|FEATURE | fall 2007
In honor of Ms. magazine’s 35th anniversary, we asked a variety of women from across the country, and around the globe, to reflect on feminism. How has it changed their lives over the past 35 years? Where is it going in the next 35 years?
The first four quotes below are from the Fall issue of Ms., now available on newsstands. But there are dozens more in the magazine, including the words of such well-known women as Billie Jean King, Isabel Allende, Alfre Woodard, Beth Ditto, bell hooks, Margaret Cho, Dolores Huerta, Wangari Maathai and Yoko Ono.
We asked you to add your voice to the chorus as well—here is what you answered to: “What have feminism and Ms. magazine meant to you?”
I can’t imagine our lives without Ms. magazine, that most radical, heart-wise, irreverent, outrageous and odd magazine! It is the only periodical that connects with all of women’s lives, including those parts that secretly delight and scare us. When I think of Ms. in the early days I see that most brilliant and beautiful of all feminists, Gloria Steinem, in her wonderful fringed blue coat, its feathers flying, rushing off to raise the money that kept it going over years and years and years. That is love so pure I feel, to this day, blessed to have witnessesd it. Jai Maaa! (Victory to the Mother!)
—Alice Walker, author; U.S.
My generation of young women pretty much accepted the idea that we would be more valued for giving birth to others than for giving birth to ourselves. Yes, many of us had professions, but they were secondary. As one of my classmates at Smith College said in the light of later feminism, ‘I didn’t have a job, I had a jobette.” We weren’t trying to change the world to fit women; we were trying to change ourselves to fit the world. Now, thanks to decades of feminist rebellion, the young women of today are much more likely to value their minds and hearts and talents. They not only have a somewhat longer life expectancy physically, but faith in a much longer life of their own making.
—Gloria Steinem, author, cofounder of Ms. magazine; U.S. (adapted from SmithCollege commencement speech, 2007)
Gloria Steinem and Ms. magazine changed the course of history for modern women, period. Who can say what direction things would have gone in without that movement, but there's no question our eyes were opened and have remained so. We just have to keep our eyes open—as well as our ears and hearts. It's constantly evolving, that's why it's called a movement. … Always looking forward, baby.
—Whoopi Goldberg, entertainer; U.S.
We think the future of feminist activism is already thriving online, with young women at the helm. Whether it be through blogs, social-networking sites or general online activism, younger women and men have been taking feminist action to the next level—and we're proud to be a part of it!
—Feministing.com, bloggers; U.S.
I was 3 years old when Ms. magazine debuted. I grew up in a black feminist household where reading Ms. was a part of my life throughout all of my formative years into womanhood. As a proud beneficiary of the second wave of the feminist movement, I learned that the global struggle for equality and justice for all must be consistently waged wherever we are standing.
—Aishah Shahidah Simmons, producer/director of NO! The Rape Documentary; U.S.
"Feminism has changed my life by creating definition. It has answered
my past and defined my future. I had discovered a language that I was
searching for and a truth that had long been denied to me. It brought
a meaning so passionate to my life that I live to evoke that same
discovery in other women. Feminism allowed me to create my own
independence—the ability to make my own decisions.
—Valerie Jurado, recent women’s studies graduate; U.S.
Hace 35 años tenía 23 y todo ha cambiado. Los años setenta fueron tiempos de maternidad y de lucha revolucionaria donde nuestra individualidad se perdía en lo colectivo. El feminismo me ha permitido reencontrarme con la valiente mujer que soy…
Thirty-five years ago I was 23, and everything has changed. The 1970s were times
of motherhood and revolution, where our individual needs were sacrificed for
the greater good. Feminism allowed me to meet again with the brave woman
that I am, experience life, follow my dreams and grow.
—Marta Alanís, feminist activist; Argentina
One of the lessons feminism has taught me: Don’t accept the narrow logic of flat alternatives—this or that, right or wrong—but see if one thing really excludes the other, keep moving, changing, being curious, be loyal to your real self and you’ll find out that it’s not a matter of egoism, but of self-respect. Today, blackmailed by a forgetful culture of evil and right and deprived of imagination as we are, we should stick to this more than ever.
—Maria Nadotti, journalist; Italy
Writing for Ms. brought me to women's activism, a passion fed for nearly two decades by the powerful gestalt personality that emerges whenever GABRIELA Network confronts a crisis. We move into an organizational Zenstate, acting as one—until cooking dinner comes to mind and it all falls apart. (Sigh.)
—Ninotchka Rosca, journalist; Phillipines
I have recently reread some writings from the 1970s—they are fantastic. What we said back then needs to be said again—the insights, the straightforward language, the understanding of complexity, the radical outlook. If we can keep our history alive then we have a way forward. One of the first stories I read in Ms. magazine was about the women astronauts—it was a truly inspiring story—in 1998. I was in a performance by Melbourne's Women's Circus and we drew on that story for the show. Thanks for that and many other terrific stories.
—Susan Hawthorne, feminist theorist; Australia
When I first encountered Ms. in 1978, I did not know how to pronounce the name. Since then I have read it on and off and learned that if women seek an identity of their own, besides their related ones, they can be individuals in their own right. It is a lesson I have passed on to readers of my magazines over 25 years in women's journalism. And I do believe the ripples are still expanding.
—Sathya Saran, editor, ME (a womanist magazine); India
As an African American woman, raised in the South, the struggle for justice and equality is a central theme of my life. In the past 35 years, we have seen a sea change in both the laws and practices addressing equality—but we have miles to go before we address the issue of justice. Where is the justice when housing, health care and child care is a “privilege” that is accessible to women and their families based on economic standing rather than a basic human right?
—Deborah Richardson, CEO of the Atlanta Women’s Foundation; U.S.