Thursday, March 6, 2014

Feminist Gloria Steinem Continues to Draw Huge College Crowds at 80

by @SarahCortes-Lining up more than two hours in advance in the freezing cold, college students and community members estimated at more than a thousand strong at this North Adams college queued around the block and down a steep hill for a chance to hear feminist author, journalist, and activist feminist Gloria Steinem speak last night. Squeezing into the main hall of the Church Street Center at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) as well as overflow rooms, hallways and even vestibules, the audience packed into every available space for her address.

Steinem, 80, who has worked for women's rights and gender and racial equality for over 50 years, stood at the podium for almost two hours, speaking and taking questions from the audience. Energetically urging the men and women in the audience to continue to engage in "Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions", also the title of one of her books, she drew a standing ovation at the end of her remarks. Afterwards, she remained standing and greeted a mob of well-wishers and petitioners.

Steinem recalled her Cambridge connection when discussing Emerge, the first Abuser Education Program in the country, headquartered on Massachusetts Avenue. One of six organizations Steinem "endorses," and to which she links on her website. Emerge works to end domestic violence by holding abusers accountable for their behaviour. "Emerge was one of the first recipients of our Ms. Foundation grants over 30 years ago," Steinem noted.

Founded in 1977, Cambridge-based Emerge was the first abuser education program in the United States. Since its creation, Emerge has been a national leader in working to end violence in intimate relationships. In working toward this goal, Emerge seeks to educate individual abusers, prevent young people from learning to accept violence in their relationships, improve institutional responses to domestic violence, and increase public awareness about the causes and solutions to partner violence. "They were the only men's organization we funded," explained Steinem. "I'm glad to see Emerge is still going strong."

Steinem graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Smith College in 1956. In her 1963 article, "I Was A Playboy Bunny," she famously exposed the exploitative working conditions endured by Playboy Bunnies, including the sexual demands made of them. She based the article on her own experiences as an undercover reporter, when she worked for Playboy Enterprises as a Bunny. Author of seven books and countless articles, winner of dozens of journalism awards, Steinem also founded Ms. Magazine in 1972 while working for New York Magazine.

Regarding domestic violence, Steinem commented and responded to questions on abuser education organizations like Emerge and other domestic violence service providers like its sister organization, Cambridge's Transition House. Regarding her views on various strategies  and approaches to domestic violence, including holding abusers accountable as well as providing services directly to victims, "both [types of organizations] do both," she remarked.

photo credit: Sarah Cortes

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