The beginning of Ireland’s talk went over the history of women in the United States starting with the Declaration of Independence and Abigail Adams. Of achieving the right to vote in the 20th century, Ireland said that women were not given the right to vote, but rather, “we won it fair and square!” Ireland also pointed out that the second feminist movement began in the 1950’s when women realized that they were not allowed active roles in the other civil rights movements, but rather relegated to coffee duty.
The biggest issue facing women’s movements today, according to Ireland, is the “No problem” problem. By this, she meant that people believe that enough progress has been made and that feminism is obsolete (actually according to her research Ireland found that the papers have been declared feminism dead every 18 months for the past two decades.) However, feminism is alive and well, and the idea that women are now equal to men in the USA is complete crap. In the US Senate, only 14% of the senators are women despite the fact that women are 51% of the US population. Even countries we consider behind us in progress, Iran and Iraq, are both slatted to have 25% female senators. When Bill Clinton tried to appoint a female US Attorney General in the 1990’s, the female candidates were first accused of abandoning their children (an accusation never posed to male candidates) and then for the candidate without children, of being lesbian; both conditions, of course, rendering them “unfit” for the job. Similarly, a whole 42% of the high achieving women in business do not have children while about 75% of their male colleagues do.
The end of Patricia Ireland’s speech focused on the future and our roles in it. She told us that progress is not inevitable, but that it does occurs when strong leaders step forward, refuse to back down, and are backed by a strong movement. Ireland warned us of the seductive powers of conformity, because so much change can occur from the inside if women resist conformity. However, despite the difficulties posed, she made sure to tell us how much she loved being a feminist, “feminism is a whale of a good time!” Her fitting ending was “Thank you all for being here, all you’ve done, and all you will do.” I found her talk to be inspiring, something I do not feel happens often, even on a college campus. I hope that others will be inspired as well and that together the third wave of feminism can swell up and overtake the nation in a storm of change.