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FEATURE | fall 2007

Voices Carry - Your Voice

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? See the quotes featured in the magazine.

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?”


My mom kept all the best reading material in the bathroom. Ms. ended up crammed together in our salle de bain with the other magazines my mother read, mainly tomes of fashion not feminism.

So this was my introduction to what I should call bathtub feminism. Given Ms . magazine's 35-year status, I thought it natural to ask my mom if she remembers when Ms . first hit the newsstands. And how.

She told me she remembered reading about the "click"-like an epiphany, but one realized by many, many women during this time. Ms . magazine brought to her isolated home the news that women everywhere weren't buying the line that they were considered second-rate for carrying on the role of "women's" work. She realized she wasn't alone: Click!

I found the article on the click ("The Housewife's Moment of Truth," by Jane O'Reilly, Spring 1972). The article starts, "It is the click! of recognition, that parenthesis of truth around a little thing . the moment that brings a gleam to our eyes and means the revolution has begun."

I'm sure that Ms . holds a unique place for many women who weathered the aches and pains of the modern-day women's movement. In this era of so-called post-feminism, it gives me pause that a magazine that found its way into boudoirs across America managed to capture the stirrings of a social movement that so resonated with women like my mother, who then passed it along to me. Well, I may be late to the revolution, but I'm glad Ms . is still fighting the good fight.
-Claudine Zap blogs for damenation.blogspot.com

When I was a teenager and then a college student, I didn't understand when people told me that I shouldn't beat a boy at Scrabble or Ping Pong because he should win.

Soon, the feminist movement heated up and I began to understand clearly where I belonged. I never looked back. I became a self-actualized woman, with a graduate degree and a good job in human resources management. I knew who I was and what I stood for and I understood my rights. I built a career in that field over 20 years and then started my own business as a career management coach and my practice continues to be successful.

I was a subscriber to Ms. Magazine at the beginning and I remember the first issue inside New York magazine very well. There I was, living in my very own first apartment, out of college and selecting magazine subscriptions because I finally had the time to read magazines rather than textbooks. Those days were joyous.

I have been talking about feminism to women and men since the 1970s ... talking about the history of the movement, talking about the freedoms women now have, and talking about the early activists (sadly, missed now). Feminism and the magazine has had a great impact on my life and in this political season I hope we elect the FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT in 2008. We still have so far to go in this country ... the most ridiculous criticism is leveled at women who run for office.
-Bettina Seidman
SEIDBET Associates
New York City

 

In March 1963, I testified before the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor for the ACLU in favor of an equal pay bill (which was subsequently passed); in October 1965 I began work at the EEOC as the first woman attorney in its Office of the General Counsel; and in October 1966, as one of the founders of NOW, I attended a meeting in Washington, D.C., where we drafted a Statement of Position and skeletal bylaws. Subsequently, I became a founder of FEW (Federally Employed Women).  So I have been involved in feminism for over 40 years.

At the EEOC, I drafted some of the Commission's early Digests of Legal Interpretations, its lead decision in the airline stewardess cases and its Guidelines on Pregnancy. I have never ceased to wonder at the effects of these laws and organizations and subsequent developments in the U.S. and the world, including the publication of Ms . When we began, we were upset over discrimination against women with regard to employment and in academia.  We did not dream that the effects of our activism to change women's roles in those areas would spill over onto every other area of our society.  

When I fly and see a stewardess who is over 32 or 35 or is married, I know I helped put her there. That is a wonderful feeling. It has been a privilege for me to be a part of this movement and I hope to continue as long as I live.
-Sonia Pressman Fuentes

As a girl child entering the planet in 1966 in South Hadley, Mass., just down the road from Mt. Holyoke and Smith colleges, it was my great and unbeknownst privilege to be birthed into the birth of the women's movement. While too young to appreciate the radical loving energy Gloria Steinem was generating in Northampton at the time, I certainly caught the vibes some 20 miles away.  By the third grade, I insisted on being a pioneering woman carrying a musket and wearing a fringed suede jacket and knickers in the school Thanksgiving ensemble, which showcased the rest of my female classmates in petticoats as women at home on the prairie.  The following year I would be the only girl playing in the boy's baseball league. At the time, I knew nothing of feminism, but my girl's heart definitely knew something of exercising free will.

