Feminist journalist Gloria Steinem turns 79 today, and she's as active as ever when it comes to women's rights. In February, she made an appearance in the MAKERS documentary, and in 2011, HBO released her documentary Gloria: In Her Own Words. The social and political activist has been an icon for women's rights, having been deeply involved in abortion issues, women's equality, and sex education. In honor of her birthday, take a look at some of her most powerful words on womanhood.
Though history books may focus on the notable men of the world, Makers, an online video platform, is on a mission to change all that by profiling the work of women who have "made" America over the last 50 years. What began as an initiative by filmmaker Dyllan McGee to make a documentary about social activist Gloria Steinem, evolved into hundreds of online video accounts, and a full-length documentary airing tonight on PBS, about the trailblazing women of the US.
Included on the Makers site and iPad app are hundreds of stories of women making an impact in the world, everyone from business executives to tech pioneers to a teenage editor in chief.
Think of Makers like a very specific TED Talks site, but instead of watching speeches on big ideas, you'll see brief, inspiring videos on any one of hundreds of female trailblazers in six fields including arts, science and tech, sports, and education, among others. Discover France Córdova, the first female chief scientist at NASA or Maria Pepe, who, as a child, persuaded Little League to allow girls to play.
Today is the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement — which began in New York City's Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17, 2011 — and Occupy protestors have been reconvening to celebrate the birthday with marches and gatherings in major US cities. While Occupy Wall Street began as a protest against the wealth gap in our society, it has since expanded to a global movement with its participants protesting a number of grievances against their governments. A large number of Occupy protestors are women, and as Gloria Steinem noted last year, Occupy Wall Street is also about the gender wage gap.
Many of the young Americans who have been taking part in the Occupy movement are upset about not being able to pay off their college debts, with the unemployment rate for college graduates age 20 to 24 still relatively high. And as Gloria also pointed out, getting out from under that debt is made especially difficult for women, who still earn 81 cents on every dollar a man makes. "[Women] are paid unequally — so they are going to have a harder time paying back that debt," Gloria said. "It's outrageous because they are kind of indentured when they graduate."
In honor of Occupy Wall Street's first birthday, let's look at the women who have taken part in the movement over the last year and what they believe are the most important issues.
We chatted with Gloria Steinem last night at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards and found out what the feminist icon thinks about everything from equal pay to reality TV. When we asked Gloria — who famously said "we're becoming the men we wanted to marry" — what she thinks about all the attention given to the short-lived marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, she said: "It's a waste of air time. It's a waste of those two young peoples' lives." Gloria said that the public wouldn't mind if the media started ignoring reality TV stars, although she didn't address why the shows are so popular in the first place.
Gloria, who was honored with a lifetime achievement award, also argued that the battle for women's rights is still not half over. She told us, "We're about 40 years into 100 years of change." A top issue for her is equal pay, since women still don't make as much as men. As for the biggest advancement she's seen? "Reproductive freedom, because that's the single most important influence on women's health and education." Watch for yourself as Gloria shares her thoughts in the video below.
Gloria Steinem must be experiencing a serious case of déja vu. Forty-eight years after she went undercover as a Playboy Bunny and wrote an infamous exposé revealing the club's "underpaid waitresses in too-high heels" with few work options had to undergo pelvic exams and STD screenings among other things, she's laying bare the exploitation she saw all over again in part thanks to the new NBC show The Playboy Club. Steinem is calling for a boycott of the show, which she fears will glamorize "one of the tackiest places on earth."
In a new interview, Steinem told Reuters that while she considers Mad Men a net positive because it presents the '60s with some realism, she expects that "The Playboy Club will be a net minus and I hope people boycott it. It's just not telling the truth about the era." While we've come a long way since the '60s, Steinem thinks glamorizing the sexist aspects of the era can have negative consequences today. In her opinion, the show "normalizes a passive dominant idea of gender. So it normalizes prostitution and male dominance."
Last week the show's star Amber Heard said she thinks it is "empowering." Amber said, "This is about choice, ultimately. It was a different generation, there were different opportunities and different expectations for women . . . It's chauvinistic to deny a woman her sexuality. If they are making the choice, then they're not being exploited." Other network officials called it "all about empowering these women to be whatever they want to be" and a "really funny soap opera." With nostalgic distance, it's impossible not to look back and see the past as more glamorous than it was. But if the makers of the show want to give it some historical accuracy too, they need only consult Gloria's original piece.
Thankfully, it's been a long time since anybody has brought out the ol' tired belief that "real" feminists don't wear lipstick. (Makeup application: so not a litmus test for one's political beliefs.) And now, feminists are applauding efforts from a cosmetics company. At this year's Ms. Foundation For Women Gloria Awards, the MAC AIDS Fund was honored with a Corporate Philanthropy Award for its support of women and HIV/AIDS advocacy.
Through sales of Viva Glam, MAC raises $20 million per year to support people affected by HIV/AIDS. Through the fund, the National Women and AIDS Collective, a policy group for HIV-positive women, has been able to thrive. "To have a corporation like MAC that understands that you can do well by doing good is so important," Gloria Steinem said of the Ms. Foundation's partnership with the MAC AIDS Fund.
In this case, feminism and lipstick go hand-in-hand. To see a (smart, engaging) video of Steinem and MAC AIDS Fund Executive Director Nancy Mahon discussing why HIV/AIDS is a women's issue, read more
- Feminist icon Gloria Steinem celebrates her 75th birthday today. Here's a recap of progress made for women's rights. — New York Daily News
- Condi Rice does Jay Leno. — Wonkette
- Recession creates surge of terrible subway performers. — Lemondrop
- Would you take in a roommate to cover your costs? — SavvySugar
- So how'd NAFTA work out? — Good
- Wall Street is hitting back at Washington DC. — Talking Points Memo
What's going on with women lately? Yesterday we told you about Charlotte Allen's Washington Post editorial, and now Gloria Steinem's joined in? While campaigning on behalf of Hillary Clinton in Texas this weekend, Gloria Steinem spouted off several potentially surprising statements. The major coverage of the story has focused on her statement that John McCain's experience as a POW has not prepared him for the job of president, saying,
“I mean, hello? This is supposed to be a qualification to be president? I don’t think so.”
The statement that stood out to me however, wasn't about Clinton's opponents, but a statement about Hillary, and more broadly, the current state of feminism. Steinem remarked about whether Hillary's experience as first lady was good preparation for the job of president. She said it might make people,
“finally admit that, say, being a secretary is the best way to learn your boss’s job and take it over.”
Steinem concluded the campaign rally with a top ten list of reasons to support Hillary Clinton, which included: “We get Bill Clinton as Eleanor Roosevelt.”
Were you shocked that Gloria Steinem would liken Hillary's time as first lady as being the boss's secretary? Are her ideas of feminism outdated, or right on?