In honor of Women's History Month feminist activist Gloria Steinem addressed more than 400 students, faculty, staff and members of the community in the Soda Center. The event was sponsored by the Women's Studies Department and other academic partners.
One of America's most prominent female, transformative figures, Steinem spoke for nearly an hour on March 15, delivering a message of hope for a 21st century founded in gender equality. She highlighted the accomplishments of the women's movement over the past 40 years, while stressing the importance of continued growth.
"This country is not the best for women. We're the only advanced democracy that has no national system of childcare and no national system of healthcare," said Steinem. Adding that women are so used to having less that they suffer from the cultural disease of terminal-gratitude; over appreciating meager family friendly political policies because they done without for so long. "We are asked to think as if we were the most fortunate in the world, when in fact we have a long distance to go."
Steinem expressed a clearly defined message of hope for a democratic nation in which gender, sex and racial boundaries are absent. "I have great faith in what can happen in the next 40 years, just by taking learning our natural ability to empathize with each other, and to understand that difference is interesting."
And Steinem acknowledged the country may have arrived at a dawn of a new age in which these dreams can become reality; "For the first time we have really turned a critical eye towards Wall Street, for the first time we have turned against two wars in short order, and we have a proud African American family in the white house, a building built by slaves." The country is beginning to escape its past of marginalizing others said Steinem. "And this tells me two things, one we have to be careful and two we're not going to stop."
Steinem emphasized that the suffering of one social sphere is shared by the nation, calling for the country to realize its united struggle to create a future founded in equality opportunity. "I hope we can get out of group-ism and I hope as a country we can get out of first-ism," she said.
She also encouraged the audience to see her lecture as the opening to a dialogue; welcoming all questions, comments and criticism.
And while the 75-year-old feminist icon appreciated the heartfelt applause from the supportive crowd, she said she wasn't in the twilight of her career.
"I understand that I'm supposed to be passing the torch to you. So, I just want to tell you I'm not, because the image of having only one torch is part of the problem not the solution. I'm keeping my torch, and I'm helping to light other people's torches. Only when each of us have our own full, unique blazing torch will we be able to light our path to the future."