Thursday, October 21, 2010

Finally, A Post About Gloria Steinem

Ask any feminist born during or after the tumultuous 60's and 70's who their hero is, and the answer will come back a resounding Gloria Steinem

Gloria Marie Steinem was born on March 25, 1934, and is widely regarded as the poster-child for the modern Women's Liberation Movement. As one of the many women inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame - along with Abigail Adams, Betty Friedan, Ella Fitzgerald, and my personal favorite, Susan B. Anthony - Steinem is a renowned journalist and political activist who has devoted her life to bringing humanitarian issues into the public scope.

After my life-altering decision to call myself a feminist, it felt almost automatic that I should look up to Gloria Steinem, the woman whose name graces every reputable feminist book and blog at least ten or fifteen times. It wasn't until after I started researching her life and accomplishments, however, that I felt my admiration snow-balling; with every new triumph for feminists (and humanitarians in general), I thought yes, this is my idol.

Interestingly enough, Steinem did not come from a feminist family, or even one that was particularly conscious of women's rights or societal issues. How, then, did she go on to become an animal rights activist, civil rights ambassador, political commentator, and “the face of feminism"?

When Steinem was just a few years old, her mother had a debilitating nervous breakdown that hurled her into a world of delusions. The woman couldn't hold a job - let alone take care of herself for any length of time - so her husband ended up divorcing her. While Steinem has made it clear that she doesn't blame her father for leaving, years of being forced to care for her mother opened her eyes to many of the injustices women faced and still face, such as constrictive gender stereotypes and horrifically low wages.

Since her unintentional "aha" moment all those decades ago, Steinem has become an irrefutable force with a list of achievements ten miles long. She co-founded Ms. Magazine, the first magazine written exclusively by women, for women. She campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment, and many other laws that would seek to destroy gender discrimination. She's appeared in every major magazine from Newsweek, to Time, to People, to Parade, and has been a major contributing factor in introducing the feminist agenda to a larger audience. She was arrested in 1984 for protesting apartheid in South Africa (which, like our nation’s own bought of racial segregation in the early-to-mid 1900's, is the forced separation of people based on ancestry), and has worked closely with countless organizations such as the Women's Media Center, Equality Now, Choice USA, the National Women's Political Caucus, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and First Peoples Worldwide.

When did she find time to breathe, I wonder?

To think that one woman - no, one person - accomplished all this is just mind-boggling. For a split second it makes me think "and what have YOU accomplished, Danielle?" but then I realize I still have another seventy or eighty years (keep your fingers crossed!) to follow in Steinem's footsteps. She is such an inspiration: it's one thing to be a loud, proud feminist nowadays when there are hundreds of thousands of women to back you up, but it was something entirely different to be a progressive (some would say "radical") feminist in an era when the woman's place was undisputedly in the home. I admire Steinem for her courage to stand up when few others did, for her ambition to take on the world without letting sexist stereotypes or expectations deter her, and for the fact that, even now, she doesn't give a flying fig about what people think of her.

When one thinks of our nation’s earliest pioneers of women's rights, they may think of the iconic Sister Suffragette made famous in the 1964 film Mary Poppins: prim, proper, middle-aged, white. While the suffragettes of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s did do unbelievable things for our country, Steinem took women's liberation a step further by grabbing feminist stereotypes by the horns. She chose to study politics in lieu of marriage and raising a family, showing that women are capable of making it on their own. She was one of the first people to tackle traditionally taboo subjects such as domestic violence, abortion, and genital mutilation, and gained a cult following for her insightful journalist pieces on said topics. She even used humor to deny (and perhaps stun) those who believed feminists are all stuffy, hairy hags who sit around drinking tea and thinking up what to complain about next. “Gloria Steinem” and “Women’s Liberation” are almost synonymous; Steinem is a pioneer, role model, and modern-day Superwoman.

If I’ve learned anything from Gloria Steinem, it’s simply to accept yourself for who you are. I mean, after claiming the feminist label a million thoughts ran through my mind: what will people think of me? What will my friends say, or my parents? Will people look at me differently in the future? Will they understand? It was almost as if my entire success as a feminist was dependent on how others viewed me. Isn’t that messed up? But after reading about Steinem and her amazing history, I knew she never cared about what people thought about her. Whether they worshipped her, mocked her, exalted her, or despised her, it had absolutely nothing to do with who she was as a person. So, in a way, Gloria Steinem has helped me to accept myself for who I am, and simply be.

Works Cited

"Gloria Steinem Biography." A&E Television Networks. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.

"GLORIA STEINEM." Web. 28 Sept. 2010.

"Gloria Steinem." The Women's Conference - Empowerment, Inspiration and Education for Women - The Home for Architects of Change. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.

"The Official Website of Author and Activist Gloria Steinem - Groups." The Official Website of Author and Activist Gloria Steinem. Gloria Steinem. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.

"Women of the Hall." National Women's Hall of Fame. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Jewish? And feminist? Did I hear you right?"

No, I'm not Jewish. But a good friend of mine is, and when I posed the question "can feminism and religion truly coexist?" she was the first person to step up to the plate.

I consider myself a Unitarian Universalist, humanitarian, secular humanist - whatever you want to call it - so I know next to nothing about the inner mechanations of the major world religions. I wanted to write about feminism and Christianity, feminism and Islam, feminism and Buddhism (and so on), but it would be pretty hypocritical/stupid of me to try to write when I'm not "on the inside," if that makes sense.