By the eighth grade, in 1979, when a girl friend asked me to try out for the freshman boy's basketball team at our junior high school, I consented out of moral support. At the week's end, all but 10 of the original 28 boys and two girls who had gone out for the team remained on the final list.  My name as one of the final 10 created quite a stir in our school and the region. Parents of boys who had been cut called the school and protested that a girl had no business on a team in a Western Massachusetts boy's basketball league. Newspapers came to interview me, my teammates and our coach. They asked my stepbrother how it felt to have been beaten out for the spot by his sister. None of them had heard of Title IX which had passed 7 years earlier, but somewhere someone stepped forward and called the system to task. The final decision was that I would be allowed to play on the boy's team that year with the condition that a freshmen girl's league would be instituted the following season. I developed quite a good jump shot that year and my stats show I held my own. The following year I went on to play in the girl's league, where I would meet many of my future teammates in AAU Junior Olympics, as well as my first girlfriend.

I came out to my high school friends in 1983. So, at the age of 16, I was a radical lesbian feminist, although I did not have this vocabulary for myself. Instead, I was a girl who followed her own passions, believed in her talents and knew what her heart told her when she loved.  I received my first copy of Ms . sometime during my senior year. By then, I had experienced homophobia, antagonism and threats as well as great resistance to flowering into my authentic young woman self. Through Ms . I discovered the solidarity and leadership of women who had gone before me and gave me courage to walk in their footsteps. And knowing that there was magic afoot and a women's movement underway gave me the courage to never look back.  I have always been proud to be part of the lavender threat, if that shakes up a system of oppression and inequality. There is still much to do, so in sisterhood and for the common good, may we all continue to make great strides!
-Lisa V. Blake

My involvement in the feminist movement began in the early 70s. I grew up in a small Midwestern town. I loved history, political science and English literature in high school. I wanted to become a lawyer some day and change the world. We all took a career placement exam our senior year, and our high school career counselor advised me that my test results indicated I would make a good secretary or nurse. I was devastated. Then I examined the test categories, and saw that the only career options listed for women were housewife, nurse and secretary.

I have been a lawyer now for 30 years. I am also a mother and a wife. Ms . magazine and the great leaders of the feminist movement gave me the support and encouragement (sometimes the only support and encouragement) to live the life I wanted, at each stage of my life. They helped me to feel valued as an attorney, and as a mother and a wife. Folks sometimes forget that "in the time" the functions of wife and mother were incredibly undervalued, and the subject of cruel humor.

I have two children, a son and a 17-year-old daughter.  It pains me when my daughter tells me her classmates consider "feminist" and"feminism" dirty words, and consider marrying a rich provider their highest aspiration. The issues confronting young women today are more insidious, but no less powerful than those I faced. Women and men are manipulated by a consumer-driven society where you are what you buy, and the human spirit is irrelevant to the equation. More than ever before, women are portrayed in the media as grasping sex objects. Ms . magazine has greater relevance now than ever.
-Becky A. Bartness

I am older than Ms . by only a few years (OK, by 7 years). Thus, to me, Ms . has been there always. I started reading Ms . around the age of 13 or 14, shortly after going to live with my father.  My parents split when I was 8.  For five years I struggled to stay with my undiagnosed bipolar mother. When I went to live with my father I began to experience stability for the first time. Maybe that's why Ms . and my father are intertwined in my mind. Both answered some of the questions puzzling my teenage brain. Both believed I could do anything I set my mind to. He gave me a toolbox with tools for my 17th birthday.

