Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #124 - Gloria Steinem
We went to see Gloria Steinem last night (Friday 11/7) at Miller Auditorium. I told Liesel I had to go. As someone who has proudly worn the label of feminist all of my adult life, especially the ten years that I taught the Gender and Media course in the Women's Studies department, I had to go see one of my heroes, a person for whom I have the utmost respect, and whom I was sure would inspire me further in her comments at Western Michigan University.
As a man, I have always had to explain my stand as a feminist. It was never something automatically accepted. In fact, some people felt that I could not be a feminist. I have faced vocal opposition to my feminism from men and women. I have faced a great deal of silent judgement from those reticent, for whatever reason, to confront me and engage in discourse that might end with agreeing with my stand. And I have been accused of posing, of using feminism as a way to pretend liberal thinking, even as a tool to charm women into bed, which is possibly the most offensive accusation of all.
And yet, boo hoo. Not a big deal. Not compared to the violent rape culture that our women must live in, not compared to the culture of inequality and harsh judgement that the women of the world must try to navigate every day. I am privileged, both as a white person and a male person, not to mention as someone living a middle class lifestyle. I not looking for sympathy.
All of this text serves only to point out how I have borne up through some resistance to call myself a feminist and to continue to do so, and how pleased I was when Steinem answered the first question of the night, texted by a thirteen-year-old boy, who asked if a man could be a feminist. In reply, Steinem said "abso-fucking-lutely." Thank you, Ms. Steinem. You just validated my life, and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it.
I was hoping there was a transcript available for the evening with Steinem. It's rather ridiculous that there is not a transcript. After all, there was a person signing the entire evening. I see transcribers in my college classes providing real-time transcripts for hearing-impaired students. Why is there no transcript?
Steinem said so many things that were inspiring or surprising. Facts and figures that I did not know, such as if we add up all the people killed in the 9/11 attacks in New York and all the people killed in military action in Afghanistan and Iraq since then, still, more women have been killed by their husbands and boyfriends since then. Astonishing.
One of the messages she stressed that resonated most powerfully with me was that "it's all connected." I am paraphrasing here, but Steinem said that there's no feminist who is against sexism who is not also against racism, not also against the way our planet is being raped and our natural resources depleted, not against classism, not also against discrimination based ethnicity, religion, sexual identity, ability, size, and whatever else people concoct to discriminate. These are all connected. The civil rights movement, the women's movement, the environmental movement, the LBGT movement. We cannot have one without the other. And then she further shattered the preconceptions of many people reminding us (or enlightening some for the first time) that we have invented these things. There is no such thing as different races in our ONE human race. Gender is a social construct and can be as varied and individual as there are individuals to express it. She explained people cannot look at these movements differently by saying, “We cannot see ourselves in silos. We are all a part of the same movement.”
I was happy to hear Steinem echo many things I spoke about during the decade I taught Gender Studies, but I was also inspired to hear the things that were not forefront of my mind, such as “you cannot perpetuate class difference, race difference, without controlling reproduction,” Steinem said.
(Parts of this text have been taken from the WESTERN HERALD without permission. See link below.).
Additionally, during her trip down the Nile River, Steinem observed the historical perspective of male dominance over women. In the first part of the river, Steinem said she saw statues of nature and goddesses; however, as the trip progressed, she noticed the goddess had a son but no daughter. At the end of the trip, Steinem said the goddess had been reduced to the throne which the Pharaoh sat on.
She also connected female violence to police violence by saying, “Police families experience four times the national rate of domestic violence.”
She contextualized this statistic with the George Zimmerman case. “Zimmerman was violent towards women, had we known that Treyvon Martin may be alive today,” she said.
Gloria Steinem drew connections between domestic abuse, sexual violence, war, and police brutality.
Steinem encouraged everyone to try to change the world by doing what they can using their unique gifts, one day at a time.
Ms. Steinem spoke about the importance of “truth telling” in order to create change in the world.
