While Newsweek mocks Michele Bachmann as a crazy “Queen of Rage” on this week’s cover, and Lois Romano in the cover story suggests she’s too submissive a wife, there’s also an article in the very same issue that champions 77-year-old radical feminist Gloria Steinem. She’s apparently the Queen of Cool.
Writer Nancy Hass insists that Bachmann and Sarah Palin “wouldn’t be riling up the Tea Party faithful had Steinem not paved their way out of the kitchen,” and yet Steinem “sees them as inevitable, as was (ERA opponent) Phyllis Schlafly at an earlier time.” Steinem proclaimed: “You know what you’re saying is important when the power structure brings in people who look like you and think like them.”
Hass began with the utterly cliched point that today’s women don’t have enough appreciation of all the wonderful liberation Steinem accomplished for them:
Mention the name Gloria Steinem to many women under 30, and if there is a flash of recognition at all, they put her in Florence Nightingale’s league—an admirable figure from the history books. To them, feminism was a war won before they were born, the miniskirted 1970s revolution that freed their mothers and grandmothers from drudgery and discrimination, paving the way for their own generation’s unfettered freedom.
So put Steinem’s face on the Statue of Liberty. (Newsweek doesn’t think it a bit sick to pair the heroic nurse Nightingale with a feminist who fervently believes in killing unwanted unborn children, but then they seem to admire Steinem more.) Hass also condemned the media for ignoring this historical giant: “The media haven’t paid her much attention in the past 15 years (so many Kardashians, so little time), but the woman who has been the enduring face of feminism for nearly half a century insists her hands are as full as ever.”
But wait, the liberal media are still promoting Steinem. The hook for this profile is a new HBO documentary, which even Hass admitted is a puff piece:
The film glosses over the more difficult issues, to be sure: Steinem’s romantic relationships with influential men (JFK adviser Ted Sorensen, director Mike Nichols, media mogul Mort Zuckerman) that, to carping critics, undermined her “of the people” image; her decision not to have children; the 1990s backlash against the “political correctness” she was blamed for fomenting; how her father’s obesity engendered in her an almost pathological fear of food that continues to this day.
On vivid display are the strengths that Steinem shows in person: her soothing tenacity and lack of ego, her rejection of pretentious academic language, a marathoner’s even keel, her skill as a popularizer of difficult ideas. With her sloe-eyed glance and easy manner, she was sometimes accused by more radical feminists during the 1970s and ’80s of being overly conciliatory. But her use of the carrot as well as the stick was undeniably effective in making the message palatable.
Hass reports that Steinem was ahead of the curve in seeing the women’s liberation struggle as an international battle, not just an American issue. Steinem clearly sees a link between male chauvinism and terrorism:
“But then you have Anders Breivik,” the Norwegian man who massacred 77 people in late July. “He was clearly motivated by woman-hating and the cult of masculinity. His own manifesto made super-clear that he hated his mother and stepmother for being feminists and `feminizing’ him, that feminists made `men not men anymore.’ How far have we come if that part of it barely got any coverage?”
Seen in this light, sexism even caused September 11:
Yet post-9/11, even Americans have come around to her belief that it is folly to ignore repression abroad. Much of Mohamed Atta’s rage came from being “ridiculed by this authoritarian lawyer father who told him that even his older sisters were more masculine than he,” she says. “He became addicted to proving his masculinity. How clear is that?”
In previous profiles, Newsweek found Steinem a little too tame for their tastes. Writer Laura Shapiro openly rooted for Steinem to cast aside “moderation” in the June 20, 1994 issue:
“In an essay on turning 60, Steinem writes: `I’m looking forward to trading moderation for excess’ — which is good news. And there’s a precedent. In 1895 [Elizabeth Cady] Stanton finally published a book she had been planning for many years: a roaring attack on the Bible for its misogyny. The book was a best seller, the horrified suffrage association voted to censure her and to Stanton’s pleasure, `the clergy jumped around…like parched peas on a hot shovel.’ She was 80. Now that’s a feminist.”