BY LEXI RODENCAL
St. Norbert College has had the privilege of having a history of hosting famed speakers on our small liberal arts campus. One of the most celebrated speakers we have had is literary scholar and feminist activist bell hooks. bell hooks will again be joining us for a week-long residency from April 20 to the 24 next year in the Cassandra Voss Center. Along with bell hooks, Gloria Steinem, a famed activist and key figure of the women’s rights movement, will be speaking on April 21.
There has been much controversy surrounding Gloria Steinem and her coming to campus to speak to the community. The main concern of the St. Norbert campus seems to be fixated on her stance on abortion – she was quoted to have said that the abortion she had when she was a young woman was a “positive experience” and many people take this to mean that Steinem has a pro-abortion agenda she intends to put on the SNC community.
This could not be further from the case. Although Steinem feels that her abortion was an ultimately positive experience, she also explains that it was the “first time she had taken responsibility for her own life.” She made the choice she thought was best and she learned and gained wisdom from making that personal decision.
People seem to be fixating on one event that occurred during Steinem’s fulfilled life. Gloria Steinem has arguably done more in her 80 years of life than many people could not accomplish during generations of time – and has done much more than discuss her stance on abortion. She is the co-founder of Ms. Magazine, has both edited and written several books, instituted the now internationally celebrated ‘Take Your Daughter to Work Day’ and helped create the Women’s Media Center. Steinem has also been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame not once but twice and in 2013 was awarded the highest honor a U.S. civilian could attain: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Furthermore, our St. Norbert mission this year is “radical hospitality.” We have been encouraged all year long to welcome people from all walks of life with open arms, rather than scorn, despise and turn them away for having different opinions than we might have. All members of the St Norbert community should also strive to embrace our foundations of communio. We should be nothing less than hospitable and welcoming to Gloria Steinem, as she is merely here to speak and offer her input on social justice. She is not coming to SNC to discuss her abortion and her stance on the issue. I have both seen and heard students that are wishing for her visit to be cancelled, students that are reportedly furious that their tuition money is going to a “pro-abortionist’s” travel expenses to come here.
The extreme level of dislike aimed at this 80 year-old woman who has accomplished so much during her lifetime makes me feel ashamed to be connected to thoughts like these. Our school has been presented with such a special opportunity and although I understand people may not agree nor particularly want to attend a dialogue featuring such a prominent social justice and women’s activist, they should do just that: simply not attend. As St. Norbert students we should be striving to follow the Norbertine lifestyle of being welcoming and hospitable despite the person’s view on life. I, for one, will be welcoming Ms. Steinem with open arms and I am looking forward to hearing her speak.