Archive for Monday, October 28, 2002

Women’s Conference reflects on feminism’s changes

October 28, 2002


Age-old problems accompanied by different approaches and a new sort of activism that was how those attending Women's Conference 2002 summed up issues that included body image, relationships and diversity.

Maintaining that progress has been made but much is left to be done, Kathy Rose-Mockry said issues at Sunday's conference at the Kansas Union were the same as those that might have been addressed 20 years ago.

But today's young women are handling those challenges differently perhaps more privately than the Gloria Steinems of yesteryear.

Several Kansas University women agreed that they viewed feminism differently than their mothers did. But Kate Schmidt, Seattle-area sophomore, said maybe the modern way was more effective.

"They're actually doing something," she said of today's generation. "They're not just parading around getting mad."

Rose-Mockry, program director of the Emily Taylor Women's Resource Center, agrees that activism looks different now than it did 20 years ago.

"Is it better or worse? I can't make a judgment on that," she said.

Not as many women are marching through the streets these days, agreed Lorraine Bayard De Volo, an assistant professor of political science and women's studies at Kansas University.

Instead, she said, activism was "taking place on a smaller scale, less in your face," in part because the protests of 30 years ago have allowed today's women to work behind the scenes.

And that means the chance to provide such things as Women's Transitional Care Services or to lobby in Washington, D.C., for tougher penalties against domestic abuse.

"These women are putting in time; it's just another sort of activism," Bayard de Volo said in a telephone interview after the conference.

The conference which drew nearly 30 women focused on areas where women spend a majority of their energies.

Keynote speaker Mary Lou Wright, who co-owns The Raven bookstore, discussed challenges women face in business, and a session on female creativity allowed participants to express themselves artistically, molding clay as they listened to Enya.

Other sessions included discussions on women in the media and volunteerism.

And a session on diversity reflected a growing trend in women's studies, Bayard de Volo said.

In the past, women were more likely to ignore differences in race, religion or sexual orientation, preferring instead to form a "sisterhood" based on the common experience of oppression.

As the idea of a sisterhood becomes perhaps less prevalent, and women increasingly deal individually with challenges, Bayard de Volo warned against assuming that women have achieved everything they wanted.

"There's sometimes this perception that the women's struggle is over," she said, pointing out that whether women are waving signs or signing legislation, there's plenty left to be done.

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