Feminist pioneer visits Mount Vernon

The president of the Feminist Majority Foundation came to GW’s Mount Vernon campus Thursday to offer encouragement for what she said is the driving force of the feminist movement – the youth of America.

“The idea that young men and women do not support the feminist movement is the product of the ’70s and ’60s and (that idea) is done,” said Eleanor Smeal, who is on a yearlong campus speaking tour.

“The people who support women’s rights, the people who support the abortion issue, are the youngest segment of the population,” she said.

Some students said after the lecture they felt influenced by Smeal’s dream and filled out cards to get involved in the movement.

“The speech was very informative,” sophomore Sunny Sims said. “I think one of the key things in her speech is exposure and she really got that idea across.”

A segment of the speech focused on the atrocities against women in Afghanistan and the militant anti-feminism of the region. Some listeners said they were shocked by what they heard.

“I really never knew about Afghanistan. It’s awful,” freshman Bryony Schwartz said.

Freshman Jennifer Heitel said she found the speech motivating and hopes to get involved in the feminist movement.

“I never knew what was available,” Heitel said. “I’m glad I can get involved now, instead of just thinking about it.”

Smeal said her campus speaking engagements are an integral part of the FMF’s goal to develop the movement’s young leaders. In 1997, the FMF established the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, a nationwide program on college campuses to promote the movement. The FMF established chapters at GW and on campuses across the nation.

“We want to stress the value of young people and their part in the movement in the next millennium,” said Sarah Boonin, director of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s national tour.

The tour’s focus is to mobilize students and other supporters for the Feminist Expo 2000, an event taking place next year in Baltimore, Md., Boonin said. The FMF hopes young women will make up a large portion of the expected crowd of 6,000 for the event, Boonin said.

“The future of the movement is totally in the hands of the next generation,” said Smeal, who has visited 64 campuses this year. “The FMF would like the number to reach 100 by the year’s end and reach 200 by the year 2000.

“We see how much more there is to do than we can dream of,” she said.

Smeal became involved in feminism early in life through her study of political science. She identified the idea of the “gender gap” in voting and popularized the idea that politicians can no longer ignore women’s issues because of the female vote’s growing importance, according to a pamphlet from the FMF.

GW’s chapter of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance will hold its first meeting Wednesday, Oct. 6 at 9 p.m. in the Academic Center on the Mount Vernon campus. The organization’s flier encourages males and females to attend the event.

“A feminist is anyone (male or female),” according to the flier.

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