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Writer bridges feminism of then, now

Writer Alice Walker's daughter Rebecca will speak Monday. Here's a peek.

By PIPER JONES CASTILLO, Times Correspondent
Published November 4, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG  -- Rebecca Walker, 37, honored by Time magazine as one of the "50 Most Influential American Leaders Under 40," will talk about intergenerational feminism Monday evening at Eckerd College. She is the daughter of Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker. Neighborhood Times asked a few questions leading up to "An Evening with Rebecca Walker."

What does intergenerational feminism mean?

I try to bridge the notion of historical feminism, started decades ago, with what feminism is now, and that includes the fact that it doesn't even have to be called feminism. It is an empowerment connected to men, and the culture at large, instead of just women.

Does that mean you are seeing some men raised in more traditional American families, still confused over their roles in this new age of feminism?

Women have had a tremendous period of re-evaluating and creating social networks to support their femininity. Men have not yet had that - that mass redefining. But I'm encouraged by hearing men talk about gender roles and their fears and stresses. They are sharing more, the fear of being a soldier or the stresses that being the primary bread winner puts on them. The more honest men can be, the more support they will have for one another.

When you speak to undergraduates, it has been reported that you encourage women to not only plan a career, but also to plan having a baby.

I feel like I am on a crusade to have women really think about that - to have babies at younger ages. My generation of women were almost taught to do everything we could not to have babies. So we put it off, and we either had them really late, and we're saying 'I should have had more babies earlier,' or, we missed our fertility window altogether.

There's been so much made of the so-called "Mommy Wars," a disagreement between working moms and stay-at-home moms. When you are among other mothers, Generation X mothers, do you get the impression that moms support each other?

I think mothers have always worked in support of each other, in terms of childcare and sharing information, and you see that now in both groups like Moms Rising and older groups like La Leche League. And I think the notion of the working mother being on one side and the stay-at-home mother on another side is mostly media driven.

In regards to your work as a writer, do you remember consciously recognizing that you wanted to be a writer or was it something like osmosis, being Alice Walker's daughter?

Because my mom was so famous as a writer, I was afraid to compete with her on a certain level. But, the truth is, mental-health wise, I think if I couldn't write, I would not have survived. If I hadn't written Black, White and Jewish I would have gone mad, for sure. ...There's a certain psychological energy that collects within you, and it demands to be released somehow. You can release it through anger, addiction, or you can find constructive ways, like writing.

Do you think you'll have more babies?

I hope so. I really want more.

You've received so many awards for your work, what award means the most to you?

I received the honorary doctorate from the North Carolina School of the Arts. That one is incredibly meaningful to me because it felt like the young students invited me in, and the institution also understood my attempt to contribute to the academic realm.

Are you and your mother on speaking terms?

It's a bummer, but no, we're not speaking right now.

[Last modified November 5, 2007, 08:12:37]

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