Gloria Steinem: The Wonder Woman Of Our Generation
On December 20th 1971, Gloria Steinem wrote in New York Magazine, “Women are human beings first, with minor differences from men that apply largely to the single act of reproduction. We share the dreams, capabilities, and weaknesses of all human beings, but our occasional pregnancies and other visible differences have been used” (Sisterhood, 1971). Being an individual who used her bravery and courage to express what she believed in, Steinem has worked her whole life to fix a very prominent issue that every women faces: gender inequality. The early 1960’s was the second wave of the Women’s Rights Movements where few believed reforms had to be made with gender inequality and even fewer did something about it. Gloria Steinem, a writer and activist who was not shy to voice her opinion on sexism, stood out from the crowd being one who was willing to fight for these rights. Steinem focused her whole career on finding a way to achieve equal opportunities for everyone. Throughout history, women have clearly not been given the same opportunities and chances as men have. While most watched as women’s rights suffered, others like Steinem recognized the issue and worked to make a change. In the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, Gloria Steinem was determined to solve the gender inequalities the world so largely faced, and make an impact to better the women of future generations.
One’s bravery determines their true character and the impact they have on the world. Based on her tremendous determination and courage, Steinem’s character is truly unique. A woman who gave all she had to fight for what she believed in, Steinem worked to make a positive impact during the second wave of the Women’s Rights Movements by fighting on behalf of all women to achieve the goal of gender equality. Although Steinem did not have the most stable upbringing, it definitely shaped her into the person she became and make the changes she did. Her grandmother Pauline Steinem, who was an early leader in the fight for gender equality, was Steinem’s primary caregiver (DuPont, 2000). Based on her grandmother’s successes, Steinem studied women’s issues and politics when she attended Smith College in 1952 (Ford, n.d). Little did she know that when she began her writing career in 1960, only four years after she graduated, it would take off to be so inspirational to so many young women (DuPont, 2000). Steinem even proceeded to run her own line of stories through Ms. Magazine in 1972 which expanded the audience reading her pieces and was able to impact a larger audience (DuPont, 2000). Not only was Steinem a writer, but she was a very important activist during the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s as well. It was only in 1970 when Steinem teamed up with Betty Friedan, another famous feminist, to organize the women’s strike for equality, which would later turn out to greatly benefit women across the country (DuPont, 2000). Being the fearless soul she was, Steinem continually worked to impact future generations for she believed her efforts were never finished until equality was reached for all.
As Steinem had done much work to improve women’s rights, that was not always popular throughout history. During the 1950’s there was a growing number of women who entered the workforce for it was the start of World War II(WWII) (Tompkins, 2017). More and more men being sent to serve opened up an opportunity for women to help in the war efforts by working jobs that had previously been worked by men (Tompkins, 2017). As this was new for women, many also viewed it as an opportunity to seek equality amongst both men and women. Throughout the 1950’s, few organizations, such as the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Club, formed in hopes of creating economic opportunities for women (Tompkins, 2017). Furthermore, in 1954, the Women’s Bureau worked to give women equal legal protection under the Constitution as well (Tompkins, 2017). As many people, like Steinem, hoped that these organizations would improve the rights that women had, this was not as much so. While feminism existed in the United States even as early as the 1950’s, there was not a big enough emphasis on this matter (Tompkins, 2017). Moreover, the 1950’s was a time were feminism was better introduced to the country, however there was not enough attention drawn to the matter to grant women with the rights they so greatly deserved.
When WWII ended in the 1960’s, women’s fight for equality grew even harder. After doing the jobs previously done by men during the war, women returned home post WWII while men returned to their qualified jobs (Tompkins, 2017). Although this was the norm, more and more agencies and government organizations were being formed in order to help women reach the rights they deserved (Tompkins, 2017). However, there was not a large enough emphasis on just how big the gender inequalities were. Not only was post WWII a time where gender issues were better known, but racial issues proved prominent as well. Furthermore, many hoped that sexual discrimination would improve while the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, however this did not appear so (Tompkins, 2017). Although the gender issues were so clear, not much change was direct and significant enough to make a difference. Only few women, like Steinem, could clearly see the problems the country held and were willing to fight to change this. When she first began her work in the 1960’s, Steinem was doing so in a society where gender inequality was not the main focus. In the beginning of this decade, the President’s Commission on the Status of Women was formed by President John F. Kennedy, as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Tompkins, 2017). As beneficial as the idea of these organizations was, they were practically pointless since they were not effective in helping women gain their rights. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was aimed to help women receive better pay and chances in the labor force, however when they received many complaints about the sexual discrimination in the workforce, they did not do much about the (Tompkins, 2017). There was no urgency to change the way society viewed women and what they were capable of. Society lacked strong, brave women who went against the norm and fought for a change. Steinem was a strong woman who was determined to make a difference in all women’s lives. She shows the significance of making a difference in society by speaking, “We [women] may disagree on analysis in the long run: I don’t think feminism can just be initiative or integrationist. By definition it must transform” (Ford, n.d). Steinem saying this exemplifies what she views the movement as. She explains just how important it is for the movement to change for the better and make a difference. Society was slowly changing the gender inequality they faced, however Steinem explains the importance of not only changing feminism, but transforming it. Overall, the gender equality changes during the 1960’s when Steinem first began her work were clearly not significant enough to make a difference, however Steinem was determined to make a change for all women.
