Out of a variety of inequality types existing, gender discrimination is probably the most aggravating one. Historically, women used to be considered as a weaker sex, and up until recently, they were not allowed to participate in political, social, and economic affairs at the same level and to the same extent as men. Even nowadays, some females suffer from a gender pay gap in many offices or experience discomfort at being treated as merely beautiful adornments to their husbands.
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However, for the majority of women, the situation changed considerably after the initiation of the suffrage movement in the 19th century, which found its reflection in the women’s rights movement of the 20th and 21st centuries. One of the most prominent and inspiring activists of the latter is Gloria Steinem. Steinem is a feminist, a liberation leader, and a role model for many women whose right to equality she has been defending ardently for many years.
Steinem’s activity as a female rights activist began in 1960 when the USA started to be involved in a new wave of feminism. Numerous speeches, writings, and programs prepared by Gloria allowed her to challenge “many of society’s injustices” (Attebury 13). Through her active participation in the feminist movement, Steinem succeeded in highlighting the miseries of those living “on society’s fringes” (Attebury 13).
Despite other important achievements, such as fighting for professional and racial equality, Steinem has become most recognized for her work on defending women’s rights. Many people consider it Gloria’s accomplishment that a modern girl can grow up “to become anything she wants to be” (Attebury 13). While Steinem is one of the pioneers of the women’s rights movement, she was not the first one in her family to be a radical feminist.
Gloria’s paternal grandmother, Pauline, used to be an ardent supporter of women’s right to vote. Pauline was born in Poland, and she insisted on going to school despite her parents’ objections (Wittekind 21). She moved to the USA in 1887 after getting married, and there, she served as a leader in various community groups and organizations. It is possible to assume that the eagerness to help the less fortunate was inherited by Gloria from her grandmother. Another reason for the girl’s obsession with freedom was the lifestyle led by her family, the father of which enjoyed living on the road rather than staying in a conventional house (Marcello 11). Thus, Steinem’s determination to be independent and gain the same privilege for many others was nurtured in her since childhood.
Steinem became known as a fighter for females’ rights in her thirties. In 1968, when she was 34, Gloria attended the Democratic National Presidential Convention. In the next year, she became a “staunch” feminist after participating in the abortion speak-out (Marcello xiv). After these events, there was the acquaintance of Shirley Chisholm and Bella Abzug, who became her loyal colleagues and friends (Marcello 114). However, the most famous of them was Steinem, who was known for her refusal to tolerate inequality and the use of radical methods to prove her position.
Gloria realized the unfairness of men’s treatment of women at an early age when she saw how doctors dismissed her mother’s evident mental illness. The activist worked on topics that were not commonly discussed at the time. In 1962, she wrote about contraception, which became available to all females only in about a decade (Karbo). She spoke of abortions long before the topic was legally allowed to discuss. Steinem realized that race and class tended to “double and triple the degree of oppression” experienced by females (Karbo). She shared her own stories of not being trusted by landlords to rent an apartment due to being a woman. Most of all, however, Gloria pitied women of color since they realized that their sufferings were much more intense than those of white females.
While working for the Show magazine, Steiner participated in one of the most renowned undercover experiments, which she described in an article called “A Bunny’s Tale.” Gloria wanted to show how unbearably difficult life is for women working for Hugh Hefner at his Playboy Club (Marcello 79). Steiner described the terrible costumes females had to wear, which were accompanied by push-ups to make bosom look bigger.
There were also high heels which made one’s feet swollen by the end of the shift, Bunny ears, and a white cotton puff for a tail (Marcello 79). However, the outfit was not the worst part of the job. What Steinem wanted to show was the “pitfalls of the seemingly glamorous life” (Marcello 79). Bunnies were constantly sexually harassed, and men seemed not to consider them as human beings but rather as their toys. Gloria’s account of the experience raised a wave of fury among women, more and more of whom realized they were ready to defend their rights.
Throughout her long life, Gloria has initiated and participated in a vast number of activities aimed at gaining equality for both sexes in society. One of the most productive attempts was the initiation of the Ms. magazine, which was used for proclaiming her positions, as well as those of her supporters (Karbo). Steinem has traveled much, spreading the word on women’s rights and participating in conventions, meetings, and conferences.
She has published several books and has received awards for her achievements, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 (Keppeler 23). Steinem is considered a “difficult woman” with her own classic “cool, calm, and witty” tone (Karbo). This woman has experienced many difficulties, but her enormous strength helped her overcome all of them.
One of Gloria’s features, which is usually treated as a benefit for a woman, is her beauty. For being too pretty, she used to be dismissed in many endeavors, including magazine founding, political activism, and investigative journalism (Karbo). However, it would not have been Gloria if she had given up, so she kept working on reaching her goals persistently and efficiently. Having spent many decades of dedicated work on attaining equal rights for women, Steinem became “the face” and “the voice” of feminism (Karbo).
Faludi mentioned that “there is only one Gloria, and someone with her combination of conviction, wit, smarts, and grace under fire doesn’t come along every day” (qtd. in Hepola). Indeed, Steinem is a unique personality whose contribution to the improvement of society’s core views on femininity cannot be overestimated.
The modern world has made many achievements in various spheres, including technology, medicine, and science. However, some crucial social aspects that have been bothering societies for centuries still have not found their complete resolution. Gender equality is one of such issues, and Gloria Steinem is one of the most dedicated activists of the movement for women’s rights. Remembering her efforts gives strengths and inspiration to new generations of activists.
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Attebury, Nancy Garhan. Gloria Steinem: Champion of Women’s Rights. Compass Point Books, 2006.
Hepola, Sarah. “Gloria Steinem, a Woman Like No Other.” The New York Times. 2012. Web.
Karbo, Karen. “How Gloria Steinem Became the ‘World’s Most Famous Feminist’.” National Geographic. 2019. Web.
Keppeler, Jill. Inside the Women’s Rights Movement. Gareth Stevens Publishing, 2018.
Marcello, Patricia Cronin. Gloria Steinem: A Biography. Greenwood Press, 2004.
Wittekind, Erika. Gloria Steinem: Women’s Liberation Leader. ABDO Publishing Company, 2011.