A Difficult Woman: Gloria Steinem
Starting this blog has been a long time coming. This idea was handed to me almost 6 months ago and I’ll be honest, I was skeptical. I feel like nowadays, if it’s too long for an Instagram caption no one is going to read it. But over the last several weeks I’ve felt a yearning to share on a larger platform that goes beyond Instagram and social media. Today, I am proud to announce the launch of our company blog! To celebrate Women’s History Month, we are going to highlight a select group of women and tell their stories in a new way. No, we won’t be writing a summary of their lives in 100 words or less, and I have no desire to give you the same information you can get from skimming Wikipedia for 30 seconds. I want these posts to share thoughtful stories and insights of women who have paved the way (and taken the hits) for progress– specifically, progress for women.
So today, I’d like to share a quote by Gloria Steinem from a 1998 article in New York Magazine (which she founded). “There was one postcard I used to keep on my wall at Ms. It was like poetry; it had everything in it. It said, ‘Now that I have read your magazine, I know for sure that you are a commie, lesbian, long-haired dyke, witch, slut, who dates negroids.’ And then the finish: ‘Isn’t that just like a Jew’. They assumed I was Jewish, because they thought feminism was a Jewish plot to divide the Christian family.”
Now, I share this quote to highlight the constant backlash Gloria faced (and continues to face) in her work. While scrolling through her social media feeds, I was struck by the sexism and death threats that filled her comments and mentions. We could go down a number of rabbit holes on that subject alone but I’ll stay on topic by saying this: Gloria Steinem is no stranger to childish name-calling. Her fight for women’s rights and equality is loud, it's in your face, and it has completely reshaped the way we talk about the equality between men and women (that’s the definition of feminism, by the way).
Gloria is a strong woman. I’d like to think that I could be strong like her, but in all honesty I don’t know. I’m troubled by the idea that the louder a feminist is, the crueler the name-calling gets. I don’t have as large a platform as Gloria Steinem, so the sexist name-calling and death threats are non-existent (at least that I know of). But I and– I feel that I can safely say– the majority of women are instead labeled with words like emotional, aggressive, loud, dramatic, bossy, hysterical… you get the picture. Both growing up and in my adult life I’ve been called all of these names multiple times by peers, “friends”, family, even a few guys I dated. And the norm for us as women is to accept these as insults, then work as hard as we can to not ruffle any feathers or, God forbid, vocalize our opinions about anything.
But now I’ve come to embrace these words, not as insults, but as signals of progress. Change is not something most people welcome. So when people call me “bossy” or “aggressive”, what they’re actually saying is “stay in your lane,” because I’m starting to cross some arbitrary boundary that’s been set for women. Like Gloria Steinem hanging up that postcard on her wall, I want to be someone who wears those words proudly. Embracing it, instead of cowering from it, makes me stronger. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll even be as strong as Gloria Steinem.