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If you’ve been curious what Hillary Clinton was up to during those long walks in the woods, we now have the answer: She was developing a new mantra — and one that she shared with the crowd at the Ms. Foundation’s 29th Annual Gloria Awards: A Salute to Women of Vision: “Resist, insist, persist and enlist.” After months of rollbacks and threats to the rights of women and other marginalised groups, the mood at last week’s gala had a tone of defiance, urgency, and a collective call to action. And Clinton, who was one of this year’s special honorees, was the perfect poster child for the evening. "Women's issues are not minor issues, they're not luxury issues to address after everything else has resolved,” she reminded the room. “They are central to human rights, to economies, to our national security and don't let anybody tell you otherwise."
The Gloria Awards is named after one of the Ms. Foundation’s founding mothers, feminist icon Gloria Steinem, and both Gloria and Ms. have been helping to define and redefine feminism as its meaning has evolved over the years (see their #MyFeminismIs campaign which aimed to paint a broad, inclusive and intersectional picture of the feminist movement today.) I took the opportunity on the red carpet to ask some of some of the celebrities and other change-makers who attended the event two timely questions – What does being a feminist mean to you, and how do you see the movement as evolving? and What do you think it will take to achieve gender parity and are you hopeful it can be achieved in your lifetime? Here are some of their reflective and thought-provoking responses:
Women are not a monolith.
“The basic definition of feminism has been actually really distorted in the media, I think. And it simply means equity. It just means that women should have equity. And if you don’t agree with that, then you’re a bigot, and it’s a real problem! But anybody who thinks that women should have the same sort of equitable opportunities in life and consideration as men is already a feminist whether they know it or not. And what we’ve added to that is centring the idea of intersectionalism, intersectional feminism which means that women are not a monolith! Women have different identities and intersecting issues that relate to the fact that they’re women, but then also intersect in different ways where not every feminist, not every woman shares the same different issues. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t stand together in unity around those issues recognising that a threat to the liberty of one of us is a threat to all of us.” – Bob Bland, Women’s March National Co-Chair
The woman you are is good enough.
“It’s interesting, because when I think about feminism, it just makes me think about equality in general. It doesn’t mean that we want to be men or act like men. We want to be us and be treated exactly the way men are treated. It’s not about being more masculine. It’s not about talking like a guy. It’s about being okay as a woman, and that’s enough. That’s enough. And as a standup comic, I look at how it’s evolved, and they say, ‘oh, these new feminists are really cutting edge, because they’re talking about sex, and this, and that.’ Just because that’s what men talk about doesn’t mean that that’s what we have to talk about to be equal. We should be able to talk about the things that are interesting to us and are important to us, and they should be as important as some guy who needs Viagra or Cialis or faces what. Do you know what I mean? So it’s really a matter of being able to be the woman you are, and that’s good enough. In fact, that’s great enough.” - Judy Gold, Stand-up comedian, actor, television writer, and producer
The new feminist movement is intersectional.
“So I studied Chicana feminism when I was in college who really taught me the intersectionality of feminism. She taught me radical white feminism, Black feminism, Chicana feminism, but she also taught me about the suffrage movement, and she also let me know that there were women that sacrificed so many things for us, and so we stand on the shoulders of so many women. I think what the Women’s March was able to do under the leadership of four national co-chairs (including myself) was demonstrate intersectionality. We were thinking about restorative justice, criminal justice, reproductive justice, environmental justice, through a feminist lens, through a gender lens. And I think we were able to produce that, and so a lot of people felt connected to the new feminist movement...there are new women in this movement that have never been connected to feminism before, because they feel that there’s a place for them.” Carmen Perez, Women’s March National Co-Chair
Your feminism is unique to you.
“I think that if every woman and man looked at their feminism as something that is unique to them, then it really just means that you should be able to do whatever the hell you want to do. It’s really funny, because I’ll overhear these conversations where someone’s like, ‘And now, this person’s standing for feminism but then they’re being sexy in this thing.’ And I was like, ‘The whole point is that women should be able to do what they want to do.’ So I think that as long as with good intention and to spread good in the world and if you’re not hurting anybody, then as women and as men our feminism should just be women being able to be like, “You know what? Wear that, do that, be that, have that.”- Cleo Wade, Poet, social justice advocate
Put a woman of colour at the top.
