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"Women are an oppressed class. Our oppression is total, affecting every facet of our lives. We are exploited as sex objects, breeders, domestic servants, and cheap labor. We are considered inferior beings, whose only purpose is to enhance men's lives. Our humanity is denied."-- Redstockings, feminist group of the 1970's.
"The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, 'It's a girl.'" -- Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress in 1969.
"Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." -- Pat Robertson, public voice for 'conservative Christianity' in the United
Women of the sixties faced, what is to me living in today's world, an unimaginable prejudice in the workforce, government and general society. Living in a male dominated capitalist society' women were expected not to want anything more out of their lives then to land good husbands, bring up their children and keep their households in order. Working outside the home was not acceptable or made easy other than for a few years as an office secretary before marriage.
"The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day; a movement is only people moving." -- Gloria Steinem
Don't dismiss me as crazy when I confess that I keep a roundtable of fictional characters in my head. These are the guys that I find myself asking for advice, wondering 'What would so and so do in this situation?', drawing inspiration from. They are the characters who are struck down and bring themselves up, individuals who forge battles (literally or figuratively) and start revolutions.
With that put aside but kept in mind, I find Gloria Steinem's life….almost fictional in it's marvel. I mean, here is a woman who was one of the key leaders in the second wave of the women's revolution, who went undercover as a Playboy bunny for three weeks in the name of writing an eyeopening article that she knew could quite possibly cost her her career! Forgive me for comparing her to certain heroes from novels.
Steinem knew her weapon of choice. "Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else," she said. She launched her freelance journalism career in 1962, writing for Esquire magazine (what Steinem called her first 'serious assignment') regarding the way women were forced to choose between marriage and a
The next year Steinem was hired to write an article for Huntington Hartford's 'Show' magazine. She was determined to write about the conditions for women working as Playboy bunny's in clubs.
She was employed as a Playboy bunny in the New York Playboy Club. She held the job for a total of three weeks, silently observing. For five years after the controversial article about being a Playboy bunny was published, Steinem was unable to find work. Steinem did not let her momentary shunning from publishing her work last for much longer. In 1968, she was hired at Clay Felker's newly founded 'New York' magazine.
Writing and planning, Steinem was a on a role. She co-founded the openly feminist 'Ms.' magazine. It was first born as a insert in a special edition of 'New York'. When the first independent issue hit the newsstand it's 300,000 copies sold out nationwide in a total of three days. The women of the sixties were ready for a change.
"The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off," Steinem wrote. She was day by day growing into the activist that she would be remembered as. Steinem actively supported the Equal Rights Amendment as while as other laws backing up equality. She was a key player in bringing down various sex discriminatory laws. Steinem was realizing the power that she held in her writing. She was at work founding groups such as The Women's Action Alliance, Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Ms. Foundation for Women, Choice USA and the Women's Media Center.
"Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself," Steinem said. In 1969 she wrote the article titled 'After Black Power, Women's Liberation', striking a chord that quickly catapulted her into national fame. Her voice and skeptical opinions were printed loud and clear. Her essay 'What It Would Be Like If Women Won' was published in 'Time' magazine and was followed by her outburst of articles featured in 'Newsweek', 'McCall's', 'People', 'New Woman, 'Ms.' and 'Parade'.
She made frequent appearances on popular news shows and television talk shows.
Steinem's name and what it stood for spread like wild fire. She seized the reputation as poster girl for feminism and equality. On July 10th, 1971, Steinem and a handful of other prominent feminist leaders (notable mentions include Betty Friedan author of 'The Feminine Mystique', Myrlie Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer and then U.S. Representatives Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisholm) united, and founded the National Women's Political Caucus. Steinem stated in her memorable Address to the Women of America:
“This is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race, because they are easy and visible differences, have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labor on which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.”
Steinem moved on to become the editor in chief of the steadily growing 'Ms.' magazine whose viewership would later deem it as the movement’s most influential and prominent publication.
In the early 1980's Steinem was diagnosed with breast cancer and later in the early 1990's with trigeminal neuralgia. She successfully recovered from both. In 1992 Steinem's book 'Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem' was published and heavily criticized later in the year for "misrepresenting statistics regarding the incidence and lethality of anorexia nervosa."
At the age of 66, on September 3rd, 2000, Steinem married David Bale, an environmentalist and animal rights activist who was born in South Africa. Their marriage lasted only three years before Bale died due to brain lymphoma. In 2006 Steinem published her book 'Doing Sixty and Seventy.'
What amazes me most about Gloria Steinem's life's work is how she got started writing for newspapers. She wrote slyly, her prose daring to speak about what was really going on underneath the assumably utopian roof of the sixties house wife. The role was not as quaint as it was built up to be through television ads and in the minds of society.
Her writing became a lethal weapon that she brandished proudly as a key to expressing her voice. She strove towards equality and wrote articles which forced audiences out of the stereotypical mindset they possessed. She permanently sifted perspectives using her ability to write. It brought to light for me how if you care enough about something, and have enough fuel, writing will come to your aid.
On September 13th, 2009 Gloria Steinem made a keynote speech at the “Women and Power: Connecting Across The Generations” Conference at the Omega Institute.
"Watch the language. We have been given phrases like 'passing the torch'. Why is there only one torch I would like to know? We each have a torch. Am I giving up the torch? Not on your life! But I'm helping other people light their own torches," Steinem said.
Steinem's rebellion against the standards and expectations of women of her time gratified her with changes that saw happening before her eyes. It was a exciting time to be a woman, when women were on the rise, to feel the revolution in motion. Steinem helped ignite the gears of the revolution and watched it blaze. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it! I look up to Gloria Steinem for many reasons. But to narrow it down I'm only going to list three things I admire about her:
1. Her writing. Like I said before Steinem has taught me that your words are your weapons. She used her words to fight her battle. She was bold, she was daring, striking notes and bringing forth the reality of her surroundings.
2. Her realism. Steinem has a sense of humor. She seems like the kind of woman whose opinions you generally want to hear, the kind of person you want to discuss the book you just read with, or take to the movies. Maybe this feeling for her is partly because she always had an opinion. When asked if she was shocked by today's young women running around 'with their midriffs and their belly buttons, and their belly button rings exposed' Steinem answered, "Well, but I was wearing miniskirts and a button that said 'c*nt' power."
Perhaps it seems pretty predictable to list bravery in a list of things one would admire about Gloria Steinem. Honestly, though, what other word do you use to describe a woman like her? Who do you voice the pride you feel for changes she made in America, paving the way for my generation?
“Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry," Steinem noted. And it's because of her and other feminists that I can't imagine a society in which women are looked down upon. It's because of her that I possess a confidence in knowing that I can go out in the world and become whoever I want to be. I know I can get a job before I have children, I know I can choose never to get married or have children at all. It makes me proud to be a woman and see the progression we've made. It makes me proud of those who came before me and excited for the changes yet to come for those after me.
In conclusion, at her 2009 speech at the Omega Institute Steinem said,
"We have some discussion time, and I can’t resist laying on you one organizing idea. But I will leave that for the discussion time and look forward to learning from you, other guidelines, other ideas, of how we can unite across difference, learn from difference, realize humanity, and make a fan-f*ckin’-tastic revolution."
So, thank you Gloria Steinem. Thank you for your bravery, and your unflinching ability to write what you see. Thank you for giving me someone to look up to and for showing me exactly what I can be. Thank you for passing the torch.