Thursday, September 11, 2008

feeling connected

The lecture at the 92nd st Y last night was interesting to say the least. There were three speakers on stage: writer and activist Gloria Steinem of course, as well as Patricia Williams (left) Columbia Law Professor and columnist for the Nation magazine and Marie Wilson (below right) director of the White House Project - a non-profit dedicated to getting more women involved in all areas of politics. Ms. Wilson directed the discussion.

The overall theme of the evening was the role of gender, race and class in our current political climate. Marie Wilson made a very good point in her opening that in past elections we barely heard so much as a whisper in regards to women's issues and now, in this past year, it has been ALL about women. From Hillary to Michelle, to Sarah, the inclusion of women in politics during this election is unprecedented. I personally have never been so engaged in an election and I suspect the same is true for a lot of women out there.

When I returned home from the lecture and was relaying the event to Dave I was trying to come up with words to describe Gloria Steinem and her presence on stage and I have to say, what came to mind first was: peaceful. This is a women who has accomplished so much in her lifetime, making enormous strides in furthering the women's movement. She was direct, honest, and even humorous in her thoughtful responses to questions all evening. Self-assured, powerful and utterly captivating to listen to, her words resonate. Her presence is one of both peace and strength. I was struck by the thought of her character in stark contrast to Sarah Palin who in my opinion emanates nothing but hostility and weakness.

Highlights of the evening for me included Patricia Williams likening Sarah Palin to an empty Campbells Soup can - proclaiming Andy Warhol couldn't have painted it better, with her zero to celebrity status in a matter of hours and the lack of substance behind her packaged image.

During the Q&A portion of the lecture, an audience member stood up and asked what the panelists thoughts were regarding the mass emails circulating about with titles such as "Women Against Palin!" etc., and whether they saw this at risk of being perceived as "pitting women against each other" and/or detrimental to the larger issues at hand. Gloria responded in a very matter of fact manner that no, she didn't see it as harmful and that she believes we're beyond that point as a nation to view it in those terms. Even though I agree with this on a personal level, it was nice to hear Gloria Steinem say it.

Patricia Williams responded that she thought anyone against Palin was a good thing no matter what (which garnered much applause from the audience) and likened it to the 'Blacks against Clarence Thomas' groups. Excerpts from Patricia's excellent column at the Nation entitled Sarah Palin's Frontier Justice were used in her opening introduction last night. It is an excellent read and can be found in it's entirety here.

It was definitely a thought-provoking evening and it felt wonderful to be surrounded by so many politically charged and inspired people. Oh and uh, random highlight of the night as well: the first person to stand up in the audience and ask a question during the Q&A was none other than Nellie McKay, one of my favorite musicians. She asked a very long-winded, rather vague question about animal rights in regards to the presidential candidates. Unfortunately it was really more of a soapbox rant than an actual question, but it was still cool to see her there nonetheless. I wonder how many other people in the audience recognized her?

(Nellie McKay)

No comments: