College has been a process of falling out of love with feminism. Scratch that. College has been a process of changing my status to “it’s complicated” with feminism.

In eighth grade, my English teacher asked the class to draw self-portraits. In heavy pencil handwriting, I drew a T-shirt with the word “feminist.” The word was front and center. If you told that girl, the one with convictions and subpar artistic skills that she would have questions about feminism in college, she would probably laugh.

When I arrived at Northeastern, I didn’t expect to be overwhelmed with things to care about. Making a difference no longer just meant talking about gender equality with my friends in high school. Instead, I realized, college was a place where people could speak out against injustice, from police brutality to settlement building in the West Bank to global warming. All of a sudden, I went from a person deeply dedicated to one cause to a person deeply dedicated to many.

However, when I received the email with the subject heading “GLORIA STEINEM COMING TO NORTHEASTERN” (all caps is a given), buying my tickets was not a thought process but a reflex.

Here’s an understatement: it is kind of mind-blowing to be in the presence of someone who has been an activist for over 50 years.

Gloria Steinem spoke as much about feminism as she did about everything else. She defined intersectionality for us, four times:

  1.  Intersectionality is about electing representatives of the true majority.
  2.  It is impossible to rise up against one without rising up against the other.
  3.  It is not possible to be feminist without being another “ist.” (Think: activist, environmentalist, abolitionist.)
  4.  The way a country treats its women is one of the most accurate predictors of how peaceful it is.

Often, I worry about my heart being in a million places at once. Maybe by caring about everything, I end up caring about nothing.

My notes from the Gloria Steinem talk have the words Trayvon Martin and Syria and democracy and consensus and discussion. They also have the words feminism and suffrage and self-employed women. This is the same notebook, filled with words that are both immediately feminist and not.

Gloria Steinem showed me that it is possible to fight for a better world. Standing up for one issue inherently means helping all the rest.

Oftentimes, I leave a talk at Northeastern with a sense of agitation, with the sense that what I’m doing isn’t enough. With Gloria, I left with a sense of peace.

At the beginning of her speech, she urged the audience to revel in the uniqueness of the moment, the knowledge that the same combination of people would never appear at exactly the same place at the same time, ever again.

It might be true that the tranquility I felt was specific to Jan. 28. That peace could be fleeting and random, like the mix of students sitting in Blackman. But I’m inclined to think the opposite, which is a lesson I’ll carry with me from now on.

– Lindsey Bressler is a third-year international affairs and economics major.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons