By Kat Anderson
March 9, 2012
A women’s rights activist visiting from Iceland urged a San Francisco audience to “come out of the closet” as Feminists during an International Women’s Day awards luncheon held Thursday at the Westbay Community Conference Center in the Fillmore District.
The theme of the luncheon was, “Connecting and Transitioning Women to Power and Balance: Inspiring a New Global Conscience.”
Steinunn Guðjónsdóttir, the event keynote speaker, is a Project Manager for the Shelter for Trafficked Women and Women Exiting Prostitution in Iceland. She is in the US as part of an international visitor leadership program organized by the State Department, researching domestic and gender-based violence. She stated, “Violence against women is a symptom of gender inequality. We must address this.”
Ms. Guðjónsdóttir works in a field where the objectification of women is taken to its extreme. And, she added, human trafficking and prostitution exist because men are creating the demand for it. In her homeland, she has worked to criminalize the “buying of humans and prostitution.”
“It must be understood,” she emphasized, “You cannot buy humans.”
Mistress of Ceremonies, Rose Aguilar, host of Your Call on KALW public radio, pointed out that in the United States women are still under attack. Heavy on women’s minds, Aguilar said, is the reprehensible activity of predominantly middle-aged white male conservatives hell-bent on restricting women’s reproductive rights, while profiting from laws that purport to fight for the rights of fetuses.
Aguilar stated that 68% of legislated reproductive health provisions restrict access to abortion. A new wave of legislation requiring ultrasounds to be performed prior to abortions is being advanced by politicians who have connections with medical device companies such as Preferred Medical Systems, according to Aguilar.
Not calling him out by name, Ms. Aguilar recalled the comments made by right-wing radio polemic Rush Limbaugh about Georgetown law student, Sandra Fluke, calling Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” for her testimony before Congress in support of contraceptive health insurance coverage. Ms. Aguilar announced proudly that 41 corporations have since pulled their ads from Limbaugh’s radio show, including AOL and Netflix. Two syndicated radio stations have also dropped his show.
Ms. Aguilar humorously commented, “One of my friends knew the ‘Femi-Nazis’ would eventually take him on,” using the very term invented by Limbaugh against him.
In 1975, the United Nations proclaimed March 8 as a day of observance of Women’s Rights and International Peace. Yesterday, the Global Arts and Education non-profit recognized leaders and organizations that have dedicated themselves to creating equal rights, equal opportunities and progress for women.
Those who received awards at the luncheon are: Man of the Year – Honorable Mayor Edwin M. Lee. Unsung Heroine Award – Liesl Gerntholtz, Director Women’s Rights Division Human Rights Watch. Sue Bierman Extraordinary Public Service Award – Zoe Dunning, Retired Navy Commander. Norma Hotaling Community Advocate Award – Sandy Mori, Kimochi, Inc. and Pacific Asian American Women Bay Area Coalition. Annie M. Powell Community Leadership Award – Kimberly Ellis, Executive Director, Emerge California. Spirit of Equality Award – Nazly Mohajer, Commissioner, San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Organization of the Year – The SAGE Project.
Rose Aguilar closed out the luncheon with two of her favorite quotes: “Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” which is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, and “Women that seek to be equal with men lack ambition,” which Aguilar attributed to a bumper sticker.