This week, we honor Gloria Steinem on her 80th birthday. And it’s not lost on me that at this very same time, I’m following conversations about:
A new tech site that reduces women to centerfolds. (Possibly because they don’t actually understand how to use technology themselves.)
Apps for girls that glamourize plastic surgery.
A common core history curriculum that ignores women.
Mothers who don’t want their sons playing with dolls.
The sexualization of female cartoon characters.
Elected officials who think contraception is for irresponsible whores.
Conversations around the wrong kinds of women in social media.
Continued human trafficking and sexual violence against women.
Blahblahblah the list goes on. I’m sure you have your own that you could name.
But you know what?
This is progress.
Because we’re talking about them in the first place. Openly. Passionately. With intent to make changes, if only starting with our own families and how we raise our children.
That’s what I learned from Gloria Steinem.
Interviewing Gloria Steinem (however awkwardly) in 2006 was one of the pivotal moments in all my experiences as a blogger. And then, emailing her a second question from my readers about stay-at-home moms and feminism. And, finally meeting her live and in person at a press event just days before I announced my pregnancy with Sage (though my boobs betrayed me, for sure).
I will never forget her kindness and graciousness to those of us there as bloggers, at a mainstream media event, at a time when people still asked “what’s a blogger?” How she stayed longer to take more pictures. How Catherine Connors and I clung together, wondering just how we ended up in a room with people like Jane Fonda and Dee Snyder. (Me without any wine to help get me through it, stupid first trimester.) And I will always be grateful to the wonderful David Wescott who put it all together, because he had the vision that bloggers could tell stories in a way that traditional journalists couldn’t, long long before anyone else in PR that I knew. He made sure that 10 women bloggers were there that day.
But most of all, I will never forget her words to me in that first interview, because they reset my life on a path that made it possible for me to get my head out of the sand (or reality TV) and go to Ethiopia with ONE. Talk politics again. Speak my mind about vaccinations.
I asked how to dust myself off and keep going when it seems the world just isn’t making the progress you want it to; her answer is still relevant today (for better or worse) as it was 8 years ago.
Reprinted from my post:
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.
Then she summed up by saying that to keep our spirits up, we should simply look at where our spirits are. Not where they aren’t.
And so, we look. We band together. We write, we talk. And we keep going.
[image at top by Lisa Congdon for The Reconstructionists. Awesome site. Please check it out.]
19 thoughts on “Gloria Steinem at 80: Not fighting against all odds.”
“…we should simply look at where our spirits are. Not where they aren’t.”
So much power in that, and in us. Thank you, for the awkward, for the heated, for the powerful, but mostly for your endurance of passion.
I heard her speak live at Shakespeare & Company back in the 90s when I was living on the Upper West Side and her words really inspired me. Now that I’m back in school finally doing what I have always wanted to do, I look back and remember how she was doing exactly what she meant to be doing, and I take that with me always.
What an amazing person who seems to affect so many people the same way, with words and counsel that sticks. That’s some woman.
I heard the G-L-O-R-I-A song last week and thought of you, your original post, and Gloria herself. I’ve learned a lot from both of you.
I heard her speak years ago in an auditorium filled with hundreds of women. When a baby began to cry, the mom stood up to remove the babe. From the stage, Gloria said,”Please stay and let that baby cry. That’s what they do.”
I also marched with her and a group of about 6 women near 34th Street on a very hot summer morning two years ago. She was as gracious, as kind, as giving to our small group as she was to you during your interview. She’s who I’ve always wanted to be when I grew up!
I will always remember how moved you were that I had that opportunity. Feminism, the second generation.
What an amazing opportunity to have had! Thanks for your reflections on such an inspirational person.
I think the kinds of discussions we’re able to have now are definitely progress. When my mom was a girl even being able to ask certain questions wouldn’t have occurred to many. Now many of those questions wouldn’t occur to my kids to even ask because they are so out of date.
That’s such a great point Korinthia. I love when my children have trouble understanding concepts like racism, or women who could pretty much only be nurses or teachers.
It’s funny, when I read the post earlier, I thought about what an amazing legacy Gloria leaves with each passing decade and how she’s started conversations (here) and everywhere (unlike HotTech Today), through action and intention — not simply saying, let’s start a discussion…
Then I noticed (through my site) that you linked to one of my pieces, where I questioned the need to sexualize the dolls we played with as Gen Xers, and (though I rarely comment) I felt a need to say, “Thank you for including me in the conversation.” As a humorist, my statements are made through satire, and sometimes the sentiments are quashed by the punchlines (but they’re there). Thanks for noticing.
It’s a great post Jenny. I don’t comment a lot either–but I see stuff and that stayed with me. Thanks for doing it.
Sometimes the best points are made with humor.
Tons of good reads here, Liz. Thank you for the links, both to others’ as well as some of yours in the archives. Particularly sad to me include that link about the sexualization of toys. I had to share that blog post because wow, when you put them side by side like that, it’s boggling. Those were the toys I grew up with, and while I understand updating and whatnot, why so alluring?
The other one that I kept nodding my head to was your post on vaccinations. When you take the conversation to that level, where it’s not just a matter of preference to vaccinate but a life and death choice and opportunity, it doesn’t seem to make much sense, the argument about whether to vaccinate or not.
What an incredible woman she is!
I was so nervous before I clicked your link about the vaccines, because oh god, I love your blog, and what if it was an anti-vaccine message? But no. Thank you for spreading the word about what vaccines mean to other countries.
They mean a lot to our country too. See also: Measles outbreak, 2014. Sigh.
I love her quotes. A woman to look up to.
Gloria Steinem is such an inspiration! Her quotes are so spot on and very funny.
My favorite: “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”
I just love your articles ive been pining them on my all girls board of pinterest, I espicaly like the one on The sexualization of female cartoon characters. Ive always felt like this was wrong, im glad someone is speaking out we need more blogers like you.
I kind of needed to read this today. I have been feeling super, super discouraged about the state of feminism and also my own voice in proclaiming it. Recently I wrote something about Ban Bossy, which, whether you like her or the campaign or not, has an important message at its center, and a female friend on my fb page commented that ‘wasn’t I getting all bossy’ about this topic. And it brought me back to my college days of feminism and yelling and feeling like I just needed to shut up because people — my friends, even — were rolling their eyes, and I was tired, so tired of fighting. It made me question myself, even beliefs that were so obvious to me, and I did shut up, in some ways, for a long, long time.
Sorry. It’s not all about me, obviously. Just wanted to share my thoughts and thank you for the reminder to keep writing, keep speaking, even when it is uncomfortable. Especially when it is uncomfortable.
Thank you Deb! I’m glad you found some comfort in it. And it can be all about you if you want it to be.
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