The University Record, March 25, 2002

Activist visits campus to talk about women’s movement

By NoŽl Rozny

Morgan (Photos by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)
To address the role of the feminist movement in the events following Sept. 11, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) brought activist Robin Morgan to campus March 19. Morgan, a poet, writer, speaker and feminist, met with members of the University community at an afternoon reception in the Michigan League before presenting an evening lecture, “Sisterhood is Global: The New International Women’s Movement,” at Angell Hall.

Morgan’s lecture made connections between terrorism, violence and the goals of the women’s movement, which confronts international as well as local issues. Specifically, the lecture examined how the international women’s movement has responded to the effects of 9-11, she said. Morgan, who wrote a book called “The Demon Lover” on the roots of terrorism, sees connections between terrorist acts and the kind of normalized violence of which women often are the victims. The book discusses how terrorist acts are related to “the way in which manhood becomes defined by eroticizing violence and romanticizing death,” Morgan says.

The response to the terrorist attacks reflects how the women’s movement has come to embrace events and issues worldwide. As membership has grown exponentially in recent years, the movement has come to address economic, political, social and environmental issues and the effects they have on women.

Following the events of 9-11, Morgan and other activists worked to provide safe houses for Arab Americans and set up “Mosque defenses,” similar to those set up at abortion clinics. “There are no issues that are not feminist issues,” Morgan explains. “It [the movement] is a vast social and political force that is planet-wide now, and it’s not going to be stopped.”

In addition to being an activist and feminist, Morgan is an award-winning author, and former editor-in-chief of Ms. magazine. She first became involved with Ms. when she and other feminists protested against racist and sexist ads that were displayed in the magazine. When Ms. staff members asked her to write for the publication, she initially refused. Eventually, when editor Suzanne Braun Levine appealed to her to help reformat the magazine, she became a contributing editor. Later, when she served as editor-in-chief, she made the magazine ad-free and included international coverage on the women’s movement. She also began to include more art, literature, fiction and poetry, and published works by authors such as Margaret Atwood, Grace Paley and Toni Morrison.

The demands of the magazine left little time for her own writing, organizing and activism, so after five years she stepped down from the position. Since then, she has engaged in a multitude of worldwide organizations and efforts. She founded a non-government organization, the Sisterhood is Global Institute, and has written a number of fiction and nonfiction works. She says she has seen the women’s movement change over the years, and that “it will continue to change and grow” in the future.