Feminist legend Ellie Smeal was the guest speaker and panel moderator at WomenNC’s 2014 Fellowship Dinner. Smeal gave a very inspiring summary of where the movement has been, and where it’s going. She talked about how the name of her organization, Feminist Majority came about. She told us how she loves statistics, and how she has used them.
Smeal moderated a panel discussion between the 6 student ‘fellows’ who have done research with WomenNC on topics from sexual abuse among teenagers (middle and high school) to maternal health/supporting new mothers, to structural causes of gender inequality. Some surprising statistics they quoted:
• 1 in 3 teens has been in an abusive dating relationship.
• Women in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) programs make 33% more than women not in STEM programs. But the really surprising statistic Sara quoted was “90% of women’s income goes back to the family. Men contribute 35% of their income to the family.”
• Maternal health is a game changer – need to bring resources to women’s communities, to help women in their communities. In 2010 alone, “In 2010, 287,000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth. Almost all of these deaths occurred in low-resource settings, and most could have been prevented.” (Fellow quoted the 287,000 stat, but I found clarification at World Health Organization at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs348/en/)
The fellows are heading to NYC in March to present their work at the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women. WomenNC has trained and motivated university students to do and present research at the CSW since 2009.
Smeal inspired the students and audience. She said she named her organization Feminist Majority, based on popularity of feminism in polls. She said that the latest polling by Celinda Lake in 2012 exit polls showed the following results.
• Democratic Women – > 70% feminists!
• Independents -> over half are feminists!
• Republican Women -> 49% are feminists!!!
The last was the most surprising to me, but great news!
Smeal ended with ‘as long as the message for equality is so popular, we’re going to win in the end!’