Naomi Wolf on Becoming an Activist

The author on how to become a revolutionary.
  • Transcript


Wolf: I never intended to become a political activist.  You know, as I just said, it’s not my natural, you know, field but here’s what happened.  I grew up in a time and place that was about the best manifestation of the democratic process that you could imagine.  I grew up in San Francisco in the ‘60s and ‘70s in the Haight-Ashbury in particular.  And apart from stereotypes about the Haight-Ashbury, one thing that was definitely happening in San Francisco as I was growing up is that absolutely ordinary people were organizing and making gigantic changes and it was a fantastic feeling.  You know, there was a proposition put on a ballot to get gay teachers out of the school system and I watched the fear that that put in to my own high school teachers, you know, and then I saw the gay and lesbian community but also just ordinary American citizens, parents and PTAs standing up and saying, ‘Oh, no.  You don’t.”  You know, and they pushed back and they defeated it.  I’ve watched that.  I watched these conversations where parents were like “Wait a minute, these are really good teachers, you know, I don’t want my kids to lose this teacher because of their private life, it’s nobody’s business, you know I’m not going to stand for that.”  The Chinese community, you know, immigrants, very many of them are very poor and many of them not long in this country, they didn’t have… they want the entrenched elite but they had organized and they had a real voice in city hall and it was exciting because it meant that there were opportunities, you know, for immigrants in the city that really the [one] on the East Coast where I grew up and went to college there.  So, I saw how absolutely ordinary people even poor people could really show leadership and have a voice.  And, you know, I saw the gay community organized and the women’s, you know, women’s liberation and women’s movement organized and, you know, civil rights movement that sort of tail end of it, and I just absolutely grew up knowing that America was this beautiful, shining place where if something was wrong, you could fix it, and you could talk to your neighbors and you could talk to city hall and you could stage your protest and you could, you know, that was freedom, it really was and I really saw, “Wow, this is why everyone wants to live here.  This is so good.”  So, I guess having been imprinted with that, I became a political activist by default because when I to my shock, you know, I sort of grew up in [Kingston], left this little bubble of peace and justice, and I found it so offensive and upsetting that there are so many barriers to people being able to do what’s right or have the society that they want to have and that people and power control so much in a way that, you know, isn’t intended to be the case of America in terms of our voice and our access to the democratic process.  That I guess just as a function might discomfort with that, you know, I feel committed to addressing it and changing it.  Also, now, that I’m a mom, it really, you know, lights a fire because it’s bad for kids in a closed society, it’s bad for women and it’s bad for children.  I don’t even want to tell you what happens to women and children in a closed society.  But as a feminist, you know, there is no better place to grow up than a strong constitutional republic and there is no better place to be a women than strong constitutional republic so we can’t afford to lose those rights for our kids.