Steinem’s past really shaped her to have the abilities to generate such a significant impact on the movement. Although she didn’t have the most stable of upbringings, it impacted her positively in being the women she needed to be and make a difference. Steinem was born on March 25, 1934 in Toledo, Ohio (Ford, n.d).Growing up with an absent father and mentally ill mother, Steinem’s grandmother played a very large part in her early life (Ford, n.d). Steinem truly had an influential upbringing having Pauline Steinem, a famous women’s activist, as a grandmother. Having someone this involved in the movement she would become so familiar with, Steinem grew up in-the-know about the gender inequalities the world held (Ford, n.d). Having a background regarding the feminist movement, she began to study women’s issues and politics when accepted into Smith College in 1952 (Ford, n.d). Her college experience opened her up even more to the broad issues society faced with viewing men and women as equals. Furthermore, she knew she wanted to expose these prominent issues to the world, and even traveled to India for two years after graduating college in 1956 to study these issues in other countries as well (Ford, n.d). Based on the knowledge she had, Steinem began her writing career in 1960 (DuPont, 2000). Writing about gender inequality was difficult at a time where many didn’t notice this issue, however she received her first by-line in 1962 (DuPont, 2000). Her famous piece, “A Bunny’s Tale”, set off the stage for her style of writing, and really worked with showing the world what really went on behind closed doors of the playboy bunny mansion in regards to the treatment of the women there (DuPont, 2000). Steinem continued to write in hopes of persuading her reader’s even more and reaching a bigger crowd. She wrote essays about prominent women such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, in hopes of changing her readers perspectives showing them in a new, feminist light (Daffron, 1988, p.93). She wanted to convince her readers by publicly exposing the sexist foundations the country held during the 60’s (DuPont, 2000). As influential as they were, there was much more to Steinem than just the writing skills she held. Not only being a writer, she was also an activist for women’s rights, women’s justice, and social justice as well (Ford, n.d). Her goal was simply to reach as many women as she could and ultimately make a change in the world. Although not ideal, Steinem’s situation growing up led her in the path of the women’s movement and ultimately set her position on being a leader in this.
Steinem wrote in order to inform people on all the inequalities our society held and the problems regarding them. Publishing “A Bunny’s Tale” in Esquire Magazine in 1962 was a big start for her writing career that made her more well-known(Ford, n.d). Covering a variety of stories throughout her career to better the movement such as the United Farm Workers Strike in California and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. gathered many readers and expanded the audience of her stories (Ford, n.d). Furthermore, addressing how women as a group faced oppression really exposed her stance on the issue and had a great impact on the writing industry (Ford, n.d). In 1970, Steinem published “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation”, in which she won the Penney Missouri Award for her efforts on addressing not only gender equality, but racial equality as well (Ford, n.d). As Steinem, wrote more and more, her work became more well-known across the country. In 1972, McCall’s Magazine named Steinem Women of the Year, acknowledging her efforts in the movement (Ford, n.d). Furthermore, in the same year Ms. Magazine was founded with Steinem as the editor (DuPont, 2000). Being editor at a big magazine like this increased her social status in the writing industry and allowed her writing to now become more widespread (DuPont, 2000). Her first issue as editor of Ms. Magazine was issued where women, including Steinem, publicly admitted to having illegal abortions (DuPont, 2000). Knowing she was going to be judged for this, she still hoped it would open up the realities of this topic to people. As popular as her pieces were, Ms. Magazine began to grow less and less popular as the years passed. After losing most of their followers in the late 1980’s, the magazine was close to closing (Ford, n.d). Showing her bravery, Steinem was fixed on revamping the magazine to continue their mission of making society aware of the prominent issues it held in terms of gender inequality.
