Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Beauty Myth, End of America, etc.

A friend and I had the unique opportunity to hear feminist author and activist Naomi Wolf speak at a Public Affairs Conference on the Missouri State University campus last night.  Ms. Wolf is a journalist, political activist, and social critic.   
She had been arrested in New York back in October for standing outside a Huffington Post event at which Governor Cuomo was speaking.  Granted, Occupy protesters were nearby, yet she was only advising them on their right to assemble.  Police handcuffed her anyway and swooped her away to jail for "inciting violence" or some such nonsense.  Ironically, her book "Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries" dealt specifically, in part, with non-violent protest and obtaining permits to legally assemble.
Her newest work is "The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot."  She spoke quite a bit last night about "open Democracies" and how citizens should pay attention to their inalienable rights guaranteed by the Constitution.  Ms. Wolf cautioned us about what seems to her a escalating executive power of which we should be wary.  Her thoughts were tempered by an upbeat message of living in a time of great hope where citizens can determine their own destinies.  She recommended we trust in our instincts and believe what we feel inside, protest peacefully about corporate and governmental control being too powerful, and using a united voice through communal assembly.  Images of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. immediately came to mind.  I also considered the parallels between her suggestion to bring people together through common interests and how I perpetually tell my five-year old son you can "catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar."  Adults must also be reminded how better things can result from acting in a civil manner.  
This woman amazed me with her wealth of knowledge and ability to synthesize the audience members' otherwise confusing questions into a clear understanding of what they wished to know from her.  Her attitude was very respectful, although I'm sure this setting was distinctly different from others she visits on a week-to-week basis.  She brought up enlightenment and the universal desire for happy lives, and I enjoyed her time with us greatly.  
A book signing followed the gathering, and I was pleased to have her sign my copy of "The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women," which was originally released in 1990.  The content remains so relevant to any humanist society.  I thanked her for having the courage to speak out for her convictions, and specifically for her feminist viewpoints.  I told her I had seen her on The Rosie Show and followed her on Twitter.  It was weird to be all star-struckish around an author/activist, but I could hardly articulate a sentence.  She gracefully shook my hand and commented on our living in a beautiful place.  The scenery is pretty great around here, especially this time of year, and perhaps I don't give our area enough credit until catching a glimpse for a different point of view.  
Looking at things from a new perspective is what she was all about last night.  I hope we in the audience can heed that call.


  1. I went to school at MSU and I have to agree I quite enjoyed the spring time scenery there. Thanks for sharing about this, I am going to have to check out Naomi's book.

    1. We also heard David Lacks speak at MSU last year. He is the son of Henrietta Lacks, the woman whose cells have lived to help medical science since the '50s. Our book club read "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot just before he was at MO State. They offer so many things to the public there. That's a great book, too, btw.