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Redefining Feminism : Five Local Women Honored for Grass-Roots Activism

August 20, 1987|PAMELA MARIN

If you asked 10 people to define feminism--even 10 feminists--there would probably be 10 definitions.

"Most people think of feminism in terms of equal rights," said Vivian Hall, co-founder of Women's Network Alert, a nonpartisan coalition of Orange County women activists.

"But that's only part of it. Feminism is a philosophy that encompasses all the best human values: peace in the world, environmental concerns, education, survival of the family."

Today five local feminists will be honored by Women's Network Alert at the Seventh Annual Suffrage Day Luncheon at the Balboa Bay Club. This year's honorees are peace activist Marion Pack; businesswoman and Cal State Fullerton lecturer Gail Reisman; Cypress College professor Gloria Haney; homemaker and volunteer Lis Dungan, and political activist and Cal State Long Beach instructor Wendy Lozano.

Among those honored in past years have been feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, Cal State Fullerton President Jewel Plummer Cobb and Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy.

This year Women's Network Alert chose feminists who, although involved in a wide range of issues, "share a commitment to the community and to grass-roots organizing work," Hall said.

"With representatives at the federal, state and county level who have absolutely no concern for women's issues--many, in fact, who are vehemently opposed to our ideas--it becomes the responsibility of grass-roots organizers to be active. By honoring these women, we emphasize their causes and ideas."

Of the women being honored today, Marion Pack is perhaps the best known outside Orange County's feminist circles. Pack, 40, is executive director of Alliance for Survival, a 6,000-member peace organization devoted to nuclear disarmament.

Pack made headlines in 1985 when she and others were arrested and charged with blocking the path of defense contractors en route to the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station during the Winter Conference of Aerospace and Electronics Systems--an annual convention, closed to the public and press, at which contractors and military representatives discuss weapons.

At her trial last year, Pack chose a five-day jail sentence rather than a year's probation that would have required her to refrain from civil disobedience.

"Many people think nonviolent direct action is so extreme," said Pack, who has been arrested eight times in the last six years during protests. "It's not; it is one way for people to be part of the political process--to be heard. We live in a democracy, and we need to take advantage of it."

Pack said she became involved in the nuclear freeze movement in the 1970s, when a nuclear power plant was being built near her home in Painesville, Ohio.

"If I had any confidence in nuclear power before," she said, "it ended the day my daughter came home from school with a booklet describing how we should build a backyard bomb shelter. This was a booklet printed in the '50s--remember the duck-and-cover days?--and it was just too ridiculous.

Sense of Urgency

"The more I became involved, the more I read and researched, the more I felt that now is the time for every person to become involved in this," said Pack, who lives in Norco with her husband and three daughters.

"Maybe women feel more strongly about (nuclear disarmament) because we're the ones that produce the future generations. Maybe the sanctity of life, and guaranteeing a future for our children, is somehow clearer to us.

"To me, being a feminist means being ready to take leadership roles in all the decisions that affect us, whether it's child care or equal rights, or making the world a peaceful and safe place."

To Gail Reisman, being a feminist means "making the social, political and economic rights of women a top priority." In Reisman's case, it also means participating in enough activities to keep two feminists busy.

Reisman is a lecturer at Cal State Fullerton, where she teaches human development, and a business consultant whose partnership, Interaction Associates, helps companies adjust to the changing roles of women in the workplace.

She is also co-chairwoman of Women For: Orange County, a political action group, and is an organizer of the "Great American Write-In," an annual letter-writing event at which local, national and international nonpartisan activist organizations provide information to the public on issues and pending legislation.

Reisman also sits on the boards of the Anaheim chapter of the American Association of University Women, Temple Beth Tikva in Fullerton and the Women's Issues Commission of the American Jewish Committee, and is a member of the steering committee of the Association of Jewish Business and Professional Women.

All this for the community--and she's not even a U.S. citizen.

Not a Radical

Reisman, 42, came to Orange County with her husband and two sons in 1980 from her native Canada. The daughter of a holocaust survivor, Reisman said she has been an activist "from childhood."

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