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
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.
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.
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.