“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” — Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem is perhaps the world’s best known feminist of the past few decades. Her activism and insights have helped to propel the cause of equality here in the States and across the world. While her message has been consistent and intelligent, her wisdom has grown with her as the the world evolves, social landscapes shift, and the internet opens us all to other cultures who face similar battles for equality.
This book is, as the title states, a collection of essays she’s written over the course of her long and storied career. The first part deals with a detailed examination and repudiation of Sigmund Freud through the character of his fictitious feminine counterpart. From there, the topics range from female body builders to advertising to economics and beyond to the true costs of gender inequality and the devastation it has wrought on our societies and on our planet as a whole.
I’ll be the first to admit that, in the best ways possible, I am truly gobsmacked by the power, intensity, and depth of this book. I knew on some level it was going to be like that, but it’s one thing to have expectations, and it’s another thing completely to experience. There is a reason Steinem is respected. She’s a woman of integrity, passion, and incredible intellect, and she has claimed for herself a bully pulpit from which to offer her fearless views. It’s been an uphill battle that resonates as true today as it has in any ages past. What is her view? That instead of domination, the battle of the sexes ends with cooperation and understanding.
From my viewpoint, backed by my own understanding of both history and personal experience, there is only one fight that has ever marched consistently forward and is always breaking new ground. To be on the wrong side of it is to be on the wrong side of history. It really is just that simple. I speak of civil rights. From the beginning of recorded history, through the Middle Ages, and into the present day, the fight for equality — be it gender, race, class, or any other tag that can be used to divide and discriminate — is the one fight that always wins in the end, no matter how hard the opposition fights back. The arguments and insights that Steinem brings forward in this collection bears this out. Any argument for the defense of any discriminated people can be extrapolated out for the defense for any other group. It’s all the same fight, the quest for equality, to be acknowledged and respected rather than marginalized and subverted.
Ultimately, the best I can say is that Steinem’s message is one we all need to hear. It goes beyond identity politics and dog whistle authoritarianism. It’s a message that our younger generations are figuring out for themselves in spite of the governments, the markets, and the status quo. This brings me some hope. What brings me more hope is that this collection provides some rather everyday means by which everyday people can be a part of the resistance. Little actions and every dollar spent in the name of personal values sends the message and creates seismic shifts in the societal consciousness. It proves none of us are as powerless as we might be led to believe in any given moment. Imagine what might be possible if more people acted in accordance with their core values from a foothold of respect and humanity. Dare to dream.