WomenGirlsLadies and Feminism’s Unfinished Business

What’s a WomanGirlLady?

Each member and (plural) the whole intergenerational panel that goes on the road together. Last week it was Courtney Martin and Kristal Brent Zook plus the amazing Maria Teresa Peterson (head of Voto Latino, who stepped admirably in for our regular–and also amazing–fourth, Deborah Siegel) at the University of Missouri Kansas City, invited by UMKC Women’s Center’s supercharged director Brenda Bethman–thanks, Brenda!

Women, Girls, Ladies: A Fresh Conversation Across Generations is a traveling panel promoting feminist dialogue across the generations and across the land. We speak at campuses and organizations (and are available to come to YOU! Rebecca Rosenberg is your contact to book us). While there are pundits who like to declare feminism dead with some regularity, we women spanning ages 20-something to 60-something tell our personal-is-political stories about how we each came to be feminists and what we think the movement’s political-is-personal unfinished businsess is.

While in Kansas City, I appeared on the iconic Walt Bodine’s KCUR radio show talking about the current politics of feminism if you want to take  a listen.

Here’s an excerpt of Courtney’s recap of the WGL’s time in KC from our WomenGirlsLadies blog:

First we did a very interactive, intergenerational workshop over at University of Missouri-Kansas City where we met fascinating local women (many of them named Linda?!) from the YWCA, The American Association of University Women, the incredible UMKC Women’s Center staff and board, and so many more.

One of the big insights that came up from that experience was a question:

When do we, as feminists, confront sexism directly and when do we deal with it indirectly instead?

It seemed like so many of the experiences and anecdotes that women of all generations brought to the table were focused on this difficult negotiation. In order to get the progress we so desire, do we swallow some of our ire when a sexist guy says something inane? Or is it our responsibility as loud and proud feminists to call him out regardless of the fall out?

As if that conversation wasn’t rich enough, we still had the big event to come. Yesterday evening we had a panel in honor of Ruth Margolin, Founding Director of the UMKC Women’s Center. There was a huge crowd (300+) in the absolutely beautiful Kansas City Public Library-Plaza Branch. After wine and cheese we migrated into the newly renovated auditorium and got to hear some wonderful words about Ruth Margolin’s fiery character. Apparently she was never afraid of being a loud and proud feminist! It was so special to be having our dialogue in honor of her legacy.

The audience brought up a range of issues; everything from women in the military, pay equity, body image, abortion, Clinton’s infidelity scandal, Sarah Palin, and racial tensions within feminism were a part of the conversation…

*The Kansas City Star did a great write up of the event. So did The Pitch, Kansas City’s weekly, but check out the title! “Meow Mix”? Come on people, this is exactly the point of our panel. When men disagree, it’s called a disagreement. When women disagree, it’s called a cat fight. Thank goodness we’re reclaiming the frame!

Reclaiming the frame is clearly one of the items on our unfinished business list, but the reason for doing that isn’t to just to set the record straight; it’s about the social justice mission in all those issues brought up by the audience, a work in progress that’s vibrantly alive. (Take that, Rush Limbaugh.)

Update on Tuesday, November 18, 2008 at 05:27PM by Registered CommenterGloria Feldt

Did you all see this from The Daily Beast?

In particular the following findings (and how ironic that Mark Penn’s firm–Penn, Hillary’s obnoxious campaign consultant who gave her very bad advice–did the polling; nevertheless, this is important to consider):

Voters reject the term and the category of being a “feminist,” with only 20% of women willing to use that word about themselves. Nor do they want their daughters to become feminists—only 17% of voters said they would welcome their daughters using that label.

But while “feminism” seems to connote a radicalism out of the mainstream, most women have very definite beliefs about the equality of the sexes. Older women believe by nearly 2/1 that when given an equal opportunity, women will succeed at whatever they do. Younger women agree but more of them (43%) feel that men and women have different strengths and weaknesses in what they can do well.

Girlw/pen summarized other salient stats from the poll in a wonderfully named post, “Post Hillary, Post Sarah, Women Are PO’d”:

  • 48% of women thought Hillary Clinton received fair media treatment and only 29% believed Sarah Palin was treated fairly. In contrast, nearly 8 in 10 voters thought the press gave fair treatment to Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
  • More than two-thirds of women said they were being treated unfairly in the workplace (68%).

The article suggests what the WGL’s have been saying:

The poll suggests that there is tremendous potential for an expanded, revitalized, and updated women’s equality movement

Well, yeahhhh.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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