Jane Fonda: Archetype of Women’s Liberation?

Liberation is setting someone free, and an archetype is an energy pattern that emanates a given characteristic. Jane Fonda might seem an odd choice as an archetype of women’s liberation. She predates the surge of Women’s Liberation, marked by the publication of MS magazine in 1971. One might think Gloria Steinem one of the founders of MS magazine would be a better choice.  But I like Jane Fonda as an archetype because she is complicated.  Women’s liberation is complicated.

When I was 12 in 1960, I saw Jane Fonda in the move, Tall Story, I was transfixed, I wanted to be like her.  At 12, I hadn’t yet questioned the societal feminine stereotype of sexual objectification.  Jane projected that stereotype but there was something else, a strength that emanated resiliency. Her own life story has been complicated as she was vilified for seemingly supporting the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, and at the same she has set up a non-profit to empower young women in their health choices.

Like Jane, my path to women’s liberation has been complicated.  In the 70s, I found my voice with MS magazine.  One of the first issues was “why do women shave their legs”.  Seeing that, I thought, right, why?  Growing up my brother seemed to have liberation, and I wanted that as well. The feminists of the 70s were all about ripping up the patriarchy.  We would hiss when speakers would use the words “mankind” or “he” in their talks. But we also wanted to be sexy, and mothers, and loving wives and have careers.

Jane Fonda has been married three times, and so have I.  My sister says I ruin family pictures, with different husbands.  I’ve always questioned my choices, which don’t seem to jive with my desire to be a loving partner and a good mother.  But in thinking about women’s liberation I realized part of my protesting the patriarchy was trying to figure out how to be free within a marriage. I wasn’t able to successfully navigate this and I felt I was living a dissonance. But now I’ve forgiven myself. I’ve realized I, like Jane, was seeking liberation.

I know the current generation of feminists are figuring this out, to find liberation in their own way within marriage. It will remain complicated but they will do a better job. They know more.

In Oct 2019 at 82 Jane was arrested three times for civil disobedience protesting for climate change.  She is now working on setting the Earth free from human pollution and continues to emanate resiliency in finding new ways to stand up for liberation.  I’ve been resilient as well, and I hope even though the feminists of the 70s didn’t solve how to integrate women’s competing roles, that we can at least pass on our resiliency.


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