On April 21st, 2015, Bell Hooks and Gloria Steinem, long time feminist advocates and friends, came together once again, this time for an insightful conversation on stage at St. Norbert College. Hooks, most famous for her literature and teaching, and Steinem, known most widely for her creation of Ms. Magazine both took very different paths to come to the realization of the need for feminism. Crossing divides of class, race, and age, the two women became friends and have struck up conversations that have inspired and enlightened others. The maturity and mutual respect of these women was inspiring and their educated banter, though full of great insight, was easy enough for even those who don’t identify as feminists to understand. The topics of conversations ranged from the right to birth and death to the feminist movement as a whole. I feel so privileged to have been witness to such a wonderful event. Of all of the issues covered, there were a few that really stuck out to me. The following is a recap of sorts as well as my own interpretations and ideas.
First was women’s involvement in the right to birth. The right to birth is quite an obvious issue and, although abortion is often linked with the feminist movement, that’s not what I’m talking about. Children are wonderful and raising children is completely admirable, so don’t misunderstand that; I’m not anti-children. However, too frequently, women are simply expected to have children. A very personal decision is often what people use to create casual conversation and accuse women of not being “real women.” Because they are capable (or worse, assumed to be capable) of having children, they should. Not all women are meant to have children, or even be married. God has different plans for each and every one of us. None of these plans is better or worse than anyone else’s, but rather, by following what God has for us, we are able to use our unique gifts, talents, and strengths for His glory.
Another set of topics thrown into the mix with feminism were the factors of racism and classism. Racism and classism within the context of feminism is a very interesting combination. Besides the commonplace discrimination against women, women of racial minorities and/or classes have even more challenges to overcome. As women, we all have barriers because of our gender. That being said, we still have a responsibility to fight for equality in all aspects.
From these few issues mentioned, the incredibly daunting question arises: what can I do? Men, too, have a place in the movement, and the answer to the question is the same for everyone. The greatest response from these women and one that I stand behind whole heartedly is to start where you are. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. As in all issues, every person plays some role and is therefore challenged with the responsibility to help others in whatever way they can.
How do you help in the movement towards equality?