Four Feminists Tackle Harvard

Unnamed photo
Isabella N Lai

Panelists including Kristal B. Zook, Gloria Feldt, Courtney E. Martin, and Deborah Siegel speak at the Intergenerational Feminist Panel on Friday in Harvard Hall.

Age is nothing but a number, four self-proclaimed feminists imparted to their listeners on Friday.

Feminists and authors Gloria Feldt, Courtney E. Martin, Deborah Siegel, and Kristal B. Zook took the stage in Harvard Hall, billed as an “intergenerational panel,” ranging from ages 27 to 65, to tell audience members that feminists of all ages need to communicate in order to carry forth the “unfinished revolution” of feminism.

“We all agree that women across all generations need to be talking to each other, not at each other, not about each other,” said Siegel, a 38-year-old consultant on women’s issues.

As part of the panelists’ campus tour called “Women, Girls, and Ladies: A New Conversation,” the event was co-sponsored by the Committee on Degrees in the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality; Harvard BGLTSA; Women’s Studies in Religion at the Divinity School; Cornerstone; and the Women’s Center.

The four panelists took turns speaking about their roots and current involvement in feminism.

According to 65-year-old speaker and author Feldt, it is not enough to know what is wrong—feminists need to actively battle injustice.

“Whatever you do, whatever choice you make, now is the time for women to be involved,” Feldt said.

Feminism is about “seeing ourselves in the movement” and challenging norms established for feminists—whether by wearing fishnet stockings or playing around with sexual norms, said Martin, a 27-year-old author and filmmaker.

“I think feminism should be joyful, playful, and me having the ability to choose these things,” she said.

Martin, who referred to herself as the “youngin’, as you can probably tell,” said she initially found her mother’s feminism of the ’80s “ugly,” with its oversized shoulder pads and swishy skirts.

Despite the presence of feminism in her childhood, Martin said she did not understand the need for a collective lens until she witnessed the “dissolution of brilliant, beautiful women” at the hands of rape and anorexia.

Zook, a 42-year-old journalist and author, said the word “feminism” was never used when she was growing up, but her mother and grandmother “were and are feminists in their own ways.”

Even with these roots, Zook is not the same feminist she was in her twenties, she said, mentioning that her evolution even involved a “militant black power stage.”

According to Sandra L. Ullman ’07, program administrator of the Women’s Center, the “fractured” nature of today’s feminism requires the kind of conversation the event fostered.

Ullman said there is untapped potential of great feminists who can make positive change.

“If that’s where your passion is, follow it, take up the torch, light many more torches,” Feldt said. “Our feminist future is sure to be bright.”

—Staff Writer Esther I. Yi can be reached at estheryi@fas.harvard.edu.