Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Locals sup with Steinem

Center invites valley women for exchange of ideas

Express Staff Writer

An air of excitement surrounded a group of about 70 women gathered at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Ketchum last Thursday. The women were there to share a midday meal with feminist authors Gloria Steinem and Amy Richards, who are friends and colleagues. Steinem had given a talk the previous night at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood as part of The Center's speaker series, and in anticipation of its new multicultural exhibition, "Domestic Life."

Steinem and Richards had asked The Center to invite women who spanned three age groups— students, youngish women and more mature women—who would be empowered to share the message.

Included were 14 students from Wood River High School and The Community School, teachers, women from nonprofits and "women who were in a position of leadership," The Center's Artistic Director Kris Poole said.

The idea was to gather all these women and engender discussions at each table. Those conversations followed the dictates of Steinem and Richards who asked that the tables consider generational similarities and differences, sex education and the politics of gender.

"A lot of connections were made," Poole said. "Older women who connected with the younger generation made a commitment to follow through on those connections. That's exactly what Gloria and Amy were talking about—the need for the multigenerational conversation. It was so profound because it was so simple. It was really about empathy but also that we have to act when we are mad. When you see injustice, act on it."

Each table elected to have a student deliver a brief to the entire room.

"I was honored that they were so interested in what we thought," said Kena Lipke, a senior at Wood River High School. "I just hope that Obama takes care of the 'abstinence-only' funding in his first 100 days."

While students relayed their table's messages, Steinem listened intently, nodding and laughing while she took notes.

The major themes of the discussions were about democracy of the home and shared parenting, themes Steinem had discussed the previous evening.

"Not that we can always control what happens to us, but we can control how we use it," Steinem said. "We can be a communal family. If you're going to an event, ask a younger woman to go with you and vice versa. We do need to be together with all five senses."

Indeed, Ryan Waterfield, a teacher at The Community School, stood and asked if those present might want to get together in the future to talk and exchange ideas. Everyone raised their hands.

"This is one of the most fantastic luncheons ever," Steinem said at the conclusion.

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