Feminists take look at future

Steinem’s colleagues emphasize the need to understand aging.
Thursday, February 17, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:31 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

New and veteran voices of the feminist movement say it needs a reassessment for changing times and aging women.

Suzanne Levine, a writer and former editor at Ms. Magazine; Amy Richards, co-founder of the Third Wave Foundation; and multimedia journalist Farai Chideya were in Columbia last week to commend their colleague Gloria Steinem.

She was awarded a Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism.

In a Friday interview together, the three women talked about possibilities for feminism’s future.

Levine is a contributing editor for More magazine and recently published “Inventing the Rest of Our Lives.”

Both publications discuss the needs of older women.

Levine addressed the need to understand the aging process of women.

“I watched myself go through menopause and began to behave in ways that were not familiar to me,” she said. “I did scientific and gender research which confirmed my thoughts that this was a new stage, a new precedent. I was perfectly poised to make something exciting happen. We are a tremendously important critical mass, and we can make a lot of difference.”

Levine said she wishes she and her peers had made a bigger difference to women in the workplace.

“I realize we just haven’t made the connection between women who go to work and women who stay at home and feel guilty,” she said.

She is optimistic about future perceptions of women and aging, though.

“A woman’s first instinct when she starts acting differently than expected is to think she’s crazy and alone,” Levine said. “I don’t think young women will have to feel that way if we do it right (this time around).”

Richards, author of “Grassroots,” a guide to feminist activism, said there are challenges today that women did not face 30 years ago.

“Feminism used to mean a very specific thing,” she said. “The resistance to move forward is challenging ourselves a little bit further.”

Richards said she sees two obstacles that need to be overcome.

“We need to see that the difference between advancement and feminism is that it’s about more than just you,” she said. “We also need to recognize that we all have personal limitations.”

Farai Chideya, author of “Trust,” a book that critiques America’s political system, thinks constant reassessment is important in remaining effective.

“Feminism is just as critical as ever because you have to redefine the terms of the debate to make equality in fact and not just in word,” she said.

She has been running Pop and Politics, a political Web site for young writers, for eight years.

“I’m trying to give younger writers a venue to express what’s on their minds,” Chideya said. “I don’t need it anymore, but they do. I don’t want to pull away; I want to pass the torch.”

Levine identified one way the older generation can help. “One thing we can do is to keep clarifying where the commitment is,” she said.

“It’s not about doing more in your life,” Richards added. “It’s doing your life in a different way.”

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