Interview with Suzanne Benton2019-01-09T13:04:06+00:00

THE VFA PIONEER HISTORIES PROJECT

Suzanne Benton

“My Art Feeds My Activism – And My Activism Feeds My Art “

Excerpt from Suzanne’s Q & A after Speaking at Creative Mornings St. Pete, March 2018

Questions from audience members after Suzanne’s presentation

Question:  You are an incredibly inspiring person and I just want to let you know that.  How do you feel about the future of feminism as it’s happening right now in terms of intersectionality and all those different movements? What is your perspective?

Suzanne:  We had the first wave – my father’s sister was a first waver. And we had the second wave and then we had the third wave.  The third wave didn’t like the second wave.  They didn’t.  Kate Millet was looking for a job at a university and they told her that she was passé.  Now you may not know who Kate Millet was but you need to look her up.  A lot of people don’t even know that Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique. Look at that too because that was very helpful to me. You know I had a chance to meet a lot of fourth wavers.  I am now a fourth waver. I had a chance to meet many fourth wavers.

People said women seem to be going backwards – and I said just you wait.  I mean first of all “MeToo” – you know this has been going on a long time but now we’re speaking out.  Time’s up – we’re speaking out. I think America is going to prove to the world that we know how to save our democracy and it’s because of the women. There’s a saying, never underestimate the power of a woman. Never underestimate the power of a woman and her children because that’s what we have now. Is there another question?

Question:  I’m Paul, thanks for the great talk. I was curious about a recipe perhaps for sustaining these types of movements not only just activating them.

Suzanne:  I’ll tell you, when I came back to Connecticut over the summer there was a reunion of Connecticut feminists, The Veteran Feminists of America and these were all people close to my age, some who are really really famous. And we all – many of us had a chance to speak and I’ve got to tell you those women are still at it.  I think that when you’ve gotten – it’s such a deep commitment, I mean when you hear these young high school kids talk they know they’re in it for the rest of their lives.

I think when you make that move – that woman who looked at the shift’ print, I still don’t know what’s going be asked of me because we still don’t know what kind of danger we’re going be in or we are in. I when I feel the energy of your energy – I just know – you’re not going to let this pass. I feel hopeful, really hopeful. Listen I couldn’t have gotten pregnant if I didn’t feel hope.

Question:  I wanted to thank you for organizing the St. Pete Woman’s March. I was there that day with my husband and friends and it was a really incredible experience. Thank you.  My question is – I happen to be eight-and-a-half months pregnant now and what are your thoughts on raising a feminist son?

Suzanne:  You better! And I think it’s easier now. It will be easier now because when I started organizing for the second wave – someone told me that on TV last night, one of the Parkland fathers whose child had died said that he was fearless.  And I would say that after my personal ordeal I became fearless. I could go out in front of any – I just didn’t even care – believe me I was attacked and I just didn’t care.

I used to wake up in the morning and my first thought was – Joan of Arc – what are they going to do to me? I didn’t know and during the March I got one piece of hate mail after I told people that I was 82 years old – 81 last year. I got this letter with of course no return address and it said you know you’re 81 years old – have you thought that you’re going to hell? That was nothing. I saved it – it’s an artifact.  But it’ll be a lot easier. First of all, there’s so much more support out there. Before it was a lot harder.

Wrap up:  I think we’re going have to stop but you can feel free to rush Suzanne and ask her all the questions that are really in your heart after this.

Suzanne:  Thank you for the privilege of sharing.