daughter of famed novelist Alice Walker, Rebecca Walker
found her own way of living out her beliefs. After graduating
from Yale University in 1992, she spearheaded the Third
Wave Direct Action Corps, an advocacy group that has crisscrossed
the country registering inner city residents to vote. To
date, the corps has registered about 200,000 people and
tackles other issues-such as drug rehabilitation, homelessness
and computer literacy in inner cities-by teaching children
how to use the Internet.
delivered the March 4 keynote speech for Women's History
Month titled "Being Real: Women and Men Tell the Truth
and Change the Face of Feminism." She read from her
book, To Be Real, a collection of essays on feminism and
other related topics, and talked about her beginnings in
activism and feminism.
decided to start the youth-oriented Third Wave in response
to several events and trends, including the Rodney King
verdict, the Bush administration and the Anita Hill/Clarence
Thomas hearings. "The established organizations
like the NAACP and NOW didn't speak my language,"
Walker said. "It didn't feel like me somehow."
the process of her work with Third Wave and her discussions
of feminism with others, Walker noticed something. "People
would appreciate what I was doing, but they weren't comfortable
with the term feminist," she said. "Feminist
wasn't a bad word for me, but I heard what they had said.
this split between generations," she continued.
"A link needs to be forged. I decided to do this
book because I wanted to bridge it.
I was starting to question what my own feminism was going
to look like. I knew I'd embody feminism in a different
way from my mother, and that was scary for me."
from her introduction to the book, Walker explained her
personal conflicts in developing a personal feminist perspective.
"A year before I started this book, my life was
like a feminist ghetto," she read. "Every
vision had to measure into my feminist vision. My existence
was an ongoing state of saying no to the universe."
conflict led to "the guilt of betrayal"-Walker
felt she "wasn't strong enough to be a feminist."
A collection of images came to her when she thought about
what it meant to be a feminist. "You had to live
in poverty, hate pornography and must always be devoted
to the uplift of your gender," Walker said. If
you enjoyed other activities, such as "being spanked
before sex, being treated like a lady or getting married-you
couldn't be a feminist."
need for a new and diverse feminism was called for, she
thought. "We have a different vantage point on the
world than our mothers," Walker explained. "Many
young men and women just bow out altogether. The people
in this book have not bowed out. They talk of their own
ideal and add their own voices to the feminist dialogue."
Voices are important, Walker believes. "If feminism
is to be radical and alive [it needs] to respond to new
situations, needs, desires and incorporate all those who
swear by it."
read from several of the book's essays that described differing
views of feminism, including a perspective on feminism and
developing violence, the thoughts of a female hip-hop lover
and a man's exploration of the need for bachelor parties.
wanted to show there was no monolithic feminism,"
Walker said. "I knew the writers would all disagree
with each other, but that ideological diversity seemed important