‘I’m 81 and still introduced as an ex-bunny girl, it was a bad career move.’ Gloria Steinem must have related this anecdote herself many times. The association with the identity of Playboy Bunny which Steinem assumed for her expose ‘The Bunny’s Tale” in 1963, has lingered throughout her life. It’s associations superseded the accomplishments of the professional journalist and temporarily stalled her career.
The wide gold hipster belt she wears is reminiscent of the sixties, the decade in which the activist came to international attention as a leader of the feminist movement. Her light brown hair is thick, casually styled. She is chic in black jumper and flared trousers. This is what 81 is and it looks good. Informed and articulate. Reflective and forward thinking.
She discusses the systemic causes of the attempts to control female reproduction and bodies. Women in Native American and pre-Christian societies in Europe and Africa controlled their own reproduction. There were no definitions of gender as we have now. People were people. We should support everyone’s right to be themselves. Everything is connected to aggression against women. It is an indicator of a country’s propensity for military aggression.
The media shapes perceptions of people and movements. In the US the feminist movement is often characterised as white and middle class. In reality it was supported by 30% of white women and 60% of African American women. The civil rights movement was led by college educated Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael but it was not depicted as a graduate movement. The media like to divide issues. Even though the civil rights and feminist movements developed simultaneously, with cross membership, they are presented as separate and discrete but that is not the reality.
The United States is about to cease being a majority white European country, the first non-white generation has been born. Now the right view the white race as committing suicide through contraception and abortion. Until the 1970s the Republicans were pro-choice, but when the Democrats became more racially inclusive, the racist Southern Democrats joined the Republicans. JFK had to convince the electorate that his presidency would not mean rule by the Roman Catholic Church but sixty years later religion is openly driving political policy on the right. There’s a need to decouple the attachment of religion to governance.
Steinem is a supporter of Hillary Clinton, but not on grounds of gender alone, she would not be supporting Sarah Palin. It’s not about electing one woman, but about making life better for all women. It’s about content. She acknowledges that Senator Sanders is good on issues such as college debt which attracts young white women, but Hillary has the support of the majority of Latino and African American women. She has got to win. Diversity will save us.
My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
Asked for advice by a member of the audience Steinem responds, ‘Don’t walk around saying, “What if?”‘
This morning I heard Rick Wakeman saying that his friend, David Bowie, could not abide “could’ves” . ‘I could’ve done this, I could’ve done that.’
This is the lesson from today 22 February 2016.
If you think you can, then do it. Don’t ever say, what if?