Fem2.0 – The Cutting EdgeFebruary 02, 2009
I was lucky enough to be part of the Inauguration – on the Mall with my newest 1.5 million friends watching history change in front of our eyes. Well, I didn’t realize that, just a few short days later, I would have the same sense of being part of history, of being part of a change that has the potential to impact millions. In this case, it is as I listen to speakers at the Fem2.0 conference on how women’s presence on the web is already affecting not just women’s issues, but everyone’s issues.
A presentation early in the day reminded us of the roots of women in history. I learned that Clara Barton stated, long before most even gave it a thought, that women, from a historical perspective, are “unwritten, unrewarded, and almost unrecognized.” I learned that Admiral Grace Hooper wrote Cobol! Wonder how many men or women realize that. Also, that Hedy Lamarr, yes, the famous actress, actually developed and helped patent what is now the basis of today’s cell phone. As we were hearing these stories, the women in the audience were expressing their “wow’s” via Twitter on the Fem2.0 site, sharing their pride with potentially thousands of readers.
Speaker after speaker told of the growth of women online and what a natural segue that is as women are naturally organized community builders. The online community allows for faster growth and larger audiences, as MomsRising showed by citing their rapid growth via the Internet. Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, their executive director, talked about the “maternal wall”, the phenomenon that explains, for example, the results of a study that shows that women with children are hired 79 percent less of the time than a man with the same resume. That’s not “in our mothers’ time” that’s in ours!
Some of the panelists told stories of “back in the day,” when they first created a presence online – all the while behind them the Fem2.0 Twitter stream was commenting on their talk. A bit later, one of those speakers, Eleanor Smeal, actually put a return comment (with help) on Twitter, and we all applauded her graduation to Fem2.0. Elisa Camajort Page, co-founder of BlogHer helped put us in perspective by reminding us that issues are people’s issues, not just women or men’s issues. We need to “humanize feminism,” to “listen beyond borders,” beyond the traditional feminist community, across party lines, no matter the culture.
Running late but still not starving for lunch, I had the chance to participate in a discussion of reaching generationally to organize for women in leadership, for example. Statistics of the lack of women in government were given, and many in the room agreed with the need to break that glass ceiling. When discussion began, AAUW member Barba Merriweather said she and other women have stories to tell (at age 69), but didn’t want to use the Internet. She came to Fem2.0 for face-to-face. Immediately, women in the room said, “Tell us your story, we’ll blog on your behalf.” Great idea, let’s share those stories!
At the end of this session, a young man stood up and said he was Reshai Tate and that this was his first day as an AAUW Fellow (I hadn’t even met him yet!). He told his story of learning about the need for women’s rights from a strong grandmother who fought inequity on the south side of Chicago all her life. He now faces the difficulty of telling his male friends about his new position at AAUW. Their response to his new job is “Why?” Their questions show that they are mystified by feminism. He was looking for guidance, the the group jumped up with all kinds of suggestions. I’ll ask Reshai later to tell us the best of these and what worked with his friends. Now onto the afternoon and more cutting-edge excitement.