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Emily W's Story

Emily W talks to Emily L about how the feminist movement has shaped her growing up and how the culture of women's liberation influenced her ideologies and life.

Emily W's Story
00:00 / 04:39

The feminist movement which was then mostly called Women's liberation movement was a major civil rights movement when I was growing up in the sixties and seventies.

In high school I started paying attention to national leaders like Gloria Steinem in particular, who had started Miss Magazine which was kind of the first thing that was called a women's magazine that wasn't about housekeeping and cooking and among many other things she said that women needed to recognize and fight for the right for recognition and equality, the idea that women were equal. It seems like such common sense, but it wasn't people didn't always act as if that was common sense.

In a lot of ways I felt that my whole life, but especially when I went to college I went to a women's college, Wilson college in Pennsylvania and I learned academically some of the things that I was picking up from the culture from women's liberation, things about, you know women have always been pioneers, but our history has been often hidden either accidentally or on purpose. Certain women have always defied the norms and excelled but they have not always been celebrated. Just that there were a lot of hidden stories of women, both individual and national.

So feminism made me question a lot of the norms that I've grown up with. I certainly was never told as a kid that I wasn't equal to a man. I was always told well you can do whatever you want to do. But the culture saw until I grew up with these sort of Unthinking things around the T. V. Ads magazines. And that in my hometown was the college that my mom went to which was this women's college. It turned out to be one of the best things I've ever done in my life. When I got there I realized-- I mean it's sort of like my intellectual life took off. There were certainly efforts made by most of the professors to bring women's history or whatever into the curriculum. So in some way I definitely got more academic knowledge than I might have been at another school. But mainly it was just being around all women and when women have all the opportunities women take all the roles. So it was nobody saying you can do this. It was just if you wanted to do it you did it. And so it wasn't political at all. It was just like learning by doing oh you can do anything, you really can do anything.

The baseline assumptions have changed considerably and it's much more than the norm for women to have a choice of how they lived their lives. That's kind of the bedrock change. So I think the biggest change probably is that the assumption of inferiority since it and it wasn't all that women couldn't do as good a job at things but there was always the assumption that you probably didn't even want to give women a chance in the workplace or anything serious because they would get married and or have kids and then leave, and so therefore you really needed to give men the opportunities that we're serious. And I don't think that happens as much. There's still some of it, but I don't think nearly as much overall about feminism, it's certainly not a big hot topic today and the way that it was when I was growing up, but I think although there's so much more to be done, it's okay that it's not a hot topic because it doesn't need to be in quite the same way that second wave feminism, which is the era that I grew up, made some progress and therefore feminism for a lot of people could be put on the back burner because men and women and people of other genders just sort of take it far more likely to take it for granted that, of course everybody has self determination.

So I don't personally take any credit for that, but I think my generation as a whole, and the generation just before me, um, can take some some credit for kicking up a lot of fuss and making things happen.

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