Sunday, August 19, 2012

The accomplishments of Gloria Steinem?

While preparing to write the other article on Gloria Steinem, we (Ava and C.I.) spoke with a number of second wave and third wave feminists to see what points they'd want noted.  All agreed that Gloria needed to clean up her own mess and not leave it to feminists to take care of after she's gone.  A large number also wanted to offer that Gloria accomplished nothing other than getting press.

Press is not a minor thing.  "But if you're really going to tell the truth," one second-waver said, "you need to offer the fact that Gloria is not and was not embraced by all at any point during the second wave.  She is to feminism as Madonna is to music.  The Restockings may have taken their issues with her public but they were far from alone in questioning Gloria and in seeing weakness in her 'strategies'."

Ah, yes, the Redstockings.  In their disagreements with Gloria, they infamously demanded she answer charges about being a CIA agent.  These charges caused huge rifts in the movement and destroyed an experimental woman's college.  That's not their fault.


Gloria had, she herself admits, traveled on CIA money while in college.  If she traveled on the money, then she did so because she was reporting back -- a fact she's never acknowledged.  The CIA isn't a travel agency with charity grants.  If it pays for your travel, it does so because it wants information.

Did she continue to work for the CIA after college?

That was at the heart of the Redstockings' charge -- one that Betty Friedan popularized by telling the press, "Now I'm not going to take questions about Gloria Steinem being a CIA agent,"  telling the press that when they hadn't even raised the issue.

Gloria denies it and has denied it repeatedly.   Unless someone has proof otherwise, it's not really worth pursuing and it distracts from a larger question: Is Gloria working effectively for women?

That's at the heart of the continued disappointment with Gloria Steinem.

The other Gloria Steinem article this edition notes:

See Veronica Geng's "Requiem for the women's movement," the November 1976 cover story of Harper's.  And for a take on 1972 that paints Gloria as a sell-out to women, see Germaine Greer's "McGovern, the big tease" from the October 1972 issue of Harper's.

If you work from Greer's article to the present, you're left with a pattern that speaks of no accomplishments.  If you view Gloria's actions as a sell-out, as Greer did, then you're left with a record of no accomplishments for women -- though Gloria herself can point to several best sellers for herself.

Greer argues that Gloria (and Bella Abzug) kept abortion off the party's platform by refusing to support feminist Jacqui Ceballo's call.  Though happy to paint Shirley MacLaine as preventing her own efforts at getting abortion on the platform, Gloria's refused to address Greer's article.

If Greer's article is correct (and this is still debated as we learned via various phone calls for the other article), it demonstrates that Gloria is little more than a tool to the patriarchy.  It demonstrates that that's all she's ever been.

The women's movement resulted in major successes and major changes.  Gloria's really not connected to any of that.  She herself has nothing to do with the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 (and is only crowned co-leader -- with Betty -- by the media in 1972).

What has she fought for, what has she won?

There's nothing.  Again, she authored some best selling books.  She popularized the term "feminist" and she became the face of it American house holds.

But she hasn't accomplished a damn thing for women.

If Greer's argument is correct, in 1972, to help the Democratic Party, she refused to fight for the rights of women, she reused to encourage others to fight.  If Greer's argument is correct, in 1972, America first saw what was Gloria's pattern.

What has she ever demanded for women in all the years of her fame?

She's an apologist for the patriarchy.

Abortion rights have been decimated under her 'leadership.'  Instead of fighting to expand them, she's stage futile protests against completely chipping away at what women have the right to.

That's all she's done on any issue for American women.

For a woman who's spent the last thirty years insisting she was going to get even more radical as she aged, we're left with a woman who's never pushed a radical thing in her life.

The rights won by the second wave were won by women who weren't afraid and weren't trying to get in bed with powerful men (we mean "in bed" politically, but, yes, it is true that Gloria's slept with a number of questionable males that a so-called leader of feminism should have avoided).

They were won by women who put women first.  Gloria's not done that.

She won't do a damn thing to help women.

October 8, 2006, this site published "Are You On CounterSpin's Guest List?"  which covered how FAIR's weekly radio program presented 36 male guests over a six month period but only 13 women.  Gloria did nothing.  Gloria's on FAIR's advisory board.   At the end of 2007, we published "The Nation featured 491 male bylines in 2007 -- how many female ones?" (Answer: 149.) Where was Gloria?

Afraid to challenge the patriarchy, afraid to upset the boys and the queen bees.  Unwilling to challenge.   (And her refusal to take on those who attack her is not noble.  The Nation wrote another screed against her.  A long time ago, she should have said "enough" and, at this point, her actions do not speak to women's strength but, it may be argued, condone silence in the face of violence.)

And that's why a number of feminists -- even her contemporaries -- don't feel she's accomplished much as she enters her sixth decade in the public eye.

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