Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Secrecy of Women's History Month

March is women's history month. Yea, I didn't remember that either until I saw a full-page interview with Gloria Steinem in the paper this morning. The interview was on page A23 and I accidentally stumbled on it when I flipped through trying to find the second half of a front-page story. I would have missed it all together had I not seen the unmistakable doe-eyed stare down of Steinem's photo. Man, she's great-looking. P.S. Saying that is hardly anti-feminist. It's just a fact. Also a fact: Steinem, who turns 75 this month!, is still very relevant and radical. I don't think her message is dated in the least, even when her rhetoric is laced with the same she has used since the late 60's. She's a goddamn hero even if she's hidden away during Women's History Month no less. At the end of the interview, I realized that this article was still not the whole interview, which can be found online. Below are excerpts, not necessarily in order. You too can read the full article HERE.

Here was the last question asked:
What does having women's history month mean anymore?

It means that every other month is men's history month. At least we have one month!

Here was the first question:
How do you pick your fights?

Poorly!

(Ha!)

On to a few of my fav answers:

There are people who'd suggest that when it comes to women's liberation, it's game over, a done deal.

That's ridiculous.

The first argument was, you don't need this movement, you're fighting biology, it's impossible. Then we did it anyway. Then the second argument was, it used to be necessary but it's not anymore. [That's] just obstruction, and the civil rights movement is suffering from it too, as if having an African American president has now meant that the huge disparity in health and income and employment didn't exist. It's a tactic to stop the movement.

Are the biases against women more nuanced now?

No, they're not nuanced at all. They're unequal pay, pink-collar ghettos -- 70% of women are still employed in primarily female occupations that are less well paid. A parking lot attendant who's a guy makes a lot more money than a child-care attendant who's a woman. We have moved forward from 59 cents to 70-some cents on the [male] dollar. By the fact that we value our children more than our cars, it does not make sense that a parking lot attendant who's a guy makes a lot more money than a child-care attendant who's a woman.

I wonder whether you think the war on terrorism may have elevated feminist awareness in this country because of how hideously the Taliban treats women?

We don't need martyrs and we don't need examples. I think we have a bad case of first-ism in this country. We seem to think that women here are better off than they are in any other country, and that's not true. We are the only modern democracy in the whole world with no national system of child care, no national system of healthcare, no system of family-friendly workplace policies. Women are a lesser percentage of elected officials [here] than in India. We are not "first."

You wrote critically about Sarah Palin for The Times in 2008. What do her political persona and Hillary Rodham Clinton's say about us?

She is, as I said in that column, a young Phyllis Schlafly. There'll always be a Clarence Thomas, a Phyllis Schlafly, someone who goes against the majority needs of their group. We create jobs for them too. If it weren't for the women's movement, there wouldn't be anything to sell out!

I do think Hillary Clinton's candidacy changed the atmosphere. I never for a moment thought a woman could win. It's too soon. But I do think that her candidacy made it possible for many more people to imagine a woman president. How she got up every morning and took that much punishment, I don't know. She was so strong.

Who's at the forefront of the women's movement now?

Now it's pretty much everywhere. The reason people know me is because there were so few of us. We were, like, 12 crazy women, and now there are all kinds of leadership going on. If I could have one wish for the women's movement worldwide, it would be to have feminist groups everywhere. We're communal creatures. We need to gather together once a week or once a month and discover that we're not alone, and to be able to tell the truth together

Rally & spread the word, my tired Sisters, that the movement continues. I mean, 75 cents on the dollar is not good enough for me or my daughters no matter how far we've come. And Steinem can't live forever.

3 comments:

Melinda said...

"How she got up every morning and took that much punishment, I don't know."

Exactly. Exactly exactly exactly why I will follow that woman to the ends of the earth.

Also, Steinem rocks. Do you think she will always be a part of young girls' feminist awakenings, even decades from now?

madness rivera said...

I don't even know if she's part of a young girls' feminist awakenings now. All this stuff seems more and more swept away, including her. Sigh. If she remains part of the young movement, it will have to be because the old movement makes them learn about her. I made Maya read the article. I think a lot of this feels foreign to her.

lagata said...

Wow. I would never had known if not for your post.

As with so many things - we have accomplished much, but there is yet much more to accomplish. Keep moving forward, regardless of the slides back.

Thank you.