Here to speak on behalf of Judaism is my good friend Talia, authoress of a blog cleverly titled Star of Davida. Talia describes herself as "A loudmouth, opinionated teenage Femidox (feminist Orthodox) Jew with a love of unadulterated Judaism, a fascination with her people's historical women, and way too much time on her hands," so you can bet her blog is worth checking out!

Here's what she said in response to my question:

"In June, someone asked me what my summer plans were. 'Well, I’m going to work on my Jewish feminist blog Star of Davida,' I replied. The person I was talking to looked confused. I could tell he was holding back from saying, 'Jewish? And feminist? Did I hear you right?'

It’s a reaction I’ve gotten from quite a few people; no one seems to be able to comprehend an Orthodox Jewwho’s also a feminist. I find it kind sad that Judaism, a religion that is so feminist, has been labeled as a patriarchal, sexist religion when it’s really not. The Torah, the central holy book of Judaism, continually affirms women’s equality.

When the Jews were given the Torah, God said to Moses, “So shall you say to the House of Jacob and the Children of Israel” (Exodus 19:3). The term “Children of Israel” is how the Bible refers to the Jewish nation, so commentators question the seemingly-extra “House of Jacob.” Most explain that “House of Jacob” refers to the women, while “Children of Israel” refers to the men. The commentators (who lived in medieval communities not famed for being pro-feminist) next question why it puts the women before the men.
At Creation, God created Adam and told him not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. God then created Eve, but did not tell her to abstain from the Tree directly, leaving it to Adam to pass on the message. The snake was then able to convince Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, Eve convinced Adam, and the two were expelled from the Garden of Eden.

Seeing how it didn’t work out so well when God didn’t command womankind, God made up for it and commanded the women first at the giving of the Torah. It worked this time: when Moses didn’t come down from Mount Sinai on the expected date and the Jews created the Golden Calf as his replacement, the women didn’t participate.

This is one example of many in Judaism that shows that neither men nor women should have supremacy. Having ovaries does not make someone less of a person, and Judaism is fully aware of the fact. God wants equality for all people, of any gender, race, or religion."

Well, what's your opinion? Can feminism and religion truly coexist? Whether you're Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, athiest, agnostic, or a Unitarian like me, send me your answers! I'd love to hear from you and publish your thoughts in an upcoming post, along with your name, blog, and anything else you'd like to promote. Check out the submission rules here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pat Robertson's NOPE (Parody of Obama's HOPE)

Here's a little piece I whipped up for my AP Language and Composition class. We're studying parodies . . . but I was totally serious when I made this. *laughs* Pat Robertson is my nemesis, and I kid you not, that's exactly what I said during my presentation! My teacher really appreciated that.

Here are some lovely videos of Pat Robertson, well, just bein' himself!

Pat Robertson Being Himself
Pat Robertson . . ."Blessing in Disguise"
Falwell and Robertson . . . After 9/11

Make sure you watch the last one. Ol' Patty is talking with a guy who claims feminism is "an alternative lifestyle," and that we (and "the abortionists") caused God to punish us with the 9/11 attacks.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I'm Back (Kind Of . . . )

Hey everybody! It's been a while since my last post, so I thought I owed you all an explanation. I've been back at school for about a month now, and boy, it doesn't get any easier, does it? My routine has basically been waking up 6:00, going to school, getting home at around 5:30, taking a nap, doing homework until the wee hours of the morning, crashing, and then starting the cycle all over again. In short, I haven't had much time to relax, let alone write.

Though I don't think I'll be cranking out epics anytime soon, I thought up a pretty ingenious plan. To make school a little more bearable, I've been bringing my passions (i.e. read the rest of this blog) into the classroom. A week or two ago we had to write an article as if we were a "muckraker" back in the late 1800's exposing a dire issue; I wrote about women's rights. In my Interpersonal Relationships class we had to do a presentation on "someone we admire"; I did mine on Gloria Steinem. Even today we were assigned to write a satirical piece on a current societal issue; my topic is abortion. I figure: when given a choice, I'll relate my schoolwork to the issues that I actually care about, and then I can just post 'em up on here! Genius, pure genius . . .

On an unrelated note, I'm extremely excited for Real Beauty Revolution this year. For those of you who don't know, I started at club called Real Beauty Revolution at my high school, and it's for anyone who's interested in gender equality, body image, media stereotypes, relationships, self-esteem . . . you know, the juicy stuff. Though I've been having a heckuva time getting the word out, I think the club has had a good start. We only had about ten people at our first meeting (half of which were my friends, so they don't really count!), but it was really intense. We did some of the activities from If You Really Knew Me and saw that, wow, we're all dealing with crap in our lives. We talked about how people at school never stop to get to know the real us - that we're always stuck in a reputation, an image - but we're so much more than that. The first meeting saw a lot of tears, but I think that's so important in getting people to realize RBR is a safe place to talk, and vent, and most importantly, encourage one another.

We had our second meeting yesterday and I am ecstatic to report that we had almost twenty people attend! Our discussion topic for the day was "true beauty," so we looked at ridiculous ads that try to tell us how we "should" look. Bigger breasts. Plastic surgery. Virtually no fat cells. It's exhausting to be a women sometimes when we're tirelessly bombarded with these messages, but we don't have to let them control us.
Next, we wrote our fears and insecurities on balloons and stomped on 'em . . . it was really fun and loud. I only hoped the administrators didn't come running into the breezeway thinking shots were being fired *smiles*

Anyway, that's my life right now. School, homework, Real Beauty Revolution. I'll try to write some original pieces in the near future when I actually get some free time, but for right now you'll have to settle for recycled History and English assignments!
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