There are few events for which I’d interrupt this week’s self-imposed blogging hiatus. One of them is scooping the mainstream media with a juicy tidbit on the strange spontaneous combustion incident of the entire Republican congress.
The other is an interview with Gloria Steinem.
As in me. Interviewing her. Yesterday.
I have to write about it this very minute because I’ve been bursting at the seams for the last 36 hours, dying to stop every single woman I’ve passed on the street, grab her, shake her and scream YOU CANNOT GUESS WHO I JUST TALKED TO! But they already think I’m a little strange up here, what with the black clothing and all. So that brings me back here to Mom-101.
When, back in mid-July I made an off-handed reference to her in a blog post title, it never crossed my mind that it would somehow lead to her “people” right to me. And yet it did. Greenstone Media (which I wrote about last week) was gracious to include me in a group of ten prolific women bloggers yesterday to hear firsthand what Ms. Steinem has to say about her new radio network for women. Then we were each allowed to ask her a question. About anything.
Pinching myself. Pinching myself.
Here’s the thing: In fifth grade, when we each were assigned to report on a different Time Man of the Year, I chose 1975’s “American Women,” culminating in my thesis that, um, maybe they shouldn’t call it Man of the Year anymore? By the end of that year, I was devouring my mother’s Ms. magazines, falling asleep with them open on my chest, the way other fifth graders did with Teen Beat.
Yes, Gloria Steinem was my Sean Cassidy.
For those of you not-so-political moms who might be a little scared of what you think Gloria might stand for or all that scary militant F-word business, here’s an anecdote you might appreciate: My mom attended a talk of hers back in the early 90s. Right in the middle of the speech, a baby started crying in the back of the large hall. The mother of the baby stood up, surely a bit embarrassed, and started to hustle her infant quietly out of the room.
Right then Gloria stopped her speech midsentence, looked at the mother and insisted, “don’t you go anywhere. That is the most beautiful sound in the world.”
Walking the walk. Walking the walk.
How do I ask one of womankind’s greatest assets a single question? A hundred questions, no problem. But just one?
So what I asked (in my trademark rambly, get-to-the-point-already and stop gushing kind of way) was how she perseveres. How–after this administration has created such a hostile environment towards women and the issues we care about, seemingly reversing years of the progress she has made–she keeps on keeping on day after day. Or rather, how I can keep on keeping on.
I asked this because I used to be far more political than I am today. This blog is not nearly the liberal soapbox it might have been in 2004, when I thought there was a chance of reclaiming the country away from the dark forces. Back then I read TPM and Daily Kos with more frequency than I read personal blogs today. If such a thing is possible. I hosted political fundraisers. I shook hands with candidates. I wrote many checks. The world seemed primed for positive change.
Nate and I were thrilled at the notion of bringing a child into the world during more prosperous, peaceful times and so we conceived Thalia in October of ’04. We were not alone. In fact, so many like-minded friends conceived children at the same time that we thought of it as a liberal baby boom. We still refer to these kids as The Pre-Election Optimism Babies.
Thalia was our little optimism baby. Our beacon of hope.
And then we lost. The country lost. The world lost. And I became despondent.
I threw all of my passion into the pregnancy, into Thalia, into researching crib mattresses and fragrance-free detergents. My default tv channel switched from CNN to the Food Network. I started skimming most of my moveon.org emails, and deleting others entirely. I stopped signing every petition that entered my in-box, stopped calling my Senators, stopped emailing my Congressional representatives.
But lately I’ve started to feel that putting my finger in my ears and singing LALALALA is not really something I’m comfortable with over the long-term. I’ve always been a marcher, a protester, a boycotter, a person of action. And so I was hoping that Gloria Steinem, The Gloria Steinem could personally tell me how to dust myself off and keep going. For my head. For my daughter.
Her words (and here I paraphrase) were that we should look at the facts, look at the public opinion polls and then we will know know that we are not alone, not fighting against all odds. That the vast majority of the country supports us on the issues we care about. And that the political defeats are not because our country as a whole is sliding in the wrong direction, but because of a failure to get out the votes needed to avoid the painfully narrow margins. To go further, she claims to be not disheartened by the last election, but inspired by it; because it is the first time in recent memory that people were not just voting–they were fighting to vote.
Then she summed up by saying that to keep our spirits up, we should simply look at where our spirts are. Not where they aren’t.
In other words: This woman who has been called every name in the book, who has been spit at and threatened and attacked and seen certainly a darker side of humanity than any of us ever will,
she is an optimist.
And the truth is, so am I. I’m so grateful to have been reminded of it yesterday.
If you’d like to read other accounts of the phone call, check in with the other impressive bloggers who asked many of the questions I wish I could have: Her Bad Mother, Motherhood Uncensored, Mommy Needs Coffee, Leah Peah, Escape from Cubicle Nation, Ingrid from Three NY Women, Almost Literary, Que Sera Sera, and Brazen Careerist. I’m honored to have been included among them yesterday.
Also check out Greenstone Media if you haven’t yet. I’m attending the network’s launch party on Tuesday (still pinching myself!) and I can’t wait to find out more about it.
Ok, one more thing (the reward for sticking around to the end here) – I have just received word that I can ask Gloria Steinem one more question by email. And she will answer. And so I am handing the microphone over to you, the most thoughtful, smart, wonderful commenters in the entire blogosphere, who deserve the opportunity every bit as much as I do. And so…here you have it.
What would you ask of her? Anything. Any topic. Post it in the comments and I’ll send one off to her, with the answer forthcoming.
Now back to my regularly scheduled vacation.