Not finished yet — Steinem speaks on the continuing fight for gender equality, effects of today’s feminism
She clapped for the audience before the audience had a chance to clap for her.
“Now we are in the present,” Gloria Steinem said, smiling at the cheering audience in front of her. “We have work to do.”
Greeted with a standing ovation, feminist and activist Steinem entered the University of Idaho ASUI Kibbie Dome with hands extended toward the crowd, waving as if she were waving to a group of close friends.
Steinem, a journalist, social and political activist spoke yesterday in the Kibbie Dome as the keynote speaker for the UI Athena Women’s Conference and part of the Women’s Center’s 40th anniversary celebration.
Her speech, entitled “Our Legacies: Inspiring our Future,” focused on the word “progress” — the progress that can be made, and has been made, in the fight for complete gender equity.
A feminist for life, she said, is truth-seeker through the many gender expectations and sexual stereotypes that have plagued women throughout generations. Steinem said these “rigid expectations” can only be reversed by those who are willing to challenge them.
“We need to remember … that social justice movements really have historically needed to last at least a century to be fully absorbed into cultures and to become irreversible,” Steinem said.
Described as the female “Martin Luther King Jr. of the feminist movement” – Steinem said the the civil rights movement is far from over. Steinem — when describing how the civil rights movement and the feminist movement are one in the same — said both movements are fundamentally the struggle for equality among those that are different. Steinem said the struggles of the suffragists and feminists have created difference in the way our national culture views women, but there is still a great deal of change to be made.
“By symbolizing the past and the present, for the purpose of taking the distance that we have come in 40 years, to now, and then projecting that into the future — that’s how far we are going to go,” Steinem said.
UI senior in psychology and campus activist Whitney Chapman said Steinem was a revolutionary.
“It’s activists like Gloria who have rattled the cage the status quo built and created a better world for generations to come,” Chapman said while introducing Steinem to the podium.
As a former member of the Feminist Led Activist Movement to Empower, FLAME, and intern at the UI Women’s Center, Chapman said the works of Steinem are a strong inspiration behind Chapman’s determination to make the world a better place for gender equity.
“It’s activists like Gloria who looked adversity and injustice in the face and dared for something more,” Chapman said.
Prior to the Kibbie Dome keynote, Steinem met with select students and Women’s Conference attendees in a closed question-and-answer session in the Student Union Building Borah Theater. In this session, Steinem touched on many of the issues affecting college campuses.
With cup of coffee in hand no microphone or stiff podium, Steinem told students to have a dialogue — a conversation about the issues that were affecting their campus lives. Racial profiling against female international students, reflections on the gender roles of gay male students, ways in which students can partake in campus activism and how to address feminism on a daily basis were a few of the topics discussed.
“I was very pleased to see the number of students that showed up (to the session), and their energy and enthusiasm,” said Victoria Arthur, member of the Women’s Center 40th anniversary planning committee and lecturer in the UI English department.
Arthur said she was excited for the closed session because it provided an intimate setting, a seemingly one-on-one experience with Steinem.
“I really wanted to help people understand how important she has been to women’s equality because she has been so personally important in my journey as a woman,” Arthur said.
Steinem said her personal fight for equality will never end, nor will the need for continued effort supporting new non-gender specific opportunities from the upcoming generation.
“We’ve come a little distance in gender equality and humanizing gender roles,” Steinem said. “But we have so much more (distance) to go and our dreams need to be big.”
Chloe Rambo can be reached at email@example.com