Friday, March 07, 2008

Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Hughes (by Suzie)

       This week I attended an inspiring evening of conversation among Gloria Steinem, Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Amy Richards, Jennifer Baumgardner and women from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.
       “As you know, this is a revolution, and we’re in it for the long haul,” Professor Carolyn Johnston said.
       The event got coverage before and after. I'd like to add a little more on Hughes.
       Terrified of public speaking, the young Steinem had wanted to go on the road with another woman. She thought: “Who do I know who is fearless?” Hughes leaped to mind. Steinem also wanted to partner with a black woman because “the press was saying this was just a middle-class white woman thing – and they’re still staying that.”
       After they raised their fists on stage, just as they had done in this great old photo, Hughes explained: “It was always a way to say sisterhood is powerful.” She said they loved the speaking tour.
      “We did some crazy things. We wanted to make change.”
      One of the crazy things was having Steinem stay with her family one weekend in Lumpkin, Ga. That challenged the racism of the times, Hughes said.
      She talked of racism and poverty, and how her desires differed from middle-class white women who complained about being put on a pedestal. “I would have built my own pedestal, and I would have climbed upon it.”
       She worries that a lot of schools and neighborhoods seem to be returning to de facto segregation. She wonders how children can go hungry in America. There cannot be political or social justice without economic empowerment, she said.
        While Steinem supports Clinton, Hughes endorses Obama, hoping he can heal racial divisions.
      “He can’t deny his white mama or his black daddy.” Like Steinem, however, she said, “Whoever’s left standing, I’m willing to work with them. … We have to win this one.”