When I arrived at the Omega Institute’s 2013 Women and Power Retreat, Carla Goldstein was speaking at the podium in the Main Hall before introducing Omega cofounder and Board director Elizabeth Lesser. Goldstein, the cofounder of the Omega Women’s Leadership Center and the Institute’s chief external affairs officer, was discussing the power of women and power.
The concept of women owning their place in the world is not new or profound, but what is profound is that it’s a concept at all. History has long held women in subordination. To list examples would be monotonous because, well, there are just so damn many. Women have spent centuries fighting to be elevated to an equal platform, one that exists disproportionately both between and within gender. How women actualize their existence depends largely on early socialization and the cues we internalize when we act within or outside of traditionally accepted gender roles.
Carla’s mother was a feminist in the 1960s and involved in the civil and women’s rights movement. “My mother informed my relationship with gender,” says Carla. “At an early age, everything was explained to me from that lens.”
When Carla was young, her parents separated and she witnessed the struggles of a single mother. They moved to Florida in the 70s and Carla recalls being impacted by the racism that was polarizing the nation when bussing was implemented into her community. Of this she remembers being a “nine to ten-year-old struggling to make sense of racism. As a young girl, I had a strong sense that there was something wrong with the way the world was functioning.”
Carla attended Florida State University as the Equal Rights Amendment was pending legislation and became an organizer for student lobbying groups. The simple words of the amendment, which meant ‘women will be equal under the law’ rang true for her. “That was it for me. I was hooked for life as someone who would work for change.”
“There’s a disconnect between our policy aspirations and how people actually live,” she says. “We have to be the change; work on who we are as human beings. We have to work on how we share resources.” Carla philosophized on how women can “be different with power as we gain more and more of it.”
This imbalance of power and access to resources is the catalyst for the continued systemic oppression of marginalized populations. That we have not yet found a solution to deconstruct and reconstruct these abusive systems so that they work for everyone prompts Carla to ask, “how do we influence the levers of power so that the world is a more cooperative collective interdependent community?”
“It’s about creating a political awakening in women and men,” says Carla, who believes that “public policy must support all of that.”
As the backlash against women’s progress gets stronger, Carla refuses to accept these conditions and believes that “as human beings, we can do better.”
Carla Goldstein, JD, is also a commentator for WAMC’s 51% show, a columnist for Feminist.com and is an advisor to Women Without Borders.