BY ANDRE RICKMAN
To celebrate Women’s History Month, The Cooper Union collaborated with author and speaker Gloria Steinem On March 18 for their Great Women Live at the Great Hall series, which highlights the progress of women and how to address the contemporary issues hindering progress of women.
The theme for the panel was overt, acknowledging the progress of women and addressing the issues that inhibit that progress. Laura Sparks, the first woman president of The Cooper Union, moderated the Q+A event.
This sentiment of women’s progress being in dire need of more attention was echoed by the speaker herself, Steinem, at the panel.
“In the beginning of the Women’s movement, we had a history of reinventing what women’s rights meant for us, being more than just a housewife or going into the working field,” said Steinem.
Guests were excited to be in the presence of feminist global changemakers.
“Seeing feminist icons like Gloria Steinem feels so surreal to me,” said Laura Stromer, an event attendee. “Having women like her be on the forefront discussing these issues with women like us feels impactful.”
Many say the “future is female,” but in the history of the world, men have always been at the forefront of social change and women have been largely left out.
Even within the political sphere for social change, the women always are behind in political representation. According to U.N women.org, there were only 10 women Heads of State and 13 women Heads of Government across 22 countries.
The concept of women finally being recognized in the different spheres of social change was also confirmed by Sparks, who acknowledged the many voices of great women at the Great Hall, one who ran for president of the United States in 2016.
“With the many greats who evoked their presence here at the Great Hall in Cooper Union, Former Secretary Of State, Hilary Clinton really left me in awe,” said Sparks. “Her giving us this note of gratitude, during the height of journalists and reporters censorship during Trump’s presidency really gave us as women conviction to speak out against wrongdoings of the world.”
There was this underlying flicker of hope during the panel, which was the progress of women’s rights, and the tangible things people can do to show support for the women’s movement that both Sparks and Steinem recognized.
“Being president of the Cooper Union feels like I have a duty to my fellow sisters to make sure spaces for women exist,” said Sparks. “Whether it be holding panels, spoken word or dance recitals all in the name of women’s representation, I’m here for it.”
Steinem acknowledged that in meeting situations, a circle for women is more beneficial than a hierarchical structure.
“Well anything that is in a circle is better than a hierarchy, because instead of a hierarchical board room, we have this circle, metaphorically, to speak about our grievances as women,” said Steinem. “Revolutions are like trees, not built from the top down but built bottom up.”
Steinem also stressed this idea that what we all do can have consequences. She made sure that was reverberated in the last moments of the panel.
“Just remembering that and everything we do matters, which is very helpful, otherwise, it seems impossible to think of the end result,” said Steinem.