April 21, 2013

Susan Goodwillie

 email: SusanGoodwillie@FrailtyMyths.org

 In the fall of 2011, my dear friend Georgia emailed me asking if I’d be interested in participating in the development of Frailty Myths.

She explained in the email that she’d been doing a bit of soul-searching about what was really important to her and how she wanted to be living and working according to her values and talents. She became inspired by the idea of starting an organization that would focus on empowering women and teaching them to sail. What she was identifying was the issue of deeply engrained and generally accepted social norms and gender roles and the effect these systems have had on women in America today. As many people would prefer to believe that we are living in a post-racist country, so they would similarly be lulled into regarding the issue of women’s equality as a thing of the past. However, these false perceptions have pushed these critical issues out of public consciousness to the point where we are unable to easily find forums to discuss them, particularly outside of academic environments. These unspoken disparities have crystallized into dominate cultural narratives about the people around us; they’ve become accepted myths.

One such dominate myth is that females lack the same physical capacity as men; that women are genetically the weaker gender. This myth, widely accepted as fact, has contributed to the oppression of women and girls and, despite major improvements made in women’s physical education, continues to persist.

I’ve spent most of my life in the theater and only recently went back to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in social work. This education has sharpened my awareness of the impact made on us all by unacknowledged systems of oppression. I’ve begun the excruciating but important exercise of recognizing and taking responsibility for the ways in which myself and others perpetuate these systems. This can be a painful and alienating task.

Frailty Myths is about creating a safe environment where women will hopefully feel empowered to engage with themselves and one another in this challenging exploration. By participating in the act of sailing together, perhaps we can inspire each participant to test the limits of her physical power as well as foster a sense of community and mutual support within the group. This kind of activity has the potential to influence and equalize the kinds of power dynamics that so often exist in groups based on race, sex, class, income and ability. We hope that the experience of creating this safe environment together will open a door to a larger dialectic conversation about the systems that influence all of our lives and that we may begin to challenge the many myths that so often dictate the course of our lives.

“Where love is, there is transformation. Without love, revolution has no meaning, for then revolution is merely destruction, decay, a greater and greater ever mounting misery. Where there is love, there is revolution, because love is transformation from moment to moment.” – J. Krishnamurti

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