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India.Arie to Entertain College Community November 11

Authors Explore Feminism November 9

King Discusses Brunelleschi and His Dome

Learning about Leadership from the Leader's Mouth: Forum Set for November 10

Faculty Dance Performance November 8-10

Bruce Campbell: Confessions of a B-Movie Idol

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This Week at MHC

November 2 , 2001

Authors Explore Feminism November 9

 
  Jennifer Baumgardner (left) and Amy Richards will address “Braless Banshees vs. Brainless Barbies: Looking for a Feminism That Calls My Name” Friday at Mary Woolley Hall.

With the dawn of not just a new century but a new millennium, people are looking back and taking stock of feminism. Do we need new strategies? Is feminism dead? Has society changed so much that the idea of a feminist movement is obsolete?” These are some of the questions Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards ask in the prologue to their book Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000), and that they will address in a talk titled “Braless Banshees vs. Brainless Barbies: Looking for a Feminism That Calls My Name” Friday, November 9, at 4 pm in Mary Woolley Hall’s New York Room.

For Baumgardner and Richards, the only way to answer such questions is to imagine what their lives would have been like if the women’s movement had never happened and the conditions for women had remained as they were in 1970, the year both were born. They cite numerous examples of what it was like to be female that year—among them, girls couldn’t play Little League; most girls didn’t take calculus or physics; a woman without makeup and a hairdo was as suspect as a man with them—before concluding, “After thirty years of feminism, the world we inhabit barely resembles the world we were born into. And there’s still a lot left to do.”

Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future traces the achievements and unfulfilled dreams of the feminist struggle and focuses on today’s generation of feminism, which they call “third wave” feminism. According to Baumgardner and Richards, the first wave was led by women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and the second wave gave us Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Shirley Chisholm, but the third wave includes young women who grew up with the ideals of feminism and may take for granted Title IX and other aspects of liberation. Confident in their freedoms, some women are rejecting the word feminist altogether, the authors contend.

In Manifesta, Baumgardner and Richards explore the “I’m not a feminist, but . . .” mentality. They encourage young women to embrace both “girlie culture” and political activism, contending that women don’t have to discard their cosmetics and hip-hop records in order to embrace a feminism that can raise their consciousness, empower their lives, and give them the means to make a contribution.

“Having traveled to over four dozen colleges in every part of the U.S. over the past year, I can say confidently that young women and men are living feminist lives, even when they don’t use those words,” said Richards. “There is so much passion, and there are tons of issues that need that attention. What we need now, and what Jennifer and I are trying to collect, are tangible and inspiring ideas that connect those issues with that passion. Hopefully, there will be lots of good ideas awaiting us at Mount Holyoke.”

Baumgardner, a former Ms. editor, is now a pundit on She-Span, a political roundtable on the Oxygen network. She also writes about politics and culture for Bust, the Nation, Jane, Out, Glamour, Marie Claire, Z, Mademoiselle, Nerve, Harper’s, Ms., and other magazines and speaks regularly about feminism at colleges, in documentaries (including Pratibha Parmar’s 1999 Righteous Babes), and in interviews. Her writing has been excerpted in numerous books on feminism, and she has written speeches for women ranging from Faye Wattleton to Marlo Thomas. An activist who organizes free political events such as abortion history teach-ins, intergenerational readings, and parties for equal pay, she is currently organizing the reissue of a series of feminist classics for Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Richards is cofounder of the Third Wave Foundation. The only national activist philanthropic organization for women between the ages of fifteen and thirty, Third Wave strives to combat inequalities that stem from age, gender, race, sexual orientation, economic status, or education. It supports young women who are leading a broad range of economic, social, and environmental movements. Richards also is the voice behind “Ask Amy,” an online advice column. She is a contributing editor to Ms. and has worked as a consultant to the Ms. Foundation for Women and Voters for Choice. Her writings are anthologized in Body Outlaws, edited by Ophira Edut, and Listen Up, edited by Barbara Findlen, and can be found in such magazines as the Nation, Bust, and Ms. Richards serves on the Council of Advocates for Planned Parenthood of New York City and the boards of Choice USA, the Third Wave Foundation, Women PAC, and Feminist.com. She was named one of Ms. magazine’s Twenty-One Young Leaders for the Twenty-First Century.

The talk is sponsored by the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Philosophy Club. Baumgardner and Richards will also participate in a panel November 10 (see article on this page) that is part of “Women and Public Life,” a daylong forum sponsored by the Weissman Center.

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