Your insipid blogger is NOT objectifying today – because today is Gloria Steinem’s 80th birthday and somehow, it seems like I ought to be paying a little less attention to the appreciation of youthful depilated pectorals and more to the gifts given of well-aged, seasoned souls and intellects like Ms. Steinem (80) and Stephen Sondheim (84) and my very own Mom (86); AND, I have a few more words to say about someone MUCH YOUNGER – who continues to fight the fight and march the march toward equality and freedom, young Taylor Ellis – who I first wrote about HERE.
Gloria Steinem [CLICK HERE FOR HER OFFICIAL WEBSITE] turns 80 years old today. I would not be who I am and this world in which we live would not be what it is were it not for Ms. Steinem.
This salute to Ms. Steinem by Gail Collins (age 68) in the Sunday New York Times called This Is What 80 Looks Like [CLICK HERE TO READ] is a beautiful reminder and/or precis about Ms. Steinem. Now that I am of a certain age, I am frequently shocked that those NOT yet a certain age are blissfully unaware of and disinterested in that time before the title and magazine MS. [CLICK HERE for magazine website] were a part of our culture, before feminism. I was, once upon a time, offended and angered by their determined ignorance, but now, I am ashamed and horrified.
And afraid. As Ms. Steinem has said when asked what she thinks about the progress made in these past few decades;
If I’d been trying to imagine this time 30 or 35 years ago, I think I would have been surprised that we have majority support on pretty much all of the issues now. In the beginning, we were so subject to ridicule — even to the charge that we were going against nature — that to see majorities in public opinion polls now would have been a big surprise. However, given that, I would have been surprised that we have such a disastrous administration with such anti-women and war-loving policies. I guess 35 years ago, I thought we had more of a democracy than we actually do. Majority support doesn’t help unless the majority is active and votes – but the opposition minority votes a much greater proportion, so we often lose by a narrow margin.
Yes. However, I would add that while I am gratified by all the changes and the progress, by the ways in which it has gotten better, I am also saddened by the size of the fearful backlash and the grip that ignorance, hate, and fear have gotten on such a lot of people’s minds and hearts. I am saddened that a so-called “major political party” has become the tool of financial interests interested only in amassing more and more power for fewer and fewer people. These scions of finance and entitlement have calculated that viciously exploiting class-based fear and ignorance would distract the proletariat from their real fortune/power-grabbing agenda. They were right. It did. However, their efforts to usurp democracy and undermine its spirit and heart has resulted in the creation of a hate-class – as embodied by the Tea Party and rabid-religionists like the Westboro Baptist Church and born-agains who claim to care about god and culture – but who are really operating out of hatred of anyone “not them” – having been convinced that the problems in this country are about those “others” demanding equality and un-doing tradition, when, in fact, the trouble of cultural decline is mostly an invented distraction, an illusion promulgated by the tools of those few multi-national powers with loyalty only to the mighty dollar; powerful interests who have no interest in nor obligation to any country, any people, any principles at all except “GET MORE.”
We are all their dupes. There is enough for everyone. Enough dollars. Enough freedom. Enough love. Enough equality.
Gloria Steinem is 80 today. We owe her and ourselves and the children who were not around before the work Ms. Steinem and all her cohorts did won us all the measure of equality we have gained. But, at the same time, women still earn less than men. For women of color, it is even worse.
Gloria Steinem should be a part of the curriculum in every classroom. As should Harvey Milk – who would be 84 had he not been assassinated. But, they are not part of every school’s core curriculum. Neither, it seems, speaking of people in their 80’s – is Stephen Sondheim a part of every child’s education. The greatest living composer, the re-shaper of musical theatre, and many young people have never heard of him, have never – in fact – learned about the indigenous American art form of the musical.
So, I salute them here; these 80-somethings. And I add to the list my very own Mother, who raised six children on her own – six very difficult and crazy children. To her and all of these icons I promise – I will remember them and remind those younger than myself about their work, their struggle, their fight to pave the paths that have given me – all of us – the freedoms we have to be, to imagine, to explore, to OBJECT.
Speaking of which: On March 21 I first wrote about Taylor Ellis, [READ IT HERE] who was denied his equality because he is a gay youth, and was speaking up and reaching out. I Tweeted it quite a bit – reaching out to famous people with a wider reach than I had (many of whom ignored it, I am sorry to say) – and nagged people to spread the word and to write to Master Ellis’ school administrator. That charming young man – far from his 80’s – took the time to write to me and say thank-you. Courageous and well-bred and polite. I have hope for the world. And the future.