College hosts Mid-Atlantic Women’s Studies Association Conference 2011

Liz Abzug speaks during the first event of the MAWSA conference. (Photos courtesy of Jolene Paz)

Women are typically taught to “speak softly and carry a lipstick,” guest speaker Liz Abzug said, at the opening event of the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Studies Associaton conference that took place on the College’s campus this past weekend.

This annual conference was organized by the College’s women’s and gender studies (WGS) department, especially its conference coordinators Mary Lynn Hopps, director of the Women in Learning and Leadership program and WGS faculty member; Cecilia Colbeth, WGS department program coordinator; and John Landreau, WGS faculty member.

Abzug is a professor at Barnard College and Columbia Univeristy and founded the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute (BALI) in honor of her mother, Bella Abzug, with her sister.

Bella Abzug was a female politician in the ’70s and served in Congress. Her mother’s involvement in challenging the patriarchal political world is what inspired Abzug to pursue a career in advocating for women’s rights, she said during her lecture on Friday, April 8 in the Library Auditorium.

Her mother was known for wearing big hats and always being herself, regardless of what her male counterparts said.

Abzug explored what she deemd “a real structural problem” existing in society today and passed on wisdom that her mother once shared with her.

These tips included “have a strong handshake” and “always maintain a sense of humor.”

Abzug, while acknowledging how far women have come, said there is still “unfinished business,” and how feminists have to come together with the LGBTQ community, to

Mary Lynn Hopps helped bring the conference to campus. (Photos courtesy of Jolene Paz)

fight back for empowerment and equality.

She reflected, in outrage, on the recent budget cuts to Planned Parenthood.

“I say to you, we must fight back. We need to stop these sexist extremists from denying millions of women, children and men from vital reproductive health care,” she said.

Abzug also acknowledged that there are many men she considers strong feminists that fight for women’s rights.

“We need to encourage women to attain the highest levels (of jobs) they asprire to,” Abzug said. “And if women want to be full time mothers, that’s your choice too, and we must support that.”

Jamie Primeau can be reached at primeau2@tcnj.edu.