Surfacing in Particular Waters
In Houston, Texas, a friend of mine stood and watched her husband step over a pile of
toys on the stairs, put there to be carried up. “Why can’t you get this stuff put away?” he
mumbled. Click! “You have two hands” she said, turning away.
—JANE O’REILLY, “The Housewife’s Moment of Truth,” Ms. Magazine, Spring 1972
PUBLISHED IN THE first issue of Ms. Magazine in 1972, Jane O’Reilly’s essay, “The Housewife’s Moment of Truth,” popularized the notion of the “click,” the dramatic “finger snap” moment of becoming a feminist.1 Clicks often were prompted by interaction in a group setting such as a consciousness-raising (C-R) group where a woman, in the course of sharing details about her life, such as housework, would come to see how her experiences reflected larger social injustices. This process reinforced the slogan “The personal is political” for the second-wave feminist generation.2 One longtime facilitator of C-R sessions described it this way: “By sharing our experiences and perceptions, we come to feel the ‘click’—the dramatic realization of how we have been affected by a society based on gender inequities.”3 In the 1960s and 1970s, having a click moment was a way in which many women came to adopt a feminist identity. Overall, having a click moment depends on the individual living with a certain circumstance (i.e., unequal division of labor, lower pay, domestic violence), and coming to realize that, more than a personal problem, it is a societal issue. In fact, the idea of the click was so widespread that Ms. regularly published letters of click moments.4 While the click continues to be used in contemporary feminism,5 others have argued that the process is more complex. Cheryl Hercus, in her study of Australian feminists coming to feminism in the late 1980s and early 1990s, argues that while the click experience is a familiar metaphor, the process of becoming a feminist is an ongoing negotiation with a series of stages moving from thinking about the world in a feminist way, to having feminist feelings, to identifying as a member and then doing feminism.6
Building on Hercus’s notion of feminist identification as a journey, I argue that the click realization is inadequate in explaining how a twenty-first-century cohort comes to feminism. The dramatic realization of inequality like a click