Today, March 25th, is feminist icon Gloria Steinem’s 80th birthday! In October of 2012, I had the pleasure of spending a significant amount of time with Gloria as she was the keynote speaker at the Women’s Leadership Conference and 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Women’s Center at the University of Idaho. I was serving as the director of the office at the time of her visit and I consider her visit the highlight of my professional career and tenure at the University of Idaho. I will forever remember her inspiring message, her graciousness, her laugh, and her easy connection with an audience, how ever small or large. Ultimately, nearly 4,000 individuals packed into the Kibbie Dome at the University of Idaho on October 4 to hear Steinem speak about “Women’s Legacies, Inspiring Our Future”. The event was free and open to the public, and I’ve embedded the YouTube of her keynote below:
If the YouTube does not play, you can access the page here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoW2sHNRQ_M
The idea to bring Gloria Steinem to speak arose after a group of us gathered at my house to watch the HBO documentary “Gloria: In Her Own Words” during its premier in August of 2011 (which is fabulous, by the way!). We made the connection that Ms. Magazine was founded the same year that the Women’s Center was founded (in 1972). We collectively wondered out loud “wouldn’t it be cool if…?” And, that’s all it took. In this case, it was incredible how an idea could quickly take shape and move forward toward implementation. Once our collective and inspiring vision was shared more widely, may individuals, departments, groups (and even the President of the University) contributed funds. A shared vision and an incredibly group accomplished much that semester. I am incredibly thankful for the committee of staff, faculty, volunteers, and students who partnered so collaboratively to implement the historic events in honor of the WCenter’s 40th Anniversary.
A bit about the HERstory of the Women’s Center in case you’re interested (you can read the entire story here): The Women’s Center at the University of Idaho was founded in 1972 to address the high attrition rates of female students on campus. Since then, the Women’s Center’s role and purpose has evolved to include a breadth of programming and outreach that addresses the contemporary issues U-Idaho students are now facing. Women’s Centers exist because gender equity has not been achieved in any country around the world. Women still earn less than their male peers, with women of color facing an even larger pay gap. Women hold fewer tenured faculty positions and continue to be underrepresented in many fields, which has a direct impact on female students within our own colleges and departments.
The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. ~ Gloria Steinem
So, what change do you want to see? How do you support the work of your campus-based Women’s Center? How do you honor those who have come before us and also those who support our work? If you’re pissed off, do something about it.