By Marissa Matozzo
It was July 9, 1978. The summer heat was stifling upon the backs of more than 200,000 women as they championed through the streets of Washington D.C. The Equal Rights Amendment had not yet been ratified. Among the protesters were Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Hofstra’s own professor Cynthia Bogard.
“That was the day when I first realized I was part of a huge national movement,” Bogard said. “I felt so proud to be marching for equality with so many women.”
Five years after Roe vs. Wade, the obstacles preventing women from gaining equal rights were still ongoing. The Women’s Movement was in full swing.
“Feminism has made my life,” Bogard said while looking at a photograph of her and Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run for vice president for the Democratic Party. “Without the movement my life wouldn’t be the way it is today.”
Requiring passion, dedication and a conviction for debate, students who take Bogard’s classes learn from an activist who marched for peace, equality and the right for women to be educated as she was.
“I always wanted to be a scientist,” Bogard, a professor of sociology and women’s studies said, “and today, I’m a social scientist.”
At the age of 17, Bogard declared herself independent and went to college, paving the way for women of generations past who had no previous knowledge of the possibility.
“Back then, people from the small rural community where I grew up commonly thought women shouldn’t go to college, that it would be a waste,” she said, “but my godmother inspired me by acknowledging my interest in science. My mother came through for me and fought so that I could go.”
While attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Bogard actively protested against misogyny and injustice. She also wrote for a women’s journal called Bread and Roses. During the Vietnam War, the school earned a reputation of being radical with many teach-ins and marches organized by students and professors. In 1979, Bogard helped organize the school’s first Take Back the Night march against rape and sexual assault.
“We made the men march in the back,” Bogard said. “We told them, ‘We’re leading this one.’”
Bogard also became involved in consciousness-raising awareness groups regarding female oppression.
“It was a self-critique of the lives of women and their pain and helped women realize when men were oppressing them,” she said.
Bogard’s passion for women’s rights began in the classroom.
“I took a summer course called Radical Feminist Philosophy that changed my life,” she said. “The professor was Claudia Card, who later helped develop the basis for lesbian feminist philosophy.”
As a student, Bogard learned the power women had within them through education.
“I remember being the only woman in my calculus class, but the teacher was a woman,” Bogard said. “She looked at me and said, ‘I’m going to make sure you will succeed.’ That gave me confidence to pursue what I hadn’t thought I was capable of before.”
Apart from being an activist and dedicated student, Bogard also traveled the globe in the 1980s, which broadened her worldly knowledge.
“After Ronald Reagan was elected, the grants at the nonprofit I was working at got cut, so I decided to travel,” she said.
Visiting Greece, France, Spain, Jordan, Egypt, India, Nepal and Turkey, Bogard saw many different cultures and met people from various continents, giving her a new perspective on life. These nations would later become centers of conflict, controversy and war.
“I was in Hama, Syria in 1982, one month after the massacre that killed perhaps 30,000 people,” Bogard said. “I remember seeing bullet holes and blood on the walls, but had no previous knowledge of the tragedy as a young college kid,” she said.
Through her extensive travel, Bogard was able to develop a sociological imagination. Through working as a scientific journal editor in Kuwait later, she was able to learn about Middle Eastern cultures in greater detail.
Professor Bogard has shaken the hand of Angela Davis and met Gloria Steinem here at Hofstra, and through her stories she inspires her students to never limit themselves or settle.
“Challenge yourself to live up to your human potential,” she said when asked for advice regarding millennial-generation feminists.
Although American citizens currently see an unpredictable and sexist figure dominating the White House, Bogard said that “giving up is truly the most ridiculous option.”
In 2017, milestones for the current wave of the Feminist Movement included the exponentially successful worldwide turnout of the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, the saving of the Affordable Care Act, global denunciation of sexual assault with the “#MeToo” hashtag and the election of a transgender Virginian lawmaker, among others. The fight, however, is far from over.
“The streets need to be safer. We need to advocate against domestic violence. Even equal pay still needs to be seen as an issue,” Bogard said. “The patriarchy as well as capitalism need to be dismantled in the process.”
Through her activism, passionate teaching and extensive knowledge, Bogard depicts precisely who a feminist is.
“We cannot stop until women realize their potential. We cannot stop until there is no pink aisle in the toy store anymore,” she said.
In the movement’s modern wave, those who identify as feminists do so with the use of taking action, educating themselves and organizing events to empower and support other women. Much of this has been made possible through advancements in social media, technology and women who have pioneered such change.
“As I’ve seen throughout my own life, women give up on themselves a lot,” Bogard said. “They need to dream bigger. When I say rocket science, I mean it literally,” she said with a smile. “In my generation, we opened the door so that modern women could be anything they wanted, they just need to believe it and to not let anyone make their life conditions for them.”
She held up a framed quote by path-breaking anthropologist Margaret Mead from her office.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world,” Bogard read aloud. “Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
“Overall, you will realize that those who inspire you the most will be the women who have been around the block a few times, the women who work alongside you,” she said, proving that the true strength of women prevails through the times that seem the most unlikely.
The Feminist Movement has its leaders, heroes and stories of women paving the way for equality. After taking notes from the very waves that made such progress, the current generation can continue to intensify what a Trump-led regime can never silence: the voices of women.