Feminism and the Internet, and other thoughts. (Women in the World)

The recent Women in the World conference (hosted by Newsweek and The Daily Beast) included a session that drew a particular personal interest- the issue of feminism and the internet. The discussion, led by Chelsea Clinton, pointed to how the internet has been, can be, and should be used to discuss and fight issues of gender inequality and to promote and change the views of feminism worldwide. The internet, as I have argued before, is one of the few, if not the only means of easy communication with the world– what can possibly be more powerful in an age of globalization?

Increasingly, women are also taking charge in creating some of the leading blogs and websites as well. There is Arianna Huffington , the founder of the much read news website, the Huffington Post , a site that has become the leading source of information worldwide rom the usual politics and economic features to covering entertainment and categories such as women, weddings, books, travel, to comedy and health. Or how about the 19 year old Julie Zeilinger who has championed teenage feminism in the widely popular blog, the FBomb? Just two examples of women who are out there, voicing the issues and concerns. And why not? The reason that so much attention is given to those to want to make issues known is because people just don’t know. Women’s rights and equality simply have not been given enough chance. And it has not been won, and we are not even close.

As a graduate of a women’s college, I have been certainly influenced and molded into becoming a feminist. I have also learned that being a ‘feminist’ outside in the real world, outside the comforts of my New England private all-women liberal arts college was not so keen to accept such identity. People are laughing at it, men and women alike continue to think that being a feminist is too out there, too much, too radical. And this is happening in the privacy of our homes to the very public cyber world.

Clearly, something about being a feminist makes people uncomfortable.

The Women in the World conference included the likes of Hilary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Oprah, to Burmese activist Zin Mar Aung, to IMF chieft Christine Lagarde and Nobel winner Leymah Gbowee (who asked the question- why aren’t more American women angry?).  It was star studded, power studded, and reached all angles of politics, economies, entertainment, to social activism and development. Best of all, it was hopeful- more conversations on what is being done and what can be done took place than what has not happened in the past to historical accounts.

Don’t tell me feminism needs to be marketed sexily and needs a sex appeal for people to pick it up. Feminism is multi dimensional. And being a feminist- the title and identity itself should not be picked up any anyone unless you know what you are talking about. It is not a fad, it is not a label, it doesn’t make you a ‘hipster’.

I could continue and take this writing to all types of angles, and I already have. Women matter, but we are not close, and women’s issues do not just single out one gender. It matters for both girls and boys, men and women, and all identities, sexuality, races, cultures, and extends deep into history and to the future.

Above all, the summit produced a weekend of unforgettable discussions and deep connections between women of different generations and backgrounds, all bound by the conviction that “women’s rights are human rights” and that women have a moral obligation to work on each other’s behalf.


Lynn Sherr’s Commencement Speech/ Wellesley College/ May 28, 2010

Kim – President Bottomly – very distinguished faculty, trustees, staff, sister alums, loving parents and grandparents and families and all the friends who made all of this possible today, and above all, beautiful, bubbly members of the Royal Purple class of 2010. Congratulations! I’ve even written my speech on purple paper today.

Thank you for inviting me to your party. Thank you for letting me pretend I’m still here. And really, above all, thank you for showing me what the Scream Tunnel sounds like!

I celebrate your accomplishments and I share every tingle of excitement. This day is beyond special in your lives, and I am honored to help welcome you out into the wide, wide world. Regrettably, I do not stand here to guarantee you a job; I can, however, guarantee lunch. Never underestimate lunch.

I also stand here as living, breathing proof that Wellesley does indeed open the doors to the planet. Most of those doors were, in fact, barred to women when I graduated from Wellesley in 1963 – another century, another era, even another color. I was a mellow yellow girl. Golden, if you pushed. Which my generation had to do. As women – or “girls,” they called us – we were not invited to participate in the working world except at the lowest levels. But thanks to the knowledge we gained and the courage we inhaled on this campus, we figured it out. We smashed the barriers so that you – every one of you – can now walk into any doorway that you want. That’s the way it works. Pay it forward, when you’re ready to do the same. Continue reading “Lynn Sherr’s Commencement Speech/ Wellesley College/ May 28, 2010”