My local pro-choice reading group (oh, do you not have one of those?) is looking for an article or an essay to read for our March meeting, and in an attempt to find something, I pulled my (signed!!!!) copy of Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions off the shelf. I've had this book since I was 14, and it was written loooong before that, and somehow now, it still sings to me. A girl at the happy hour I went to this week had never heard of Gloria Steinem, and I was appalled. (I got to meet her a few years ago, and afterwards, giddy at having met my childhood hero, my friend Danny looked at me and said, "so this is like if I met both Captain Kirk and Spock?" and I said, "yes, but more awesome!") So if any of you here have never read Steinem, I'm going to embark on a campaign to fix that.
If you have never had the good fortune to hear Gloria Steinem speak, let me just say this: the woman is amazing. And what is more amazing is that she gets it. Still! She gets young feminists in a way that most 2nd wave feminist sort of don't. She has this lens through which she sees the world as both vastly different and exactly the same as when this movement started. She also has an unbelievable ability to command a room even though her voice is so quiet you almost have to strain to hear her.
If you have never read this book, you should. It's funny, because it is old, but it's not out of date. It includes some of my favorite Steinem-isms, such as, "I've yet to be on a campus where most women weren't worrying about some aspect of combining marriage, children, and a career. I've yet to find one where many men were worrying about the same thing." and "We are becoming the men we wanted to marry." as in, women used to dream about marrying doctors, and now we get to become them.
She talks about Sisterhood. "And this lack of esteem that makes us put each other down is still the major enemy of sisterhood. Women who are conforming to society's expectations view the nonconformists with understandable alarm. Those noisy, unfeminine women, they say to themselves, They will only make trouble for us all. Women who are quietly nonconforming, hoping nobody will notice, are even more alarmed, because they think they have more to lose." As a noisy, unfeminine woman, who spent most of my life making trouble for everybody else, it's interesting to think about those women who are "quietly nonconforming", the ones who judge me because I make noise about sexism and they are instead quietly fighting it by simply being twice as awesome as any man has to be, to be thought half as good, I can see why they think they have so much to lose by being grouped in with the likes of rabble like me.
In my re-reading I also found new passages that speak to me especially as an adult. This one, in particular, from Ruth's Song, about her mother. "I realize now why I've always been more touched by old people than by children. It's the talent and hopes locked up in a failing body and unsure mind that get to me - a poignant contrast that reminds me of my mother, even when she was strong." This is probably the most accurate description of why I am drawn to elder law as a field and why I feel so personally and intensely connected to so many of my clients, although in my case it's that they remind me so much of my grandmother.
She also talks about the pressure for young women to remain "flexible" - to "adapt to the career and priorities of an eventual husband and children" - I know a lot of women out there who are doing this. They are not pursuing careers they deserve, they aren't saving money, and they aren't making success happen for themselves even though they are incredible - because they are worried about either having to give up their career, or getting bogged down by it, or it not allowing them to meet interesting enough men, or for other reasons that I absolutely do not see reflected in my male friends of the same age.
Anyway, my point here is that you should go read, or re-read, yourself some Gloria Steinem, and then come back and gush with me about how much you love her.