses and omissions
brought on by discrimination and start
taking it on the chin? By the same token,
at what point do men take responsibility
for the limitations placed on women's
lives? After all, if we have been victims of
socialization, so have they. If socialization has turned us into victims, so has it
turned men into victimizes. Are we on or
off the hook?
For experience in emotional extremes
there is nothing like being in on the
ground floor of any movement. The
women's movement is a case in point. It
has been thrilling and exhilirating because of the discovery, creation, insight,
and camaraderie it has brought. Laws
have been passed, attitudes have modified. We have experienced the making of
Our frustrations and disappointments
have been equally great. We have been
ridiculed, despised, misinterpreted and
feared. We have seen our intentions deliberately distorted and have had the unpleasant taste of martyrdom, as women
take advantage of the greater opportunities brought about by our efforts while at
the same time they criticize us for our
sacrifices. Few of those women who provided the impetus for change have been
able to reap the benefits of that change.
Some of the most important pieces of
legislation have gotten bogged down or
are losing ground (ERA, abortion rights,
In any event, the women's rights movement is a great deal more than pieces of
legislation. It constitutes a revolution in
attitudes about oneself and others and
everyone is affected. The secrets which
have been used to control behavior are
slowly getting out and the myths are being destroyed, but our social and political
relationships have been so closely linked
to the control of male and female behavior that fundamental changes must occur
before any real semblance of equality can
Looking into the 1980's the problems
emerging on the horizon include linking
the women's movement with a single
piece of legislation—the Equal Rights
Amendment—to the point that the movement's success or failure will be judged by
the success or failure of passage of the
ERA. Ironically, there may be more danger of this happening with passage than
with non-passage. Already we hear people
insisting that the battle for equal rights
has been won. We should all go home and
leave well enough alone. Any further developments must be left to individual ini-
Experienced leaders are burning out.
The conflicts and need for continued
pressure has extracted too much from
their lives and they feel the necessity to
turn away from political life and pull the
pieces of their personal lives together.
More and more the physical damage of
sexism is beginning to be visible. Battered
wives, rape victims, alcoholic and drug-
dependent women—the uglier little secrets that were carefully guarded. When
they slipped out, they were distorted in
such a way that the victim became the
perpetrator of the crime against herself.
Big questions loom over the future of
our society. Who will bear children, and
how will they be cared for? Who will provide the labor that has traditionally been
the unpaid responsibility of women?
What will happen to our economy when
women not only demand, but start receiving comparable wages to men? Will any of
these fundamental questions be answered
in the eighties?
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Promotion Manager, KPRC-TV
Ten years ago I liked playing telev^n
friends old movies, telev.s.on, cold beer,
e evis on dogs, talkin' television, gu.tars
p yd without electricity, and te.ev,..on
Today. I like friends, old moy.es. cold
oeeldok talkin'. guitars P^-tho
electricity, and television. Also, I st.l
have a * le trouble explaining why my
wi 's last name is not the same as mme.
And, yes I like my wife-she's my best
I've been through high-rent Hollywood
high life and low rent single motherhood. — Kay Ebeling
Public affairs officer for NASA
As man was making his first steps on the
Moon, I was singing and dancing to space
songs ("Walking in space you'll find the
purpose of man") in the L.A. company of
Hair. Now, 10 years later I'm a public
affairs officer for NASA taking dance
lessons at night. In between, I've been
through high-rent Hollywood high life
and low-rent single motherhood.
It seems like the road here has been so
While understudying Hair, I started
looking for another job; and ran into an
old friend who was taking Yoga classes at
a school in the Hollywood Hills. I went to
one class, and then another, and soon
moved into the house to learn to be an instructor.
We were straight hippies—high on raisins, hilltop altitudes, and protein deprivation. The Yoga really worked, as long as
you stayed in the cloister.
That was a happy dreamlike period,
and I was a succesc. After a few months,
the school opened a branch in Dallas, and
I came to Texas as a manager. I taught
classes, led song sessions (the trained
voice), and wrote ;jnd produced our radio
They gave me a nickname—"Sunshine." I beamed.
But one day the electric bill and grocery reality clashed with the 6 a.m. meditation bubble. I threw it all away. Ran off
with a director of the Dallas food co-op.
We went to Colorado to do mantras on
the mountain. I got pregnant.
That led me and Alfie (imagine that:
"Alfie and Sunshine") to his parents'
house in Cleveland, where his mother was
a very understanding grandmother. But
she lectured me on scouring powders and
spray polish; soon I was mopping our
floors every other day even if we hadn't
been in the room, wearing myself out
over cloth diapers, and frazzling my nerves
when the bread didn't rise.
What is this? I asked myself. You're
not a housewife. I took the baby and a
box of disposable diapers and drove
South. Had to get out of the cold. "I
wanna go home to the Armadillo" came
over the radio, and I got on 1-10 headed
It's not easy supporting a child on a
secretary's salary, and since I didn't take
shorthand, I was never going to reach
those $700 a month ziggurat executive-
type slots. So I moved into married student housing, which had just started accepting single parents, and started college
—a 25-year-old freshman.
With my freckles and curly hair hardly
anyone knew, and once I got straight A's
there was no stopping me. Midway through
my sophomore year Alfie breezed
through town with a new wife and I
agreed to let him keep our son for a
while. They still have him.
That was a quirk. I went to college so I
could afford to -support my son, and
graduated (summa cum laude) free and
single with no attachments. A whole
world opened up.
In my junior year I discovered astrophysics. The fascination of the cosmos.
Grasping a physics concept did much the
same thing to my head as those 6 a.m.
meditation sessions, only this was so
much more real.
The solar system is within our reach.
You can work out the propulsion and use
the rotation of a nearby planet to swing
your ship to a distant moon. And there's
nobody else out there. The solar system is
all ours. I wanted to work on that.
I applied to NASA just as they were
looking for a journalism graduate with an
interest in science. Now I edit the Johnson Space Center newspaper—write about
training astronauts, spacecraft design, and
the industrialization of space that will
come in the near future. Some of my
friends have been to the Moon. I ride
along as they test Space Shuttle equipment on a 747 that simulates zero gravity. And I keep learning physics: thrust
augmentation, fuel cell electronics, solar
ion sail ship concepts, remote spaceships
and how they scan outer planets, life support for 100 on a three-year mission to
Mars, ideas on faster-than-the-speed-of-
light travel, which Jupiter moons may be
habitable. . .
And last week I started looking into
theatre groups in Houston.