By Emily Gilgoff
As the Federation’s Esther and Maurice Becker Networking and Mentoring Coordinator, Emily Gilgoff works in collaboration with JVS Career Services to create networking and engagement opportunities that attract and retain Jewish young adults in Cincinnati. A native Cincinnatian, she’s returning to Cincinnati after earning her degree in communication and public advocacy at Ohio University, and is excited to build connections and networks that will create a culture of “rootedness” and a vibrant Jewish future in Cincinnati.
Listening to June Zeitlin speak about women in America was just about the only thing that could have gotten me out of bed before noon on a Sunday morning. Her current position as the director for Human Rights Policy for The Leadership Conference combined with an extensive history of activism and advocacy, made June a truly inspiring modern feminist figure anyone would be lucky to see. While her enlightening discussion instilled a true feeling of discontent in her listeners, it was happily met with a healthy dose of empowerment that certainly left me feeling encouraged to participate in the fight for gender equality.
While it was impossible to fit each feminist issue in her presentation June was successful in discussing many of the most important concerns facing women in America today including, sexual assault, unequal pay, traditional gender roles, and domestic violence. Perhaps the most riveting topic examined was sexual assault. Her mention of the Brock Turner case highlighted the currently flawed state of our justice system and the true effects of patriarchy on American society long term.
In addition to this matter, I really appreciated the portion that discussed the gender wage gap. Here she pointed out instances in which women are paid much less than men and brought up a few reasons for this fact. She suggested that blatant sexism in the workplace and the social construction of gender that leads many women to pursue lower paying or more “feminine/domestic” jobs are some of the main factors responsible for the gap. It was also refreshing to hear the wage gap discussed without excluding the fact that women of color receive even less than white women in comparison to men. Her thoroughness and efforts to be inclusive were truly appreciated.
Although collective gasps from the audience were heard at different points throughout the entire lecture, it was toward the end that we may have experienced the largest degree of shock. It was at this point that she began to explain that the United states is just one a few countries who has yet to ratify The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which is basically the international bill of rights for women. Although learning this fact was disappointing for all, it may have been the most uniting moment for the audience. Here it became clearer than ever that if there is any hope for equality it has to start with each and every one of us bringing things like CEDAW to light.
June’s speech gave attention to one of the most important issues of our time. By highlighting significant manifestations of bigotry in our society she was able to light a fire in the bellies of each of her listeners that Sunday. A lot can be learned by listening to individuals like June Zeitlin and I look forward to seeing the change enacted by those who are lucky enough to hear her speak.