“I think what we’re seeing now is that women, and really everyone, are paying attention to the way that our government currently operates, and it allows us to have a more critical eye on what it needs to be in order for us to also have gender parity and racial equity in this country, particularly in leadership. So with women leading the resistance, the resistance is truly female and we are able to now have more women — for instance, there’s 11,000 women who’ve said they want to run for office versus 600 the year before — that’s incredible! If we have numbers like that continue, and staying that active, then I think we absolutely could see gender parity in leadership within our lifetimes. But what we need to do is not just concentrate on the halls of government; we also have to be looking at everything from our community boards to the board rooms, to private enterprise. We need to be looking at who are the board of directors of different companies. We need to take the same sort of approach that we’re using in the halls of power in local, state, and national government, and then also use that for private enterprises as well, because power also trickles down. So if you want to talk about power of inclusion, then the easiest way to do that is to put a woman of colour or a woman at the top.” – Bob Bland, Women’s March National Co-Chair
It’s about men rising, too.
“I’m the mother of a son in a generation of boys. I’m the wife of a man in a generation of men who support strong women, who want their sisters to thrive, who wished their mothers had greater opportunity, and will demand that their daughters have equality. So I have absolutely no doubt that we will never go back, and we are moving ahead. The only question is what will slow us down. And I think it’s not just about women rising; it’s about men rising, too. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but I think that feminism means supporting men and women to create equality that makes our societies better, make our relationships better, make our opportunities better. Basically, if we can create this kind of full equality and understanding between men and women, what we’re going to do is we’re going to allow ideas to rise that help us take down poverty and take down human suffering on a new level. So I think of it as being a benefit to society, not just about a benefit to women. And I hear and I pay attention to this idea that the fundamental truth that women do not have fairness, but we need men to have that fairness, and I think we have generations of men now who want that fairness, and we need women to embrace their worth and to not be defined by what their imaginings might be, what they see in terms of how women are portrayed. We have to also stand up for ourselves. When we stand up for ourselves, we stand up for all the women around us.” - Ann Curry, Former News Anchor/Correspondent at NBC News
There’s a lane for everyone.
“We have to stay consistent. Women have been leading the movement for the past hundred days, and we’re ready to continue leading for hundreds of more days to come, so show up and be part of the resistance. And we also know that there’s a lane for everyone, and so we need people to stay active, to stay involved, and to show up for other communities that, maybe they don’t feel directly impacted by it, but certainly we need them to continue to be part of it.” - Linda Sarsour, Women’s March National Co-Chair
We have to be healthy citizens.
“I think that anything’s possible to see in our lifetime. I just think it’s important, and I reference this Coretta Scott King line a lot, is that freedom is something you have to re-win and re-fight for in every generation. So I think that as long as the fight for freedom is kind of a part of everyone’s daily form of being, and we kind of shift ourselves... I get that we spend a lot of time trying to have healthy bodies where we like eat a salad, and work out, and if we binge on something weird, we make up for it the next day. And I think right now is really a time to be healthy citizens. What does your routine in your life look like, where you’re paying attention, where you’re signing the petitions, where you’re marching, where you’re standing up and really using the tools to create a space for solutions. My friend said the other day that protest isn’t the answer – it creates a space for the answer, space for the discussion, space to create the balance, to create equality, and to end things like racism and to end things like the disparity between the genders. So I think that as long as we put that into our routine, then anything can happen in our lifetime.” - Cleo Wade, Poet, social justice advocate
The resistance can be a standstill without a plan.
“I think before you attempt to raise other people, you have to really raise yourself. I think tonight was really the affirmation each one had for themselves, the clarity one has for themselves, because it’s not that you can use that same power to change Washington or the people in charge, but once you know your own power and you find other people with that same power, it’s your responsibility to make sure that continues to grow. So we move to pro-action as opposed to just the resistance. The resistance is one action, but that can actually be a standstill without a plan. So what is the plan?
“I’ve lived a long time to see other injustices. And while we have a step back, I think we’re now at a place where we have to calibrate. We have to recalibrate. There’s a generation that actually doesn’t know about Shirley Chisholm and Gloria Steinem and/or my father or mother. So we almost have to shake up the carpet in order to reset the scale.”
- Ambassador Attallah Shabazz, Eldest daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz
Marianne Schnall is the founder of What Will It Take Movements, a media, collaboration, learning, and social engagement platform that inspires, connects, educates and engages women everywhere to advance in all levels of leadership and take action. She is also a widely-published interviewer and journalist and author of What Will It Take to Make a Woman President? Conversations About Women, Leadership & Power and the founder of feminist.com.