I wouldn’t be a feminist if it weren’t for my mom. She’s a Second Waver who was among the first women to benefit when the Ivy League finally opened its doors to women, and when she married, she kept her name when she married, something very few women did inAustraliain the 1980s. She traveled the world alone for most of her career, working to make healthcare available to the poorest of the world’s poor. She and my father raised two feminist daughters, weaving feminism so much into our lives and our family values that I was surprised to discover there was a word for how I saw the world – I thought it was just common sense. My mom is my heroine. And yesterday, I got to watch her meet one of her heroines.
Last night, it was my distinct pleasure to be able to go with her to92nd St.Y’s panel discussion of the PBS documentary Makers and of the future of feminism. The panel was two makers, Anu Bhagwati of SWAN and Reshma Saujani of Girls Who Code, and Gloria Steinem. It was moderated by Amy Richards, co-author of Manifesta. My mom, in all her years of being a feminist, had never seen Gloria in the flesh, and she was pumped. Mom was a teenager when Gloria burst onto the national scene at the helm of the Women’s Liberation Movement, and for Mom, what Gloria and the Women’s Libbers had to say made perfect sense. During her college years and her first few years of marriage, the Women’s Movement was gathering steam and winning victories left and right: Mom was just out of college when Roe was handed down. She wouldn’t be the woman she is without the movement, and for that I’m profoundly grateful to Gloria and all the other women who made the movement what it was in those years.
Now, there’s a lot to be said about Makers, about what it gets right and what it gets wrong. And I had a lot to say on my way home last night about the fact that the youngest feminist on stage during a discussion about young women and the future of feminism was 35 (just ask my fellow passengers on the M96 bus). But despite all that, it was still a joy to sit next to my mother, the woman who raised me to be a feminist, the woman who cries at pretty much anything she sees on TV, and hold her hand while she lost her shit watching the story of Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially enter the Boston Marathon (you’ll probably lose your shit too).
It took some noodgeing, but my mom, herself an accomplished noodge, finally went up to the stage to shake Gloria’s hand. “You’re the pushiest person in the world,” I said, when she was dithering about whether or not to do it. “Don’t let your pushiness fail you at this crucial juncture.” She didn’t. And then two of the women I admire most in the world shook hands. I half expected thunder to crack or for the skies to burst open with flames, or something. But that, obviously, didn’t happen. What happened was that Gloria smiled her gracious smile, and Mom was a little starstruck, and I got on the bus to go home, feeling lucky, so very, very lucky, to live in a world that’s been shaped by these two remarkable women. Then I set an alarm so I could get up early, greet the new day, and keep on doing the work that Gloria started, that my mom continued, and that they both passed down on to you and me.