I sailed through many years of dating and higher education secure in knowing what behavior was acceptable from my male partner. My friends wondered why I never had a "bad" boyfriend.  Well, as far as I'm concerned it was because Ms . opened my eyes to the treatment a reasonable, rational, equal person should expect. Sixteen years into a wonderful marriage (something I had never actually expected to do) and I'm still being asked how I got so lucky to have a supportive, strong, equal partner.  

A few years ago you republished some of the classic articles-articles I'd read on original publication but long since forgotten. Most tellingly, as I reread them I kept exclaiming, "So that's where I got that idea." Ms . helped shape the person I am today.
-Suzanne Young

Thirty-five years ago we received the first issue of Ms. My first reaction was, " Wow , a magazine that's telling it like it is-the first such mag since Gutenberg!"

My second reaction was slightly negative: It had to do with a Virginia Slims cigarette ad that you were carrying  ("You've come a long way, baby.")  When I saw that ad I mailed a negative comment to the magazine.

It's now 2007. I forgive Ms . and am glad to see it's thriving. Best wishes for the future.
-Herb Hersh

Because of feminism and Ms . magazine I started a fabulous women's consciousness-raising group that lasted for many years. Most of us are still friends.  Four of us went as a group to have tubal ligations-two of us (me included) single and finally honest that we didn't want children. I felt supported to be a career woman and not to have to marry until I was ready and willing at 49.  I am still married.   Feminism gave me the freedom to be. I am very, very grateful.
-Judy Tatelbaum

After one full year of retirement freedom, I attended an educational program meeting at Paulsdale, the home of the writer of the ERA, Alice Paul, to volunteer my services. That night I said, "Feminism has been my religion." It is true.  I came of age just in time for the big wave and I surfed it to a satisfying career as a teacher for 32 years, including [teaching about] women where we had always been left out in both subjects I taught, English and Art.

There were so many pivotal feminist moments, such as the day in the 80s I went to the Brooklyn Museum for the exhibit "500 Years of Women Artists," where I saw women in their 60's with tears streaming down their faces at the sight of the work of their foremothers. And when I marched in Trenton for abortion rights with my own daughter, then 12.  

I retired from full-time public school teaching but I still teach at the college level at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and in my seminar one of the topics is and always will be women artists. Your magazine has always been a joy to me and an introduction to the happening women artists of our time-it is where I first saw color reproductions and read about "Womanhouse" by Judy Chicago. This summer my daughter and I again visited the Brooklyn Museum to see the permanent installation of the Dinner Party there in the new Elizabeth Sackler [Center for Feminist Art].

I'm proud and happy to have been a woman among women in this time when we rose up to reach for our dreams and achieved them.  I put myself through college, attained three degrees and raised my daughter on my own.  My career in education allowed me to retire with pension and benefits and ready myself for a new phase. Starting this month, I volunteer at Paulsdale, the homestead saved by a group of dedicated women and now devoted to education in feminism. Now we reach out to the next generation, and the ones beyond.
-Jo Ann Wright

The simple truth is that feminism changed my life, and Ms . magazine was the agent of that change. Without both, I doubt that I ever would have woken up and begun to question the place of girls and women in my community, country and the world.  My awakening, and the new educational direction I pursued, helped me to discover what then became one of the most important goals in my life-to help guide women who desired change in their lives, personal, educational and/ or career.  For each woman, it takes strength, courage and a willingness to face down the naysayers. I have found that self-respect is always the essential key, and I have spent 32 years guiding and offering hope and support to adult women students every day as the coordinator and counselor of the Women's Forum at Westchester Community College in New York. How fortunate I am to have such joy in my professional career!
-Susan Shumejda

If I didn't regularly read Ms ., Bitch and feminist books, I might forget that I'm not the only feminist on the planet and could spontaneously combust.  Feminism directs us toward a post-patriarchal, nonviolent and egalitarian society that will value human rights, peace, sanity and artistic creativity above greed, barbarity, delusion and willful ignorance.
-Susan E.  Wiget

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