Monday, August 18, 2008

AR2008: Strong Women

I wanted to title this post "AR2008: Feminism" but thought that might detur some people from reading it, as that word may hold negative connotations for them. To me, though, feminism at its most basic is about empowering women. And while AR2008 was an animal-rights conference, I, as a woman, felt empowered by many of the female speakers. (The male speakers will get their due in other posts.)

If you have a school-age daughter, I recommend attending this conference with her. She's likely to be at least moderately interested in animals, and attending sessions with female activists can show her career paths and doors that she may not have realized are there. At least four lawyers spoke. Activists with nonprofits showed how strong and determined they were. And they all made public speaking look comfortable and as natural as breathing. I actually wish I had attended a conference like this when I was 12.

The woman who struck me the most was Debra Erenberg of the Rainforest Action Network. It's easier to look to someone as a role model if you share similar traits, one being appearance. I liked Erenberg because, like me, she wears little or no makeup and generally has her hair in a ponytail. Of course, I also liked her dedication and determination, which came across in her informative speeches. I hadn't heard of her or her organization before the conference, but now I'm a supporter.

lauren ornelas (who, I believe, likes her name lowercase) is small in stature but powerful. She founded the Food Empowerment Project that advocates for healthy food in low-income neighborhoods and for fair and healthy working conditions for produce workers.

To look at her, one may think that Shannon Keith is a dumb blonde (who created that ridiculous stereotype anyway?), but she'll surprise you. She's an animal-rights attorney from California and also runs her own nonprofit.

While these are only three of the many women who spoke at the conference, they're typical of the others. They're all nice, but I think it's safe to say that they don't take crap from people. They believe strongly in what they're fighting for (a better world), and they're going to do their damndest to win. That's a great lesson to give the world's daughters.

(Photo of Shannon Keith courtesy of

No comments: