What feminists look like
Several lively seniors dressed as clowns worked the crowd gathered in front of UNR’s student services building. Annemarie “Miss Star” Day wandered around cradling a puppet that looked like a baby.
“I’m 89 and a half,” she said, reaching into her costume and pulling out a tiny doll dressed in an identical star-covered costume. “So I cloned myself.”
At first glance, the empowered women ready to march across the UNR campus in honor of International Women’s Day last week were skewing late-50s and up.
Just as the march began, a few college-aged women and men arrived, perhaps drawn by a lively world music beat.
UNR English major Caley Murray, 20, said she wasn’t particularly surprised at the demographics.
“This campus in general is somewhat conservative,” she remarked. “Or there’s a lack of care—people just don’t.”
Murray cares. She’s been following South Dakota’s abortion ban.
“A lot of people didn’t think it could happen,” she said, of a possible Roe v. Wade overturn. “It’s important for women to realize that there are still problems. I’m always hearing, ‘There is no more sexism.’ But if that’s true, why are women still making so much less than men? ‘Oh, it’s because we have babies and miss work,’ they say.”
Two adolescent girls in ponytails darted through the crowd handing out balloons and white carnations. Mariah Dixon-Davies, 11, and Ysabel Riina, 10, wore silk scarves and bright pink shirts with the slogan: “This is what a feminist looks like.”
“We’re skipping school,” Mariah said joyfully.
What are the biggest problems facing young women today?
“Boys,” Mariah said, not skipping a beat.
“And other mean girls,” Ysabel added.
“And the media,” Mariah said.
“They’re always trying to make you wear things and feel funny about yourself,” Mariah explained.
As it was “International” Women’s Day, I marched behind a group of Spanish-speaking students carrying a Basque flag. Marchers carried signs in Japanese and Arabic, as well as English. One homemade sign read, “The personal is political.”
The parade, about 100 strong at times, made its way past Getchell Library and Jot Travis Student Union. While marching around the tree-lined Quad, I caught up with Mary Stewart, director of UNR’s Women’s Studies program. Stewart agreed that the turn-out seemed good. But other than laughter, chatting and an occasional tooting air horn, the group was mostly quiet.
“I just wish we had some noise,” she said.
The parade wound its way back to the library, where balloons, banners and bottles of water awaited. Before introducing keynote speaker Ruby Duncan, interim UNR President Joe Crowley chatted with a woman who thanked him for coming out of retirement to stand, once again, at the university’s helm.
Duncan, a Nevada activist and subject of the book, Storming Caesar’s Palace: How Black Mothers Fought Their Own War on Poverty, wore jeans and a long cornflower blue sweater with embroidered flowers. More than three decades ago, the mother of seven (a cotton picker turned hotel maid) and fellow activists shut down the Las Vegas Strip in their fight for anti-poverty initiatives.
“We didn’t care whose feet we stepped on,” Duncan said. “All we wanted was the rights and the compassion that we and our children needed.”
Women, today, are not where they should be, she continued, urging young women to engage in contemporary struggles.
“It’s time that you take the power and run with it,” she said. That means registering to vote and showing up at the polls.
“Whatever you do today,” Duncan said, “take back the power.”