On Friday November 6, the Dean of Western Michigan University’s Lee Honors College, Carla Koretsky, welcomed Gloria Steinem to their Raise Your Voice series. Steinem is a feminist, journalist, and activist who has played a crucial role in the women’s liberation movement.
Emily Rice Smith, a junior at the Lee Honors College, introduced Steinem as “a woman who has been ruffling feathers her whole life [and one] who has been raising her voice against inequality.”
Steinem began the conversation by explaining that, “the goal is to [create] a safe environment in which to live, learn, and love” and asked the audience to imagine sitting in an equalized circle and not in the hierarchal structure of the theater.
She described the immense amounts of violence against women all over the world in wars, genital mutilation, and domestic violence, especially in the U.S. Moreover, Steinem spoke about reproductive freedom and how politicians have no place in women’s personal decisions.
“It is up to the women what happens to her body,” said Steinem.
“In our own families, the idea that someone is born to dominate and someone is born to obey … creates a deep well into which comes class, race [and] birth based differences are inevitable,” Steinem said. “[We] have been raised to abide by the patriarchal structure.”
“[But] this is a time for change,” Steinem said. “We need to understand we are all part of the same movement and truly help each other.”
One of the first things we can do to participate in this time of change is to make connections between movements. According to Steinem, all the issues in class, race, religion, and even the environment are intertwined with those of gender and to “uproot violence against women is to uproot other forms of violence.”
Steinem continued with how we can achieve these goals, talking about “[worrying] less about what you should do and do what you can everyday,” because that is what will make the difference in the long run.
“[We need to] understand that race, gender, and all other divisions are made up…[so] if we made it up, we can unmake it up,” Steinem said.
After her speech, audience members were encouraged to ask questions or announce future “troublemaking” events being organized by social activism groups.
The questions posed to Steinem varied. One audience member in particular asked, “what do you say to woman says she doesn’t need feminism?” to which Steinem replied, “good luck.”
Rachel Dranoff K’16, who attended Steinem’s conversation, “hardly knew anything about her before, besides vaguely recognizing her name.” She added that now she wants to learn more.
“I was so inspired by Gloria Steinem,” Dranoff continued. “I loved how the point of the meeting was to organize and to act.”
Other speakers in the Raise Your Voice series have included Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Anita Hill, Wagatwe Wanjuki, Jackson Katz, as well as retired Kalamazoo College English professor Gail Griffin.