Gloria Steinem: Life Lessons for a New Generation

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It was no easy task to convince my 11 year-old, Chloe to watch a one-hour documentary on Gloria Steinem, Monday night on HBO, but I’m glad that I did.

I wanted Chloe to learn more about the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment. However, the lessons learned far exceeded my expectations. It was the portrayal of Gloria Steinem as a brave individual that followed her passions, intellect and ideals, despite numerous obstacles, that made the entire hour worthwhile. Ms. Steinem endured hostile attacks, cruel jokes and insults yet continued to persevere as a strong and independent woman. Is there a better lesson then that for a girl about to enter her first year in junior high school?

The documentary began with a brief overview of the history of the feminist movement and then quickly moved to the 1970’s when we women were still fighting for respect, fair treatment and control over decisions relating to our own bodies. It was shocking to watch clips of well-educated men reacting with horror at the notion of women emerging as potential leaders and scoffing at the notion of calling anyone by the term Ms.

Feminism provided opportunities that are often taken for granted today.  In the late 1970’s, my own single, working mother always had a copy of Gloria Steinem’s MS. Magazine. And truthfully, I’d often felt burdened by being raised by a “women’s libber”. There were no cookies and milk waiting for me when I came home alone afterschool. In fact, there were many things that I wanted to change. After I got married and had children of my own I chose to stay at home and have taken on a mostly traditional role. However, after watching this documentary I found a deeper respect and understanding for my own mother. 

I learned that Gloria Steinem addressed issues that still affect most mothers today, whether you “stay at home” or “work.” She spoke about husbands needing to take greater household responsibilities and being equal partners.  Issues that remind me that we still have -“a long way to go.”

I strongly urge you to watch this documentary. It was an enlightening experience.  Chloe learned about challenges women have overcome which have provided her more choices for her future. What she will do with those choices is ultimately up to her. However, maybe one day she will thank me for making her watch the Gloria documentary on HBO.

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