Co-founder of Ms. magazine Gloria Steinem spoke on the liberalism of older women before a crowd of 250 at the George Washington Ballroom at the Sheraton Commander Hotel yesterday.
The best-selling author of Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem was joined by founder and president of Urban Psychological Services Anne Ashmore-Hudson.
The event kicked off a two-day conference on "Women Over 50: Living Longer and Smarter," sponsored by five Radcliffe organizations, including the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association.
Steinem, the first speaker, centered her talks around the potential for self-discovery and freedom for women over 50.
"This age group is the red-hot center of the revolution," said the prominent feminist. "There is a critical mass of women that are living much longer with a strong tradition of uppitiness and rebellion nurtured by [feminism]."
She said radicalism among mature women derives from freedom from child-bearing.
"[The radicalism surfaces] only after our feminine role plays itself out," she said. "It doesn't allow us to be ourselves."
Steinem blamed education for the oppression of women, saying women are taught to be observers but not participants. But she said she is ambivalent about women's colleges, although she believes they will strengthen women's self-confidence.
Steinem also addressed another issue of great concern: the growing backlash against feminism. The author believes the popularity of personalities such as Camille Paglia, a vocal critic of the movement, is indicative of the problem.
"The majority consciousness has changed," said Steinem. "Backlash is dangerous because it could win."
Ashmore-Hudson, the second speaker, discussed self-fulfillment for women, emphasizing that women should utilize the power of "spiritual" self-awareness.
The psychologist also said gender can transcend culture and ethnicity. She cited the example of Anita Hill, who charged then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, as bringing together women of different ethnicities.