In recognition of Equal Pay Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of gender pay inequality in the workforce, acclaimed journalist Jessica Bennett spoke to Hofstra students on April 11 about her book “Feminist Fight Club,” a practical guide for women about surviving sexist workplaces.
Throughout her talk, Bennett spoke of the importance of feminism in today’s increasingly competitive workplace and discussed her personal experience in combating sexism.
Bennett recalled her early years working as a junior journalist at Newsweek magazine and how her personal feminist fight club came into existence. She explained that she and her fellow female writers were struggling to rise up into more powerful positions at the magazine, trailing behind their male counterparts.
“A lot of times we didn’t necessarily recognize what we were dealing with in our office environments, and there was a sense of turning inward and blaming ourselves,” Bennett said. “Eventually, we began meeting and getting together every month to talk about these issues and collectively realized that feminism was something we needed and identified with.”
Katherine O’Keefe, a sophomore English and women’s studies major, believed that by taking the proper steps to equalize the pay gap and combat gender inequality, issues regarding women’s rights would be further applicable to more of the nation’s demographics, specifically concerning issues of intersectionality.
“I hope that we take an intersectional approach to trying to approach the issue of equal pay because there are so many other issues that go into it, like gender issues and racial issues,” she said. “I hope that when we look at the issue of equal pay that we look at it across the board.”
In response to the radical opposition that often rises against the feminist movement, Bennett welcomes the opportunity to bring attention to the issues that attribute to unequal pay and subtle sexism. She explained throughout her talk that a national dialogue surrounding gender equality should not take on an “us versus them” mentality.
Gavin Hawkins, a junior business economics major, agreed with Bennett’s thoughts on how to deal with negative perceptions of feminism through education and collaboration. “The majority of the feminist movement [is] people that are going for the betterment of everyone and equality, which is extremely important. I think the voices that are radical are a minority,” he said.
Dr. Gregory DeFreitas, a professor of economics and the director of Hofstra’s Labor Studies Degree program, organized the event and emphasized the importance of young people advocating for women’s rights in an increasingly aggressive political climate.
“I have great hope that the millennial generation will really make greater strides than my generation did, but there’s both unsubtle and subtle barriers still to women,” he said. “The kind of vocabulary that Jessica and others have highlighted are great, and I’ve seen with my own male friends that if you have the right words it can make them think, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what I do.’”
At the end of her talk, Bennett urged the men in the audience to take action in the fight for equal rights and putting an end to sexism in the workplace, emphasizing the power of both female and male voices to bring the nation into the next generation of feminism.
“It’s so important that we include men in this conversation, because we are not going to get anywhere if it’s just women talking to each other,” she said. “The reality is that most men of your generation really do want equality and care about these issues, and so we all have to be in this together.”