The audience sat rapt, spellbound and awe-inspired by the intellect and charisma of the presenter before them.
"We must lay siege to patriarchy!" the female speaker declared, her voice gradually intensifying. "We must achieve reproductive freedom as a basic human right, such as freedom of the speech or any other. Women's bodies cannot be controlled by governments, right or left."
Such a speaker could be none other than celebrated author and female rights activist Gloria Steinem.
Steinem was in Calgary Thu., Apr. 7, to be the first speaker in the CBCA Sexual Wellness and Reproductive Centre's "Voices of Women" fundraiser speaker series. The event, a first for the CBCA, is being held to raise funds for its Youth Peer Education Program, based around a team of youth who provide education and support for their peers regarding sexuality and reproductive health.
"It's going great," beamed Ashley Wilford, Public Relations coordinator for the CBCA, when speaking of the event. "Almost 1,000 tickets have been sold--this is a huge success."
Listed as one of the 25 most influential women in the USA by Biography magazine, Steinem was the centre of attention while addressing the overwhelmingly female assembly at the Round-up Centre in Stampede Park.
Looking youthful for her 61 years, Steinem was compelling as she ripped apart gender apartheid, the need to control reproduction within society, and spoke of the similarities to sex and race caste systems.
"Women's bodies are ornaments, while male bodies are instruments," Steinem stated, sparking nods of assent through the room. "Without repealing the definition of what normal sexuality is, it is just not possible--we can't win."
"Everything comes from dualistic thinking," she continued. "There is an idea of masculine or feminine-- there is human! There is no real difference between men and women."
Steinem also flaunted her trademark sense of humour through the evening with comic narratives.
"We get more upset about girls wearing revealing clothing than we need to," Steinem said matter-of factly. "I mean, when I was that age, I was wearing miniskirts and a button that said 'cunt power.'"
Steinem became involved in social issues as a student at Smith College, writing political articles. When asked about the campus community, she remained reflective.
"Students are in a unique position. Because you're students, you are probably being treated with more equality than you ever will be again.
It's because you're paying money--it's when you asked to get paid that you get in trouble," Steinem said. "It's important to use the campus to practice working on making positive change in whatever way the students feel they need it, whether it be women's rights, safety, or anything else."