Trapped in a mirror
“The euphemism ‘women’s liberation’ tacitly makes an assumption most of us who are so labeled are unwilling to make: that we can liberate other women by our actions. Liberation is a very personal concept, and none of us are about to go around ‘liberating’ others.
“It is as if women have been trapped in a mirror, compelled to conform to an image reflected not from within themselves but from the way society chooses to see them. Women have been confined to the inner depths of a bell jar, to use Sylvia Plath’s terrifying metaphor.
“On the first day of the world, cracks appear in the mirror. A sort of inner illumination begins to take place: awareness of self, consciousness of independent feelings, and wishes. Before too long, the mirror is shattered; the bell jar lifted. The results may be cataclysmic.
“Liberation demands some kind of self-actualization. The individuals who experience such impulses are going to want to enter into relationships in which they can have some say in the formation, the duration, and even the end. They want control, not all of it, but their fair share. These individuals want to be accepted for what they really are, not to be committed to fulfilling some sort of preordained role about which they had nothing to say.
“It’s hard to say exactly who that liberated person is going to be. She may have a strong identity with a group, but most importantly she will be independent even if within a group. Each of us needs to deal with her own self, realizing all the while that a self ultimately must relate to others – female and male. With self esteem comes the possibility to enhance those significant others and to be enhanced in return.
“That’s when life begins to be exciting.” — Sarah Slavin Schramm
— Excerpted from Schramm’s essay, “Moving on,” FOCUS/Midwest, Vol. 9 No. 58, 1973.
At the time the magazine published its special issue on women’s rights, Schramm was an instructor at Webster College and chair of a national NOW committee on women’s studies.