By Talyn Helman
Fast Tube by CasperWhen I heard about this event, I’ll admit, I really thought it was going to be a man-bashing extravaganza. I’d never read any feminist literature, other than a few blogs and articles. I’d never heard of any of the women speaking at Women, Girls, Ladies. And as far as my understanding of feminism went, it was pretty basic: men try to put women down, we shouldn’t let them; women make less money than men still, and women earned the right to vote later than we should have. I was pretty uneducated. I signed up far ahead of the event, to interview spectators and record the event on a camcorder; mostly because I thought it’d be fun to play with the camera.
Since working at the Women’s Center, I’ve learned about a whole world I never even thought existed. I had no idea about all of these incredible, strong women who spent their lives trying to let other women know they could be powerful too! The STARR Symposiumwas an amazing experience for me, and opened my eyes to things I had never even thought about. The speakers were all authors and journalists for women’s websites, and were absolutely brilliant. The four women in Women, Girls, Ladies, were Gloria Feldt; Courtney E. Martin; Deborah Siegel; and Kristal Brent Zook.
Let me say first, I was completely wrong about the man-bashing. A lot of the conversation was actually directed at how women and men could share responsibilities and make relationships work, to help women balance their lives better. The speakers’ speeches and accomplishments were what really stayed with me after the symposium.
Gloria Feldt had three children before she was 20. She only realized she wanted to work for her rights as a woman after her youngest child. She spent thirty years working with Planned Parenthood, and retired as the President of the organization in 2005. She has written several books, multiple articles, has a successful blog, Heartfeldt, and is now one of the most well known speakers for women. She has just released her latest book; No Excuses; 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power.Feldt has appeared on many television shows (The Daily Show, O’Reilly, Good Morning America, just to name a few), written commentary for many of America’s top newspapers and magazines, such as, Washington Post, The New York Times, and Elle, and has been named Glamour’s Woman of the Year, and been added to Vanity’s Top 200 Women Leaders, Legends, and Trailblazers.
Courtney E Martin was 26 when she wrote her first book. She has just released her third book; Do It Anyway, The New Generation of Activists. Martin has written three books, co-written one more: Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) Positive, that is now being turned into a feature film. She has appeared on numerous talk shows (Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, and others) and has received several awards for her writing. She is now an editor for Feministing.com.
Deborah Siegel is a newly remarried, mother of year old twins. She has written Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild, co-edited another book, founded blog Girl W/Pen, co-founded the web journal The Scholar & Feminist Online, and her newest venture, She-Writes, just turned 1 year old. Her writings have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines, such as: The Washington Post, The Mother’s Movement Online, and many more.
Kristal Brent Zook came from a small family, raised by her mother and grandmother. She went on to overcome obstacles such as men objectifying her in her work place, a fear of losing the control in her life, and is now a successful author, speaker and professor, with a healthy and happy relationship. She has written 3 books, her most recent being I See Black People: The Rise and Fall of African American-Owned Television and Radio. She is a professor of journalism at Hofstra University right now, as well as an active contributor to Essence Magazine.
These women have all risen to the top and achieved of their dreams. They are fantastic women for the new generation of feminists to emulate, and would serve as wonderful role models. Watching and listening to their conversation, and speaking to them myself, I find myself entering a new stage of social and self-awareness.
I have learned that what most people (men and women included) strive for, to have that perfect balance of life and work, is a near impossible idea. Where does work end and life begin? Isn’t your work part of your life? I like Ms. Brent Zook’s idea, instead of balance, why not work-life negotiation? As a college student, and a person living on her own for the first time, I find it nearly impossible to balance my work and my school (my social life has become a happy memory as I wade through pre-med requisites) if I look at them as two separate entities. I see that I need to stop trying to spread myself so thinly. Feldt said it best, ‘No one will love you anymore, if you use yourself up.’ I see this as, if I don’t manage to do everyone’s job in the office, or do everyone’s part in a group project, I should be able to trust that it will get done; the world will not end if I choose to take five minutes to myself in my day. Sharing responsibilities and the power to do things can make everyone’s life a little bit easier; allowing one to focus on things that make them truly happy. The STARR Symposium was, to me, a great awakening of the calm, negotiable, and strong feminist I can be.
Cross-posted at http://info.umkc.edu/starr