Gloria Steinem, founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus, is one of the leading spokespersons for the feminist movement in the United States, and her witty, cogent, and vivid writing style exemplifies the vitality of the women’s movement. When she was eleven, her parents were divorced, and Steinem had to care for her mother, who apparently had a nervous breakdown. Steinem wrote of her mother in “Ruth’s Song,” in Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, viewing her as a victim of a patriarchal society. Steinem graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Smith College and pursued a career in journalism. Despite her popularity as a “feminist,” Steinem was never actually a member of any active group fighting for women’s rights.
Beginning in the 1960’s, while writing and editing for magazines and newspapers, Steinem traveled extensively, campaigning for civil rights. She also went “under cover” as a Playboy bunny to investigate the treatment and lifestyle of Hugh Hefner’s employees; his Playboy Clubs were nightclubs in which female employees dressed in bunny ears, leotards, and fuzzy tails to entertain male customers. Likewise, Steinem’s light-hearted look at the way life would change “If Men Could Menstruate” indicates her ability to poke fun at cultural stereotypes. However, she also raises questions about patriarchal religions, traditional marriage, and negative images of women.
Although Steinem never joined an active women’s rights group, she was accepted readily as a spokesperson for women’s liberation because her relatively conservative views were palatable to the mainstream media. Her article in New York magazine entitled “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation” and her money-raising talents caused the popular press to embrace her as a “voice of reason” in the women’s rights debate. McCall’s named her “Woman of the Year” in 1971. Steinem’s activism is humane, altruistic, and focused on inclusion, as she urges radical feminists to welcome more conservative,...
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