Embedding Feminism

That was the title of my panel yesterday at the Campus Progress National Student Conference, which featured Jessica Valenti of Feministing.com, Aimee Thorne-Thomsen from the Pro-Choice Education Project, economist Randy Albelda from UMass-Boston, and political scientist Jennifer Lawless from my alma mater, Brown University. There’s already been some discussion of the panel here, with the critique that only one speaker (Aimee) adequately addressed the intersection of race with class and gender.

While Aimee may have sparked many of those discussions, I don’t think I’m speaking only for myself when I say that as a young feminist intent on expanding our movement, I think about intersectionality (of race with gender, of class with gender, of sexuality with gender) constantly. I’m a hetero white woman though, so I’m not always the best person to talk about these issues myself. That’s why I rely on other women to teach me, and that’s exactly what happened yesterday.

All in all, I think the panel was one of the most vibrant and funny conversations I’ve seen at a conference in a long time. Here are some of my unanswered questions and thoughts as I went over the event in my mind:

1. Aimee urged us to stop using the word "choice" (since not all women have the same choices) and talk about reproductive rights and reproductive justice. Here, here. Does that mean Aimee’s awesome Pro-Choice Public Education Project might change its name?

2. I was struck by how many question askers were using feminism as a form of self-help, just like Jessica writes about in Full Frontal Feminism. From boyfriends and male roommates who don’t carry their weight at home to conservative families who just don’t get it, everyone wanted to talk about how to bring their personal life more in line with their feminist political consciousness. Ladies, I hear you. We all struggle with this everyday.

3. Kudos to Jennifer for being the change she wanted to see in the world and running for Congress against an anti-choice Democrat. She put up a great fight, even if one guy did liken her to a "babysitter." I loved Jennifer’s comment that leadership qualities aren’t "male" — but both the men and women who achieve leadership tend to have similar, go-getter qualities that have traditionally been encouraged in men and discouraged in women.

4. Thank you Randy for bringing along a presentation with some powerful statistics: 40 percent of women are earning less than $30,000 annually. Think about that number. And then think about supporting a few kids.


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