WATERVILLE – Gloria Steinem – journalist, women’s rights activist and co-founder of Ms. magazine – spoke Thursday night at Colby College on what it means to be an activist, on the same day Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act.

“I want to remind us how important it is that this has finally passed. There is still a great deal of violence in our homes, and sometimes we forget that. We have a long way to go to delegitimize violence against women, but this is one small victory,” she said.

The law, which passed in the Senate earlier this month and passed in the House by a vote of 236-138 on Thursday, will create and expand federal programs for women who are victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. On Thursday night it was a launching point for Steinem, who was invited to Colby as the keynote speaker for SHOUT!, a student-organized week celebrating multiculturalism.

Tickets for the presentation were sold out, said Brittany Thomas, vice chairwoman of the Pugh Community Board, the student organization that put on the event.

“Our theme this year is culture strike, and Gloria epitomizes that theme,” said Thomas, a 22-year-old senior from New York City. “She is really a cross-generational symbol of people working to better not only their own lives but the lives of society. She stands up for things that sometimes clash with norms.”

Steinem, who helped found New York magazine and has worked as a freelance writer and author, also has played a role in the women’s rights movement since the 1970s. She helped found the Women’s Action Alliance, a national information center focused on children’s education, and the National Women’s Political Caucus, a group to advance the numbers of pro-equality women in national and state offices. She was also a co-founder of Voters for Choice, a political action group that eventually merged with the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in 2004, according to her website.

On Thursday she spoke about the idea that all activism is connected and that although individuals and groups may have their own unique experiences, there are connections among them.

“There is magic in mutual support,” she said. Throughout history, there have been similarities in the struggles of different minority groups – whether those groups were African-Americans, women or gays and lesbians, she said.

“If we can understand our connections, I think we could finally go back to the original human paradigm, which was a circle, not a pyramid,” she said. “And we could go back to a world in which we are linked, not ranked.” Steinem looked to the future on the day after the college celebrated its bicentennial anniversary.

Her message echoed that of President William D. Adams, who, speaking from the same stage the day before, encouraged students not to become complacent.

“We can’t lose sight of how much there is to do,” said Steinem, who is working on a book, “Road to the Heart: America As If Everything Mattered,” which is about her 30-year career as a feminist organizer.

 

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

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