Over a week ago I was given the opportunity to attend a luncheon with a woman who wears many hats at once– she is an activist, scientist, journalist, and bestselling author. However, I do not believe that this brief summary can entirely do her justice. Her name is Barbara Ehrenreich, and much of her work is centered around issues of inequality.
Walking up to the second floor of the East Lansing Marriott, and knowing I would be the only student present, I was surprisingly calm (and thrilled) despite my concerns heading into the meeting. Did I know enough about Barbara? What will we talk about? Will I have any input? Is the luncheon covered by the university? Should I order an appetizer or a meal?
Thankfully, my futile thoughts were put to rest almost immediately. As everyone arrived we went around giving brief introductions of ourselves. I was surrounded by ten women, all of whom were from different Michigan State University departments and different organizations in the East Lansing and Lansing area. To my left was Cindie, executive director of the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing (also my boss) and to my right were several MSU professors. Barbara was directly across from me.
The next two hours flew by as we, a group of feminists, scratched the surface on an array of issues. Much of the conversation was built around a mutual and genuine interest for everyone’s thoughts on everything we discussed– topics from abortion, transgender rights, the minimum wage, the overwhelming (and unfortunate) need for 24 hour day care centers, and so much more. I sat there amazed by the way in which the discourse took place. Everyone was so knowledgable, respectful, and thought-provoking. I realized in that moment, that it was these women that I had the privilege of meeting that are leading important dialogues that people everywhere need to be engaged in. “I bet our waiter is learning A LOT today,” Cindie joked to me. Heck, so was I.
Later that evening I attended the speaking engagement with Barbara that was held at Michigan State’s Snyder-Phillips RCAH theatre. It is hard for me to articulate the topics that were discussed and the questions that were asked (physics was was an area that sent my wheels turning faster than I could manage).
Although I was unable to wrap my mind around several of the concepts we discussed, one thing was certain. Barbara was a woman who had questions and would do anything to make sure she found answers. To me, this driving curiosity and hunger for the truth in a person is admirable. How can we all strive to find these answers? What would the world look like if we all started searching?
The good news is that spaces are being created for these conversations to happen. And with each thoughtful, provocative dialogue that is had, we are one step closer to action in making the world a more equal, better place.
I went home that night with questions, answers, inspiration, excitement, and to my inquisitive and nerdy pleasure, a bag full of signed books.