When I was a little girl growing up I had one goal: to get out of Missouri. Movies were my escape, cliché as it may sound. The darkness of the theatre and the largeness of the images allowed me to dream and travel far beyond the trappings of where I was born. I viscerally believed I had things to say that people really needed to hear. I was going to make a difference in my little universe. And I was going to expand beyond that to somehow be a message maven.
By the time high school came I appreciated what a difficult dream I had, but reality never stopped me. That’s because I got my footing in the age of Gloria. You know, Steinem. It’s all Gloria’s fault that freedom and my own hell-bent passion to live my life exactly as I wanted became a wild, unexpected adventure, where curiosity and exploration replaced security. I write that with gratitude and a smile.
Ms. Magazine arrived in 1971, with the preview issue selling over 300,000 copies, according to New York Magazine. Harry Reasoner of ABC News infamously said, “I’ll give it six months before they run out of things to say.” According to White House audiotapes (1972), President Richard Nixon said, “For shit’s sake, how many people really have read Gloria Steinem and give one shit about that?” Turns out a lot of women cared a whole lot about what Gloria Steinem was doing. We still do. It’s just that somewhere along the line when her foes couldn’t “beat” her they brazenly hijacked the meaning of the revolution.
Opponents campaigned against feminism suggesting it was all that ailed women, made us unhappy, ruined our relationships. It began to be dissected into “post-feminism,” first-, second-, and third-wave movements, with the latest supposedly setting women free from having to identify with feminism at all. You probably won’t be surprised that I reject this nonsense.
The continued practice of female genital mutilation in the world is enough to validate the need for fury and the feminist outcry. As long as child brides are in vogue in some cultures our job is not done. “Our job” being the work of feminists – both women and men. Feminism in its purest form is not exclusionary, but is driven by women whose voices add another octave to the cause of equality that will never be finished until all women and girls have a say in their own lives, their country and a place in leadership, too.
Feminist men stand beside the women they love and respect, supporting journeys to manifest our dreams that go beyond traditional norms. I can talk about this with authority not just because I’ve been a relationship consultant for a large metropolitan newspaper and excavated the worlds of relationship and sex, but because without my husband standing beside me what I’ve manifested artistically, as a writer and thinker, wouldn’t have been as fun, as easy, or nearly as rich.
That’s why this year with a gracious and grateful nod to Gloria it’s time to add a new woman to the list of female revolutionaries who are helping women to carve broader paths and have richer lives, without sacrificing what makes life so thrilling.
Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg devised “lean in,” making the case that women needed to have the courage to step up and lead. The uproar was sonic, reverberating through the feminist ranks, which hasn’t stopped since. Sandberg dared to say that even when married with children and the juggling gets tougher, women need to “lean in,” because our presence at the top is critical for full equality, which includes men getting theirs, too – which starts at home.
Encouraging men to take advantage of family leave when children are born, while women dare to expect men tell their bosses that it’s their turn to pick up the kids from school, because wifey is out of the country delivering a speech to an international financial conference in France.
Gloria Steinem said during an interview with Judy Woodruff on PBS in 2013 that, “women can’t have it all as long as we have to do it all.”
Sheryl Sandberg’s “lean in” philosophy takes the baton from Ms. Steinem, advancing and putting new emphasis in our relationship world that suggests equality isn’t just about the workplace, economics, or sexuality, but is also about the kitchen, the kids, and household chores. Not having to do it all begins with men leaning in, too.
New York’s Democratic Representative Bella Abzug stood up to declare August 26, 1971 Women’s Equality Day. It’s a celebration that marks many strides forward for women. But it’s not enough anymore to celebrate what we’ve done, because there’s still much left to do.
I will never forget what Gloria Steinem meant to the world I was battling as a renegade female who didn’t want the traditional things and dared to say I deserve to get whatever I want if I’m willing to pay the price for them.
Sheryl Sandberg has now ventured forward saying we need to take women’s equality into our personal lives and dare to ask men to help expand our freedoms one more step, because we’re stuck where we are without them. With more women as primary breadwinners today than ever before, two income households critical to families across the country, it’s not a minor thing to mention on this important day.
Our primary relationship is the new frontier in women’s equality that holds the largest possibilities for expanding women’s satisfaction, happiness and fulfillment, but it will take all of us to expand Women’s Equality Day into our homes.
It cannot be done without the men who still run the majority of corporations and sit in the boardrooms of the biggest companies leaning in, too.