I can’t forget the day I met Gloria Steinem. Having barely recovered from the flu, I rolled out of bed too late to wash my hair. Behind on a work deadline, I was preoccupied by Everything-I-Had-To-Do later in the day. The babysitter had to leave earlier than originally planned, which meant that either my partner or I would be rushing out of the event early. As I downed my cough medicine and blew my nose I had second thoughts about going.
Still, I went. Realizing I would have the opportunity to speak with Gloria, I planned to tell her about my work as an activist for girls and women. But when I actually stood next to her, I surprised myself by thanking her for her own tireless work that spans decades. “Gratitude,” Gloria once said, “never radicalized anybody. I don’t care if they recognize the past, I just want them to get angry about the present and keep going.” This quote ran through my mind as I spoke to the feminist icon who said it. I felt young and silly.
Later I realized I wasn’t actually expressing gratitude, but recognition that my activism is connected to hers just as her activism is connected to mine. When talking with Gloria, I realized that every person who raises her/his voice for our rights is a vital piece of the equality puzzle.
Meeting Gloria Steinem taught me that we are in this together.
Next week, I will arrive in Copenhagen for the 2016 Women Deliver Conference, which will bring together world leaders, advocates, policymakers, journalists, young people, researchers and leaders of the private sector and civil society to showcase what it means and how it works when women and girls become the focus of development efforts. I’ll be with women and men older than Gloria and girls and boys younger than my babysitter.
This conference looks to the future and recognizes that our current momentum is a result of both past and present activism. There is even a plenary, Learning and Working Across Generations, that will explore intergenerational collaboration and impact.
As I write I’m thinking about the connection between Katherine Switzer and Kiran Gandhi. Katherine was the first woman to run the 1967 Boston Marathon, and during the marathon a race official even tried to physically stop her from running. She broke a taboo, challenged gender stereotypes and ran for equality. Kiran, who will be giving TED-style talk at the conference, ran the 2015 London Marathon while menstruating without wearing a pad or tampon. Breaking a taboo and advocating for girls and women without access to menstrual supplies, Kiran also ran for equality. Their actions represent two different generations and two different points in the struggle for equality, and yet these are two equally important pieces in the equality puzzle. Gloria Steinem’s work also represents a piece of the puzzle, and so does mine- and yours.
Girls’ Globe will be present at the Women Deliver Conference, bringing you live content straight from the heart of the action. If you can’t be there in person, you can be a part of Women Deliver through the Virtual Conference, by hosting an event in your hometown, and by engaging online using #WDLive and #WD2016.
Featured photo credit: Ms. Foundation for Women / Wikimedia Commons