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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Jessica Valenti aims to revitalize feminism among young women

Carol Ortman Perkins Lecture

Jessica Valenti will present the annual Carol Ortman Perkins Lecture Nov. 3, discussing why young women should know about feminism.

By Robb Murray, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN , 10/31/2008]

It was brainstorming time last year, and the brains behind the Carol Ortman Perkins annual lecture at Minnesota State University put their heads together to come up with something different, something exciting, something youthful.

“We were trying to come up with names of potential speakers who have experience speaking to younger women,” said Maria Bevacqua, head of MSU’s Women’s Studies Department. “We wanted someone who could help make feminism accessible to college-aged women.”

What they came up with is Jessica Valenti, founder and executive editor of Valenti has authored two books: “Full Frontal Feminism: a Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters,” and “He’s a Stud and She’s a Slut ... and 49 other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know.”

She’ll deliver the annual Carol Ortman Perkins lecture Monday with a talk titled, “I Hate to Break It to You, But You’re a Hardcore Feminist. I Swear.”

Bevacqua said Valenti’s talk is certain to be entertaining.

“I think she’s going to give us a lot to think about,” she said. “I think she’s going to revitalize the commitments of longtime feminism supporters and spark curiosity in others.”

Valenti is a graduate of the Women’s Studies master’s program at Rutgers University. She co-founded the REAL 100 listing of important works by young women.

She has worked for NARAL Pro-choice America, Planned Parenthood, Women’s Environment and Development Organization and Ms. Magazine.

She’s been published in Ms. Magazine, Bitch, The Guardian, Alternet, the Scholar and Feminist and Guernica. Valenti won an award from Choice USA for her efforts in reproductive rights.

Valenti was chosen by Bevacqua and Deirdre Rosenfeld, former director of the MSU Women’s Center. Bevacqua said Rosenfeld came up with Valenti as a possible speaker, saying Valenti had an accessible style and would be able to get through to college-age women.

“Deirdre had a finger on the pulse,” Bevacqua said. “She thought that what many of these women needed was just that little extra push. (Valenti) covers contemporary issues in ways that draw in younger women, and she doesn’t talk down to them.”

Bevacqua said Valenti’s talks typically touch on issues such as violence against women, eating disorders, body issues and political awareness, among other topics.

The Department of Women’s Studies launched the Perkins Lectureship campaign in 2003 to commemorate Carol Perkins’ retirement.

“Perkins’ commitment to and enthusiasm for Women’s Studies helped make the department an exciting and dynamic place to study systems of oppression both locally and internationally,” a department-issued statement said.

If You Go:

What: Jessica Valenti, this year’s annual Carol Ortman Perkins lecturer

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: Centennial Student Union Ballroom, Minnesota State University

Cost: Free and open to the public

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