Politics – Where the Boys Are

comics sexist 1970SWScan05918

Vintage Comic Young Romance, 1970. Art by Don Heck and John Verpoorten

Due to a faux pas on Friday, a feminist icon found herself in a very politically incorrect moment.

Gloria Steinem got into hot water when she commented that young women are supporting Bernie Sanders for only one reason… to meet boys, as if the Sanders campaign was the new Tinder for millennials.

Steinem quickly apologized for the regrettable remark clarifying on Facebook that she had not meant to imply “Young women aren’t serious in their politics.”

Grateful for the clarification, it still stings a bit.

That such a retro remark worthy of a Republican could come from the mouth of a brilliant feminist was all the more ironic, because Steinem is certainly aware of the long sexist history of women activist in politics.

Politically Correct in the Sixties and Seventies

sexist comic 1970s photography

Women who were activist in the 1960 and 1970s and were subjected to sexist treatment. Young Romance May 1973

 

In the 1960s and 1970s when women were politically active they were often dismissed in the campaigns; ironic because of that very dismissal the women’s movement would grow.

In that tumultuous time of political upheaval, the presidential election of 1968 and 1972 stimulated a massive youth involvement and young women participated in droves

Did girls sign up to work for Gene McCarthy because of the abundance of cute boys or volunteer to work the mimeograph machine for McGovern because of the cool dude with James Taylor locks? Possibly, but doubtful.

Politically Incorrect…Literally

During that time, young women were thoughtfully active in the anti-war movement, the student power movement, and the civil rights movements. Within all these movements, however, women activists were denied the recognition and the responsibility that they deserved and that they had earned.

Despite their commitment and contributions they were all too often refused leadership positions, treated as second class citizens. Gender subordination was rampant. Women in campaign offices were often relegated to “female” tasks such as running the mimeograph machine, typing and fetching coffee.

Most men didn’t take the women that seriously.

Sexism

Gloria Steinem Gloria Dorothy Pitman

I Am Woman Hear Me Roar. Activists Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Photo by Dan Wynn 1970

By the middle 1960s many of these women began to react to and organize responding to the contradiction within these social movements which fought for self-determination and equality and yet which denied these same basic rights to women in these organizations.

First in the civil rights movement, and soon afterward in the anti-war movement, SDS, and other social movements, women radicals began to demand equality and respect as activists.

Women argued that sexist assumptions – that they were followers and men leaders, that women naturally were “better” with children and men “better” at organizing, that women should type and men should discuss issues – that all these assumptions were deeply political, denying women not only equality within these progressive movements, but even more basically the freedom to choose for themselves what they could and should think and do.

On Our Own – Women’s Liberation

When most men refused to listen, many women left the movement to, as they put it at the time, “organize around our own oppression.”

They began a liberation movement dedicated to eliminating the ways in which women were constrained and harmed by sexist assumptions and behavior.

A movement Gloria Steinem is quite familiar with.

 

© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2016.

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7 comments

  1. Sorry. I didn’t get the point? Is it that even heros can make mistakes? Or, that there are other reasons for young voters, female and male, to feel the Bern? Or, with the deep bench of women politicians, Hillary doses not seem like the only choice – though she may be, again, this election cycle? Draft Elizabeth Warren?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Maybe this says more about Gloria Steinem than it says about the women supporting Bernie Sanders campaign. Maybe this was why she was so politically active in the sixties.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A good subject and post Sally! Thank you.

    I grew up in and was parented in an ‘unconventional’ home as a child and adolescent in the 70’s and 80’s — both parents worked, both parents shared domestic duties, and my Father was extremely strict on any behavior or words that may have hinted of Sexism or misogyny — and weirdly ironic, this was in Texas of all places! 😮 I became a very ‘unconventional’ young man in a mostly backward State and southern U.S. In many ways, Texas is still very backwards for several ‘patriarchal’ un-Magdalyn reasons.

    However, even though I had a wonderfully balanced healthy home-life, I have found modern Feminism to be confusing sometimes due to many various continental cultures — i.e. on some issues, southern American Feminism isn’t exactly the same as European. Where I often get confused is reconciling the immense diversity of the human race, not just gender, with a core or central guideline of Feminism that represents global equality. As a result, I find myself being silent while still supporting 100% equality and Feminism behind the scenes so to speak. I want to become a better ally, but am very cautious.

    Gloria Steinem’s faux pas was understandable partly because of the principle of diversity, even amongst one gender. I gladly give her as much grace and forgiveness as any woman deserves, if not more, because as a sometimes “stereotyped white privileged male” despite my home upbringing, I too quickly become target practice. In some cases I’ve had to eat much humble-pie. LOL

    Enjoyed this post Sally.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Given your sensibility, I am not surprised by your very positive upbringing, all the more admirable given where you were raised. Kudos to your enlightened parents.
    Each new wave or generation of Feminists stands on the shoulders of those feminists who did the hard work before them. But each generation has there own specific agenda that is relevant for their times, and moves forward thanks to the progress already made.

    Like

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