Ultimately, after working there for 13 years Steinem was able to restore Ms. Magazine and stayed determined on making her pieces gain back the followers they had lost and grow back their popularity (Ford, n.d). Fortunately, this was a very successful step for Steinem and she was able to produce more articles allowing her to have an overall bigger impact on the amount of people she influenced (Ford, n.d). For Steinem alone she published “Marilyn: Norma Jeane” in 1986 and “Revolution From Within:a book on self-esteem” in 1992, both targeted toward not only growing women’s confidence, but making more people as whole aware of it (DuPont, 2000). Under Steinem’s control, Ms. Magazine was a place where women writers could express themselves as well as inform the public more so on the inequalities. Steinem was able to realize the dozens of experienced, however neglected, womens writers and helped them get started and bring greater recognition to their work (Daffron, 1988, p.99). Furthermore, Ms. Magazine had worked with supporting women through more than writing. In 1993, Ms. Magazine founded the popular “take our daughters to work day”(Ford, n.d). Through this, many young girls could see potential for their future in the work done by many strong women. While Ms. Magazine changed many people’s negative views on feminism to positive, there were still those who continued to hold a negative connotation on the movement. Through the years, Ms. Magazine experienced many attacks such bomb threats to their censorship campaigns, luckily, none of them followed through (Daffron, 1988, p.99). Steinem never let the anti-feminist views affect the work her and her company was doing. Through their downfalls and successes , Ms. Magazine held many goals in order to better life for women, including two main points of pursuing a number of initiatives encouraging female-owned businesses and fighting for equal labor rights (Ford, n.d). Overall, through her writing and working many pieces through Ms. Magazine, Gloria Steinem was able to generate many positive pieces to better the second wave of the Women’s Rights Movement.
Steinem expressed her views on feminism not only through writing, but through public activism as well. Although she became well known originally for her writing, there was much more to Steinem’s work than words on a paper. Throughout her journey outside of her writing, Steinem was a big promoter of fighting for women’s labor rights. In 1970, Steinem and Betty Friedan, another famous feminist, organized the Women’s Strike for Equality (DuPont, 2000). Here, many women gathered to march for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, worker’s rights, and abortion rights (Ford, n.d). This was an immense step for women to take, for Steinem believed in the importance of women staying together, quoting, “I am continually moved to discover I have sisters” (Sisterhood, 1971). Moreover, she began a lecture series with Dorothy Pitman Hughes, a black activist, and here they formed the Women’s Action Alliance, also known as the WAA (Ford, n.d). The WAA was an organization that provided information on how to combat with sexual discrimination and introduced women to the non-traditional fields of work (Ford, n.d). The WAA provided many women with not only information, but tools and skills to use in the future when dealing with sexism all around. On top of being the co-founder and board member of the WAA, Steinem was the founding member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (DuPont, 2000). Here, she expanded her tools for helping working women gain the rights they deserve. Believing equality was a right for all, Steinem was also on the advisory council for the International Women’s Rights Organizations named Equality Now (Ford, n.d). Through this organization, Steinem was able to work with other women and ultimately promote feminism across the country (Ford, n.d). Knowing the inequalities with sexual discrimination and feminism in the workforce were prominent for women, Steinem was determined to make this a focus throughout her fight in fairness for all.
Not only was equality in the workforce a significant area of focus for Steinem, but all around she was set on improving the lives of women. Being an active member of the National Women’s Political Caucus’ National Advisory Committee, Steinem voiced her opinion at rallies and protests on the importance of feminism (DuPont, 2000). When founded in 1971 with many other women such as Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, and Shirley Chisholm, this committee helped to identify, fund, and publicize those women runnings for political positions (Ford, n.d). As a member of this committee, she made sure that delegates represented every race, age, and economic group in the country in order to give everyone a fair and equal chance (Daffron, 1988, p.95). Proving her perspective on equality, Steinem quotes: “We share the same dreams, capabilities, and weaknesses of all human beings” (Sisterhood, 1971). Through the many organizations she took part in, Steinem was set on making women’s voices heard and bringing a bigger awareness to the issues the country so largely held. Based on also being on the advisory board for Feminist Activist Community, feminist.com, as well as being the Board Director of Choice USA, Steinem quotes, “I am beginning, just beginning, to find out who I am” (Sisterhood, 1971). In standing up for what she believed in, Steinem was able to find herself and better understand her worth as a women during this movement. Furthermore, after publicly admitting to having an abortion along with many other women, she urged officials to legalize this controversial act (Ford, n.d). During the Democratic Convention of 1972, she spoke out to officials on focusing more on women’s issues, and more specifically on the reproductive rights she held so close to her (Ford, n.d). Based on the numerous organizations that Steinem was active in, she believed her work was never done until equality was reached for all. Finally, Steinem’s progressive participation in many organizations and action beyond writing urged many to see the gender equality problems the country significantly held, and ultimately benefited the rights of women during this time.
In conclusion, throughout the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s Gloria Steinem worked to fix gender inequalities and make a positive impact for women of future generations. Steinem’s efforts both through writing and activism changed the way the world viewed not only women, but all people not by appearance or bias assumptions, but rather as equals who all held the same dreams as anyone else. Her writing expanded her audience, for her pieces were set to expose these inequalities to people of all races, genders, ages, and economic statuses. Her constant efforts and participation in many activities strengthened the effect they had on making a change in the gender-bias world. Without the courage held by this fearless women, the country would not have been so open to change and realizing the true issues they held. Overall, Steinem’s determination on finding equality proved prominent and effective for women for the positive impact it had was truly significant.
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