2015 Honoree

Jessica Neuwirth

President, ERA Coalition, author

“Women need better political representation in terms of more women at all levels and in all branches of government, and in terms of more men who support women’s equality…”

Who inspires you the most?

I am inspired by many, many people. Top of my list are my mother, Gloria Steinem, and Navi Pillay.

What do you now know about yourself that you wish you knew ten/fifteen/twenty years ago?

I am more aware now than I used to be of my relative intensity–I wish I had that awareness 20-30 years ago. It has taken me a while to try to learn how to moderate that energy with more patience and understanding.

Fill in the blank: You can never have enough ____.


What city best describes your personality?

New York.

What gets you through even the toughest days and what are you most grateful for?

My family and friends, and hope for change.

What socio-political women’s issue do you care about the most? Do you feel that women are typically presented fairly in the media? Why or why not?

Women’s equality is the issue I care most about, with inequality taking many forms, including the presentation of women in media, which is absolutely unfair. There are not enough women, there is not enough diversity among women presented, and the media tends to perpetuate harmful stereotypes of women.

Although there is supposed to be a separation between Church & State, religion still seems to govern many political decisions regarding women–abortions, birth control, etc.–-usually from men. What is the best approach to shift power over women’s bodies to women?

Women need better political representation in terms of more women at all levels and in all branches of government, and in terms of more men who support women’s equality and respect the bodily integrity of women and their right to control their own bodies.

What is your best read? Favorite character you would most like to be?

I love stories of survivor heroes. My best recent read was Paid For by Rachel Moran. I also loved Malala’s book, I Am Malala. Favorite character: maybe Karen Blixen, Out Of Africa.

What will it take for women to be viewed as equal to men? Are sexist jokes problematic, and how do you feel about people’s view that women should just “lighten up” about them?

It always depends on the joke. People make fun of many different stereotypes and it can be really dangerous. What is funny to one person may be deeply offensive to another. I probably have mid to low tolerance for these jokes, even if they are funny, which they often are. The problem is that they tend to perpetuate the sexism they rely on for humor.

What was your best decision to date? Worst decision?

Best decision: Going to Arusha, Tanzania to work on the first judgment of the UN Rwanda Tribunal (in the case of Akayesu), where I had a chance to help shape international criminal law on rape and sexual violence.
Worst decisions? Maybe personnel related–bad judgment calls.

Within the past few years, social media has exploded. How can women use it to market themselves without seeming narcissistic?

There is nothing narcissistic about women marketing themselves through social media any more than men doing the same. I would say sell your ideas rather than selling yourself.

Write a fortune you’d like for all women to receive in a fortune cookie.

You will do/be what you most want.

If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?

The ability to change hearts and minds and move people to action.

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