January 25, 2011

We Exist! LA Feminists Speak Out

From left to right: Myra Duran, Tani Ikeda, Morgane Richardson, Miranda Petersen, Melanie Klein, Brie Widaman and Jollene Levid

Thursday night, feminists drove from all over L.A. to be at the Young Feminists Speak Out event in Santa Monica.  While the panel (click here for a list of all featured panelists and their bios) focused on the new generation of feminists, people of all ages were in attendance to talk and listen.  The event was put together by Morgane Richardson, a feminist originally hailing from the east coast, Myra Duran and Miranda Petersen.  Upon moving to Los Angeles and noticing a lack of feminist gatherings in Los Angeles, Morgane was inspired to organize a diverse panel of LA-area feminists  and connected with Myra and Miranda to make the vision a reality. They are already working on more feminist events for the Los Angeles area.  Melanie Klein and Miranda Petersen moderated, and asked questions which ranged from how each panelist “found” feminism, to whether there’s a need for a current mainstream icon for the feminist movement.

One of the questions asked was whether there is an “east-coast/west-coast divide” in terms of organization, issues, and focus in the movement.  I was surprised to hear panelists disagree that a divide exists.  Ever since changing my major to Women’s Studies, I’ve wanted to do work for a feminist-focused company, and while there are some in Los Angeles, or regional offices for larger organizations, a great majority exist in Washington D.C. and New York City.

In fact, I felt the panel was a great example of this – while there are tons of feminists residing in L.A., this was the first time most were meeting, or had been in the same room together.  While I would like to attend feminist conferences, again a majority are held in large cities on the east coast.  Of course I’m not badmouthing these organizations for setting up in cities like Washington D.C. – being the political capital of the country, it makes the most sense.  However, it frequently feels there’s no equivalent of organizations of such a size in Los Angeles, or the west coast in general.

Another topic of discussion addressed that many still see Gloria Steinem as the face of the movement, and why there doesn’t seem to be anyone with that kind of visibility in recent history.  I think the fact that panelists had a difficult time naming any current famous feminists, is indicative of the lack of voice we have in the mainstream media.    Panelist Myra Duran stated she felt having a mainstream icon is no longer necessary – girls and women are able to choose their own inspirational figures.  While I somewhat I agree – I’m able to choose who to look up to; it wasn’t until taking Women’s Studies courses that I was even aware of who the current feminists were.  I didn’t know who Jessica Valenti or Ariel Levy were until their work was assigned reading.   Additionally, simply being able to go to college and the availability of these classes is a privilege, one that many women do not have access to.  Unless one finds feminism through family or friends, for the most part it’s a movement that must be searched out in order to find.  The injustices women face as a minority in this country does not garner much mainstream news coverage; Ms. recently pointed out that Nancy Pelosi was not once on the cover of Newsweek or Time, while John Boehner scored the cover of both news magazines when he won the mid-term election.  While the internet makes it much easier to find information on the current topics and history of the movement, it’s still important to reach those who may not even have access to the web.  During the “Second Wave” Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan achieved a level of visibility in the mainstream media that allowed girls and women who wouldn’t have otherwise identified as feminists to find information and understand how these issues personally affected  them.  I don’t feel like that is happening currently – to find feminist (or even just women-centric) news, the two places I look to are feminist blogs and magazines.

The panel was an important gathering of feminists, and I hope there are many more events to come in the future.  While I disagreed with some of the answers given, as panelists pointed out in response to a question asked by the audience, “there is no singular definition of a feminist.”  Feminists don’t always agree about certain issues – an east/west coast divide, or a face of feminism, but that is one of the best things about the movement – discussion, dialogue, and debate.

Photo taken by Marley Poyo.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melanie Klein and Miranda Petersen, Left of Liberal. Left of Liberal said: We Exist! LA Feminists Speak Out http://bit.ly/efjSEp […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Feminist Fatale » We Exist! LA Feminists Speak Out -- Topsy.com — January 25, 2011 @ 8:58 am

  2. Thanks for this post! Miranda and I actually organized it alongside Morgane, team effort, yay! Let’s keep the conversation going and make sure LA feminists get heard! 🙂

    Comment by Myra Duran — January 25, 2011 @ 9:54 am

  3. @Myra- I just edited the post. Thanks for the comment. And, agreed- more conversations need to happen. If anything, our panel proved that we have a rich array of voices and experiences that need to be heard. Plus, the fact that we have never all been in the same room affirms the need to have gatherings that unite us, allow us to socialize and debate.

    Comment by Melanie — January 25, 2011 @ 10:07 am

  4. As a 56 year old woman who has numerous women friends that have been through women’s studies on the East Coast, I have to say that there is a divide. I have recently been made aware of some horrible men hating coning from California. What some men haters are calling feminism is something everyone should distance themselves from. There are hostile “feminist” teachers that I know of that would never hold such a position on the East Coast. I have researched this well. In all my very liberated life, I have never witnessed the awful, hateful things said about men here as I have on the West Coast. Hate groups should be labeled as such, and not be allowed to use the name of feminism to justfy their sociopathy. Maybe you aren’t ware of all this. It is true. I have no agenda other than to point out the difference I have observed in the two regions.

    Comment by Lea — November 18, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

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