Photo by Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

Gloria Steinem, after decades of activism, joined four other feminist leaders to discuss the importance of policies like affirmative action on the feminist movement and the state of California.

On Women’s Equality Day, August 26th, 2020, the Yes on Proposition 16 campaign held a webinar featuring feminist activists Gloria Steinem, Dolores Huerta, Chelsea Handler, Jodi Hicks, Helen Zia and host Eva Paterson.

Currently, nine states, including California, have banned affirmative action. Section 31 of Article I of the California constitution, states “The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” 

“We’re also fighting against systemic bias against women. And that’s what Proposition 16 is all about,” said Eva Paterson, president and co-Founder of Equal Justice Society and Yes on Proposition 16 co-chair. “It’s about taking concrete steps to make things more equal for women in this society.”

Proposition 16 would repeal this amendment. 

Proposition 209, which was voted on in 1996 by voters 55% to 45%, enacted the amendment in the California Constitution. According to Ward Connerly, political activist and former University of California Regent, voting yes on Prop 16 would “divide Californians by making discrimination legal in California.”

According to the Pacific Research Institute, prior to the University of California’s elimination of race preferences, Japanese Americans were 13 times less likely and Korean Americans were 14 times less likely to be accepted to UC Davis medical school than people benefiting from race preferences.

The UC Academic Senate said for marginalized minorities, the most common factor preventing UC eligibility was not Section 31 of Article I of the California constitution, but the “failure to complete all required A-G [college preparatory] courses with a C or better.” 

The hour-long Zoom conference panelists discussed why they believe voting yes on Proposition 16 is so important to the current feminist movement and the state of California. 

“It’s important in so many ways, it’s hard to pick the most important,” Gloria Steinem, political activist and feminist icon said.

“We learn, after all, from difference, not from sameness, we learn in community. And every situation in which we have been isolated in our learning has turned out to be less beneficial than any situation in which we are collective in our learning.”

Dolores Huerta, a civil rights activist and labor leader, said affirmative action is a way to allow, not only people of color, but women as well, to thrive and gain access to quality education, equal pay, and employment. 

Many of the panelists have been activists for decades, while some are new to the scene. Chelsea Handler, a comedian and activist, began her journey in Hollywood, but now focuses on using her platform to speak out against injustices. 

“I feel very passionately about constantly talking to White people about the things that they feel uncomfortable about because I’m in a position to do that,” she said. 

Jodi Hicks, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, spoke on her experience with the intersectionality of being a Chinese woman in America.  

“I’m so often walking into a room where I’m the only woman in the room, or the only person of color, or representing both and,” she said. “I’ve sort of been navigating both of those spaces with a very clear understanding of how the world sees me.”

Helen Zia, author and activist has first-hand experience about how Proposition 16 can affect the lives of Californians. 

“Because of the work of Gloria Steinem and Dolores Huerta and so many other women of the women’s movement, I actually went to college, as an affirmative action kid.” 

Zia is an Asian American daughter of immigrants and now works hard so other kids like her have the same opportunity to attend college.

Proposition 16 will be voted on in this upcoming election for California residents.

Written ByJulia Harrold

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