Last night, the CFDA Awards made a powerfully political statement, honoring feminist icon Gloria Steinem, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, and actress/activist Janelle Monáe with Board of Directors’ Tribute awards.
“Now about all of you in this room, I wonder what I could possibly say to you, because you are among the most creative and smart people on earth; you are definitely woke,” Steinem told the designers, models, actresses, and fashion students cheering from the audience. “It turns out that controlling women’s bodies is the first step in order to control reproduction in every hierarchy, and it’s made doubly necessary by racism, and caste, and class, which is why being woke is understanding that you can’t be a feminist without being anti-racist, and vice versa.”
Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
Steinem warned the crowd that we must look out for each other, and we must keep fighting. “Now there is more activism than I have ever seen in my lifetime,” she said. “And maybe, just maybe, thanks to all of you in this room and billions more around the world who are woke, we are not the richest but we are the majority, and we are woke and maybe we are about to be free.”
“I am really honored to accept this award on behalf of the one-in-five women in this country who have been to Planned Parenthood for health care, because at Planned Parenthood our motto is ‘care no matter what,’ which is kind of either a promise or a threat depending on where it’s said, and our doors are open to everyone, no matter where you live, no matter your income, no matter your sexual orientation or your gender, and today more important than ever, no matter your immigration or your refugee status,” Cecile Richards said in her acceptance speech, receiving a standing ovation from the audience. “And that’s because health care isn’t a privilege, it is a fundamental human right. That’s right, and we have to remind people of that. The fashion industry has long celebrated bodily autonomy and free expression and the right of every person to live their life on their own terms. In this moment, at a time when these principles are being threatened like never before, you are rising up to fight back.”
Monáe also touched on the importance of equality in her speech, speaking about her experience at the Women’s March in Washington: “I saw so many people from different walks of life: young, old, gay, straight. I saw different religious backgrounds. It didn’t matter because they were together as human beings, and that’s the one thing that left with me. I’m reminded that human beings, as human beings, it is going to be our responsibility to take care of one another. Women’s rights are human rights. LGBTQ rights are human rights. Poor folks’ rights are human rights. Immigrant rights are human rights. Minority rights are human rights. So as human beings, let us never forget that none of us are free until all of us are free.”
Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
Here, read Gloria Steinem’s full acceptance speech from the CFDAs:
Well, I have to say that everybody who was marching there or marching in their hearts, I was one of the honorary co-chairs, but the march was organized by all of these great fan-fucking-tastic people, a lot of you who are here tonight, all the friends I just had to wait to be born, so thank you, and this award will help me live to be 100, to live up to it, right? Thank you, Diane, for your great heart and sense of adventure and for the most important thing on earth, kindness. Thank you, Cecile, for giving us the first of all human rights, the right to our own bodies. And thank you, Janelle, for the ancient and healing art of storytelling. And thank you, Michael Kors, for these—are these not great pants?
Now about all of you in this room, I wonder what I could possibly say to you, because you are among the most creative and smart people on earth; you are definitely woke. So I decided to talk about what we probably don’t know, because our schoolbooks don’t usually start when people started. For instance, did you know that we are here on “Manahata” island? It was here before the Europeans showed up. And only about 600 years ago, before patriarchal Europeans were here, which was less than 5 percent of human history, languages had no gendered pronouns, people were people—what a concept. And here we are struggling with gender—they knew better; women used herbs to decide when and whether to have children, as was explained to me by the women in southern Africa, the people from who we all came, every single one of us here. It turns out that controlling women’s bodies is the first step in order to control reproduction in every hierarchy, and it’s made doubly necessary by racism, and caste, and class, which is why being woke is understanding that you can’t be a feminist without being anti-racist, and vice versa. Now that we’re trying to transcend race and gender roles, it helps to know we invented them and we can dis-invent them. And now everything from the Internet, from the flood of refugees to global warming, is telling us to stop forcing women to have unwanted children, which was the first root of global warming, and to share and to care for our spaceship earth. A crucial minority of people are scared and outraged by these not-so-old hierarchies, but the big majority knows very well that Trump-like walls cannot stop poisoned air or rising oceans or even hungry and desperate refugees. So why not learn from our communal past when we were linked not ranked, we will be helped as we learn by both new technology, which helps us connect, and the old truth that human beings can only empathize when we’re together, as we are tonight with all five senses.
Okay, I don’t want to make you crazy with talking about the past, but I also do want to suggest that you Google and look at the Omo people of Africa, who decorate themselves every day with flowers and colors and all kinds of—you have to promise me to Google these folks—they are your ancestors. We have always decorated our bodies; it is noble, it is imaginative, it is part of our hearts, and that is your tradition from the past. And you also need to look at Sex and World Peace, the book, which proves that in every modern country, violence against females is the predictor of all other violence. So as you and I are leaving old hierarchies behind, this is a time of hope but also of danger. There is backlash from Trump to terrorists against the kind of equality and understanding and simple humanity that we strive for. So like a woman leaving a violent household, who is then most likely to be injured or killed because she is escaping control, we too are escaping control. So we have to be careful and look out for each other. But just as we would never tell a woman to turn back to violence, we won’t turn back either. Now there is more activism than I have ever seen in my lifetime. And maybe, just maybe, thanks to all of you in this room and billions more around the world who are woke, we are not the richest but we are the majority, and we are woke and maybe we are about to be free.