Conference keynote speaker Zoe Nicholson on intergenerational feminism

Orginally published at The Radical Housewife.

One of the great perks of my position as Minnesota NOW has been making the acquaintance of activists from across the country, but few have knocked me out quite like Pacific Shore NOW member Zoe Nicholson.

Author of “The Hungry Heart,” a diary of the 37 days she fasted for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, Zoe is also a board member of the Veteran Feminists of America, founder of  The Bridge Project, a featured subject in the LGBT equality documentary “March On!” (which has its Midwest premiere April 13, 2012), and a popular speaker at schools and events nationwide.

As a matter of fact, she’ll be delivering the keynote address at the combined Minnesota NOW and Prairie States Regional NOW conference, held April 14, 2012, with a presentation she calls “The Life of an Activist.”  She kindly agreed to share some of her thoughts with me for my blog readers.

What follows is just the beginning of our conversation…



THE RADICAL HOUSEWIFE: I want to start with your thoughts about intergenerational feminism.  I admit that one of the first thoughts I had when I finished “The Hungry Heart” was how damned exciting the Second Wave must have been!  How do we resist the urge to think of the feminist movement as something that had its best years in its past?  

ZOE NICHOLSON: There are many answers but at the root is a call to embrace and participate in change.  Society is breathing and changing just like each of us.  The U.S. Women’s Movement (shall we call its birth 1848?) is a living breathing entity who is unfolding, advancing, evolving.

In 1967, women marching on Wall Street for credit, marching on 5th Avenue for jobs, meeting in homes to share stories was really about the oppressed collecting their energy and focus to advance social change.  Today the tools, the ground of experience, the venues may be different but the movement is the same.  Women, and the men who love them, are collecting around issues making social constructs quake.

There is an illusion that nothing is happening now to rival 35/40 years ago.  If you judge on stars, single charismatic people; Millett, Steinem, Abzug, Friedan, yes that form of igniting action is over.  But that is just a longing for nostalgia, like Mad Man or Marilyn or easy bake ovens.  We are in a great shift of how information is collated, distributed, interpreted and inspires.

Today we are driven by conflict, issues, ideas, crisis, oppressions.  Just to name a few, look at Slutwalk, Occupy, Dreamers, Keystone.  We may clamor for a leader but, ultimately, that is not what is creating the motion ~ it is the oppression itself.  Let’s be sophisticated enough to say, without apology, that the GOP War on Women is the galvanizing force for 4/28.  We are not celebrating that a Toronto woman was told to not dress like a slut but it was our call to action.  It was not a single person standing in front of a microphone, or in the paper, or on a talk show that got us to say, “enough is enough.”  Ideas are our new stars.  Equality is our now both our end and our means.

I want to be clear that I am NOT saying we are reactionary only.  That would be only returning in kind.  I am saying that we are now free from mimeo machines, bulk mailing, home gatherings.  We are enabled with the whole world of electronic communication and just ask the Congressional switchboard how that’s working when a tweet goes out recommending we all call on a certain vote. [Susan B.] Anthony taking the train, waiting for a letter from Elizabeth [Cady Stanton], traveling the West to tell women about the vote – oh how she would have been enabled to reach across the country from a keyboard.  And in the doing, we might have not noticed who said what, we are content driven now.

You ask about our best years.  They are straight ahead.  Everything that has happened since 1848 is on a trajectory.  Women standing in front of Wilson’s White House, Ms. Paul force fed in prison, lesbians held at the gate of Houston 1977 finally invited in, 89 years of work to explicitly include women in the Constitution,  oh, too many to list; are all on the move to change the human paradigm to full equality.  If you are not excited and inspired, you are looking in the wrong direction.

For more from Zoe, watch this space, or check out these links: 

Online With Zoe (her wonderful blog)

MARCH ON! The Movie (a truly great film by Laura McFerrin about the National Equality March of 2009)

Zoe’s Amazon author page, including the brand-new edition of The Hungry Heart for Kindle (a document of the Second Wave that I probably can’t recommend enough)


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