Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Highlighting Gloria Steinem for Women's History Month

How important is feminism to the life story of Gloria Steinem? As Lily Tomlin has said, without feminism people would refer to a woman's work as her "hobby" and not her career.

A journalist who had achieved a level of fame and comfort, Steinem could have stayed on the sidelines. Instead she has dedicated her life to the cause.

Born in 1934, Gloria Steinem's been able to update her famous quote ("This is what forty looks like, we've been lying to ourselves for so long . . .") to fifty, then sixty and now seventy.

Speaking truth to the lie, Steinem long ago realized that if everyone told the truth, the world as we know it would forever be changed. She has fostered that truth-telling in all areas even when it means addressing issues gatekeepers might prefer to avoid (spouse abuse, incest, etc.).

While some have fought the battle for equality from the academic halls, Steinem has taken it to our neighborhoods, our communities, making sure that the terms and issues were accessible and understandable.

She has championed the power of the people, not just the power of the powerful. In 1971, she helped start Ms. and despite the repeated obits for it and feminism, Ms. is still around and so is feminism.

Traveling the country on speaking tours with Dorothy Pitman Hughes, on the cover of Time with Susan Faludi, whatever, Steinem has always realized the importance of sharing the spotlight because the movement isn't about anyone person.

That said, whether she likes it or not, she's become the face of feminism for many.

She's touched our lives with her straight talk and her ability to not just listen, but to actually hear.

Feminism will carry on when she's gone (which hopefully will not be for many, many years because she's too important) and that's partly due to the groundwork that she and members of her generation have laid and continued to lay.

If Steinem feels that feminism saved her, she's certainly done her part to honor that salvation through her speaking tours, her writing and her dedication.

Among her books is a collection entitled Moving Beyond Words and she has always backed up her words with action. There are women who have come before, who have come up with, and who have come after, but for many of us, Gloria Steinem is a point of focus/entry point for our own journeys. We're lucky to have her.

[Note: Post corrected because I got Dorothy Pitman Hughes' name wrong. It's "Pitman," not "Pittman." My apologies.]