Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What does feminism mean in the 21st Century?

Author to discuss the future of a movement

Express Staff Writer

Amy Richards will speak at the Sun Valley Center in Ketchum tonight. Photo by

In mid-January Gloria Steinem was in Ketchum as part of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts' "Domestic Life" project. At a lecture she discussed the gender roles that people play within their family units, how violence in a home affects a child's future and how women still cope with preconceived notions about their worth.

"It's impossible to talk about the home without talking about women's roles," said Britt Udesen, The Center's director of education and humanities.

The day after her talk, she and fellow feminist author Amy Richards were guests at a luncheon hosted by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts at which women of different generations were able to ask questions and share stories about the home and women's roles.

The conversations touched on everything from abortion, sexual abuse and musical tastes to losing one's virginity.

Richards will return to the valley to further discuss the current state of feminism in a free public lecture at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Ketchum at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18.

She will focus on what it means to be a feminist in the 21st century and how younger women can carry on the issues into the future.

"Feminism is considered radical but the second women start talking they identify with things in their lives," Richards said. "It's systemic and not just personal. The reality of feminism is so much more banal than public perception. It's about fathers sharing the work of child rearing. It's about calling women 'girls.'

"People need to be reminded that in order to be big it has to start small. And it's exciting precisely because when it's small you can measure it. It motivates you if you know others are doing things."

While here, Richards plans to follow up with the students who were at the luncheon.

"Young women say, 'Now what do I do?' I hope to provide some focus," she said. "The challenge in Sun Valley is that it's filled with progressive, well-meaning people who are already doing things in peoples lives. They want to connect."

But lack of free time and obligations often intrude on good intentions.

Richards said that sometimes it takes someone from the outside to "amplify things that you've been thinking."

"It was nice to be in a multigenerational setting. I hope that will play out this week as well. I've heard the students (from The Community School and Wood River High School) have been talking to each other and want to get together with those from the other school."

Richards is the author of "Opting In: Having A Child Without Losing Yourself" and co-author of "Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future" and "Grassroots: A Field Guide for Feminist Activism." She also writes a column called "Ask Amy" at, which provides her with many of the focus points for her talks.

"This is a constant reminder that you can't make this stuff up," she said about the letters she receives at "Ask Amy."

Richards is on the board of advisors to Ms. magazine, the counsel of advocates to Planned Parenthood New York City and a board member of the Lower East Side Girls Club, Fair Fund and the Sadie Nash Leadership Institute.

Dana DuGan:

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