Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo
Sandra Fluke speaks to Castleton State College Students about social justice on Thursday evening.
CASTLETON — Sandra Fluke hoped to make advocates of the students who packed a college auditorium Thursday night.
Her method: speaking about the social justice battles that are plaguing the country right now.
The 32-year-old attorney and social justice advocate from California — who became famous early last year when conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh made sexual and derogatory comments against her — addressed students at Castleton State College leading a discussion on the feminist and social justice movement.
“Essentially what is the ‘state of the union’ and hopefully it will pique your interest,” she said to students.
The discussion heavily focused on gender equality, where Fluke divided it into five categories: body and reproductive rights, family rights, workplace, government and international.
“Gender equality is that nobody should be judged by their gender,” she said.
Fluke used a slew of legal and governmental battles that have taken place over the past 100 years and how they have changed the nation’s views on equality. As an example, she used the recent Violence Against Women Act that was passed after a legal battle in Congress.
She said it was a great victory for gender rights, but said the fact that it was a major fight to get it passed was “not good.”
“We refused to pass an act that leaves behind the LGBT and native communities,” Fluke said. LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
She added that it was not a complete victory because a provision helping immigrant violence victims was stricken down.
“We are hearing a lot about marriage equality — the cases in the Supreme Court, it’s important that we need to see this as a gender equality issue,” she said. “For older women and men it is around financial security.”
Fluke emphasized that change does not only have to happen in government and by legal means, but it also needs to be a social change in the community.
“So that words like ‘slut’ and ‘prostitute’ can’t be said — not that those are related to any specific experience,” Fluke said of the comments made about her by Limbaugh. “Social change has to happen in our communities. We need to take a stand.”
She said changes are not only needed on the words and labels that used as insults, but also on those voted into power. She said the United States scored a small victory when it was announced that 20 percent of people in government are women, people of color, or gay.
Fluke said that’s great, but compared to other countries, the percentage is still small.
“We went from 80th place to 79th place,” she said with a pause. “We still have a lot of work to do.”
Fluke said there are many ways to become a social justice advocate. Her work has taken her to challenge the laws that are unjust and to represent victims of human trafficking.
“The rest of us have just not stepped up,” she said.
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