Can you tell us a little about yourself and why you are committed to supporting women and girls?
Accumulated experiences from childhood and early adulthood came together for me at the age of 29, at the dawn of feminism’s third wave, when I co-founded Powerful Voices, a non-profit in Seattle designed to address issues of injustice at their root by supporting teenage girls in public schools and juvenile detention. I not only found a channel to direct my concern about how girls are socialized, marginalized and objectified, but I also learned that sheer determination and persistence by even a small number of people can re-shape an entire community’s response to these challenges. That’s how it was for Powerful Voices and how it can be for each of us in our own families, neighborhoods and society at large today. The door into my activism continues to be the issues and experiences of women and girls, but it opens into a room that includes the debilitating effects of racism, economic injustice and poverty and environmental destruction. Though this room (like my daughter’s clothing-strewn bedroom) can be messy and overwhelming at times, it is my personal spirit of hope and optimism that sustains me.
Why is the Ms. Foundation for Women important to you?
I’m intrigued by the Ms. Foundation’s national focus and how it connects to what is happening in my own local community. Even as women’s issues are segregated and siloed from other issues in the progressive movement, so are the people and organizations working within the women’s movement. I like that the Ms. Foundation is a convener of groups and organizations working on similar issues across the United States. There is so much potential in the cross-fertilization of ideas and innovation. Also, I grew up seeking living examples of ways of being in the world that I wasn’t finding in my suburban, middle-class, conformist community as a teen in the late 1970s and '80s. Ms. magazine, Marlo Thomas, Gloria Steinem – they are the iconic images of feminism! The mere existence of these people and resources were a lifeline for me as I developed my own sense of agency and awareness about how to be in the world.
What do you wish for the Ms. Foundation at 40 years old?
What’s fascinating to me is that the Ms. Foundation has spanned several waves of the feminist movement. At 40, it would be great to see the Ms. Foundation integrate those phases of its life into a coherent whole and strengthen our collective consciousness around feminism, building a narrative that is fluid and flexible and incorporates a diverse set of perspectives strong enough to break down the wall of resistance to fairness and opportunity for all.
What do you hope to see happen for women over the course of the next 40 years?
I hope to see more of our country’s combined time and treasure going toward the women’s movement. I hope to see us finally build in constitutional protections for women. I hope to see more men embrace the label of feminist. I hope to see the societal norms shift away from tolerance of inequality to abhorrence of inequality. I hope to see a radical reduction in human suffering at the
hands of ignorance and bigotry.
Julie Edsforth lives in Seattle, Wash.