An audience member asked if Gloria Steinem considered herself to be an “intersectional” feminist. An intersectional feminism is: “The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society.” Examples of factors that contribute to these intersectional systems include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.
INTERSECTIONAL FEMINISM LINK
I know, Mom, that these issues are not ones that you cared overly much about. You were part of the Betty Crocker era and strongly identified with classic TV house wives and mothers. And yet, you would have listened politely as I told you about all of this, as you listened for years as I talked about what I was teaching in the class room.
I remember that I went to me first women's meeting with my good friend Julie Peck at Kalamazoo College in 1982. Many of the women there were less than inviting. No one told me that I was not welcome, but I definitely felt the unwelcome vibe.
And yet, I adopted the feminist label, even knowing it was flawed. Liesel and I agree that "humanist" is a better term, just as Steinem explained because these ideologies are all connected, shared, and they should work together. But we're not there yet. We're not ready yet as a culture to combine in a way that would be prevalent and easy.
The women's movement gave rise to Women's Studies departments on campuses just as the civil rights movement gave birth to African-American Studies departments. It was necessary to compartmentalize these issues while at the same time integrating this content, previously ignored or glossed over, to existing programs. Really, ultimately, there would be no need for separate departments to address a deficit in teaching. The teaching should be there in all departments, and the special programs should only exist for more in depth study.
But we're not there yet. We're not ready yet for the inclusion, but we're working for that goal and we're getting closer. But there's still so much resistance, so much denial. People do not want to acknowledge that we live in a rape culture. Many people vehemently resist that media products, such as Grand Theft Auto normalize and trivialize violence against women.
When I started teaching the gender course, I expected resistance to feminism from men. In fact, in my first few years enrollment by men in the course was very low. By the time I was "dismissed" from my role, I had tripled the enrollment by men. And yet, their resistance was often palpable, though more strongly to material I did each term on LBGT issues than feminism. Still, I modeled what a feminist looks like for my students. I modeled what I thought a man should be, or maybe rather could be, for the young men in my course.
And yet, I was baffled by resistance from women. They were not resisting the idea of me being a feminist. They resisted feminism, some ardently and with hostility. Others confessed that they agreed with everything I espoused, that feminism espoused, and yet they were reticent to call themselves feminists. They did not have the courage to take on the baggage that the feminist label carried. One friend of mine suggested that they feared that calling themselves a feminist because it would damage their attractiveness to men. I questioned why they would want to attract men that would feel that way about feminism.
But I was happy to see Miller Auditorium filled with 4000 some people loudly cheering feminism. Thanks WMU for showing Gloria Steinem that we appreciate her great work as one of the icons of feminism.
Steinem ended her presentation by saying the message, “Imagine we are linked, not ranked.”
Here's the link to the WESTERN HERALD article.
Here's a good link to a write up by the DEA class at WMU: Direct Encounter with the Arts course.
There are great comments by students on the page at the previous link. Though I am happy to see how many were moved and inspired by Gloria Steinem, I am sad to see how many had not heard of her before. Obviously, our public school system fails to properly stand up someone like Ms. Steinem next to Martin Luther King and other movers and shakers in consciousness raising and paradigm shifting movements in our recent history.
I am late finishing this post, so it's Veteran's Day as I type this. I posted the following to Facebook.
"GRAND CANYON" by ani difranco
Lastly, I am ashamed to say that in my t-shirt year writing the t-shirt blog, I never got around to showing the THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE t-shirt. I am proud of that t-shirt. But what I wanted to write about it was taking too long. I have it planned but I never finished my essay. Here's four links of content that I did write about feminism, though. But none of this content really equals what I wrote here and still could write about this subject. Some of the posts only touch on feminism tangentially.
T-shirt #213 - Bitch Magazine
T-shirt #247 - Wonder Woman
T-shirt #278 - Three Wise Men?
T-shirt #331 - Winnie the Pooh Mornings
Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.
Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.
- Days ago = 126 days ago
- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1511.07 - 10:10
and again 1511.11 - 8:15