Wednesday, 6 March 2013
IWD 2013 : Celebrating tireless feminist, Gloria Steinem
Our IWD 2013 Woman of the Week : Day 3
Gloria Steinem is an American social activist, writer, editor, lecturer and renowned feminist. She has been an outspoken and tireless champion of women's rights since the late 1960s and a key figure in the women's movement. Ms Steinem has staked firm positions throughout her life on such issues as abortion, pornography, genital mutilation, same-sex marriage, transsexualism, and also feminist theory.
In her early days of pioneering feminism, Steinem famously went undercover for a 1963 expose for Show magazine on New York City's Playboy Club, dressing as scantily clad 'bunny girl' waitress to get the inside track.
Steinem, in the early 1970s, joined other prominent feminists such as Betty Friedan and Bella Abzug in forming the National Women's Political Caucus which worked on behalf of women's issues. In her memorable address 'Address to Women of America' at the time, she said, "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 organising human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labour 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". She also, at that same point in her life, took the lead in launching the pioneering, feminist Ms magazine. Under her editorial direction, the magazine tackled important feminist-interest topics, including raising concerns around domestic violence.
Criticised on occasion, by radical elements in the women's movement, for her glamorous image and humour, Steinem remained undeterred and wholly committed to the feminist movement into the 1980s and beyond, right up to today's date. She continued to write extensively on women's issues. In 1983, she produced a collection of essays entitled 'Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions' while in 1992, she published 'Revolution from Within : A Book of Self-Esteem'. This book, focusing on personal development, was subject to much media scrutiny with some feminists seeing it as a retreat from social activism. Steinem herself, countered at the time that a strong self-image was crucial to creating change. Explaining her viewpoint to People magazine, she asserted, "We need to be long-distance runners to make a real social revolution. And you can't be a long-distance runner unless you have some inner strength".1994, saw Ms Steinem publish a further collection of writings, 'Moving Beyond Words : Age, Rage, Sex, Power, Money, Muscles: Breaking Boundaries of Gender'.
When it comes to academic feminist theory, as opposed to mainstream feminism, Steinem is well-known for voicing her disapproval of the obscurantism and abstractions prevalent in feminist theory. She often said, "Nobody cares about feminist academic writing. These poor women in academia have to talk this silly language that nobody can understand in order to be accepted".
Despite her renowned assertion, 'A woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle', Ms Steinem surprised the world at the age of 66 by getting married. She wed David Bale, an environmental and animal rights activist - who Gloria said "had the greatest heart of anyone I've known" - but who sadly died three years later in 2003.
In 2009, when Ms Steinem turned 75, the Ms Foundation urged women around the world to engage in 'outrageous acts for simple justice' as a way of celebrating this milestone birthday. Speaking at the time, Ms Steinem reflected on the progress of the issue of women's equality, saying : "We've demonstrated that women can do what men do, but not yet that men can do what women do. That's why most women have two jobs - one inside the home and one outside it - which is impossible. The truth is that women can't be equal outside the home until men are equal in it".
Earlier this year, in her late 70s, Ms Steinem, as vibrant as ever, came to the UK to support the One Billion Rising movement which took place around the world on the 14th February. Appearing in a Channel 4 news interview with Jon Snow, Ms Steinem discussed the state of feminism today in the context of the need for the One Billion Rising movement. She said : "This is part of a huge and growing movement which has always been global but now is much more visibly so. The women's movement is still necessary and more alive than ever". While on the Page 3 issue she said, "The problem is that women's bodies are treated as ornaments not instruments. The ornament idea - that that's all women's bodies are - that's part of the problem. And they are always bodies of reproductive age. It comes back to trying to control reproduction".
Platform 51 is proud to make renowned feminist icon, Gloria Steinem, its Woman of the Week for Day 3 of this week of International Women's Day. We subscribe to her assertion that "women may be the one group that grows more radical with age" and admire her continued and vital presence in the women's movement at the ripe old age of 78.
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