Sara Klimek

Who exactly is Gloria Steinem?  Well, that’s a very loaded question.  Your U.S. history textbook would describe her as a modern political activist for both women’s rights and humanitarianism across the globe.  But, as a feminist and aspiring journalist, I think of Gloria Steinem as an quintessential badass.


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Gloria was independent from an early age; after her parents divorced when she was eleven, she became the primary caretaker for her mentally-ill mother.  Unlike many of her adolescent peers, she did not begin attending school consistently until her preteen years and later decided to attend Smith College to study government, another untraditional field for women.  Following graduation in 1956, she established herself as a freelance writer. One of her first and most famous undercover expeditions was an expose on NYC’s Playboy Club, in which she dressed as a scantily-clad bunny to learn more about the treatment of women in the industry.

Steinem’s next achievements were in the political realm.  She gained prominence as a contributor to New York magazine and covered topics that were considered ‘taboo’ at the time, including domestic violence and abortion.  Steinem joined hands with other women’s rights advocates at the time, including Betty Friedan and Bella Abzug, and through her involvement with the National Women’s Political Caucus, and pushed for the social and political liberation of women across the globe.

One of the most important parts of Gloria’s image is her emphasis on feminine empowerment.  She famously once said, ‘A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.’ Steinem was a proponent of political education for women so that they could defy their historically domestic place in society as well as their state as second class citizens.

Popstar Ariana Grande was one of many inspired by Gloria’s 1969 New York magazine article entitled, ‘After Black Power, Women’s Liberation.’  This article highlighted the intersectionality between the women’s rights movement and the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, furthering the feminist’s mission to improve livelihoods for all.  Gloria writes: ‘If the [Women’s Liberation Movement] can feel solidarity with the hated middle class, and vice versa, then an alliance with the second mass movement—poor women of all colors—should be no problem.’ Grande, having such an influential role in pop-culture, is a clear entryway for promoting Gloria’s message of acceptance and perseverance for all women, regardless of race.

Steinem’s life has not gone without controversy.  During the time that Gloria was writing and publishing pro-choice literature, she faced numerous criticisms regarding her faith.  Some far-right Christians labeled Steinem, Abzug, and Friedan as leaders of the ‘Jewish Conspiracy,’ which was, as they believed, a plot led by feminist Jews to extricate Christian children from society.  Other members of the right-wing opposition thought that by advocating for the social advancement of women and minorities, feminists were taking away from the ‘God-given heregomy of white Christian men.’ Despite the accusations, she has continued her work in women’s empowerment, through public appearances.


God may be in the details, but the goddess is in connections.


Gloria remains active in her public life.  She serves as an honorary co-chair for the Democratic Socialists of America, associate of The Women’s Institute for the Freedom of the Press, and co-founder of Choice USA, an organization that provides legislative resources for safe abortions across the U.S.  She spoke at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. to advocate for feminine influence in the political system and the intersectionality of civil rights.  ‘We are here and around the world for a deep democracy that says we will not be quiet, we will not be controlled, we will work for a world in which all countries are connected,’ she said, ‘God may be in the details, but the goddess is in connections. We are at one with each other, we are looking at each other, not up.  No more asking daddy.’

Her prowess and determination to change the way that society looks at women is something to admire.  Gloria’s true power, in both the second wave of feminism and contemporary feminism, is to galvanize.  She reiterates the importance of cohesion and ‘strength in numbers,’ as current political forces and differences continue to divide us.'


Sara is a freshman at the University of Vermont with an environmental studies major. She plans on going to environmental law school following graduation.

Comments (1)

  1. Angelina Eimannsberger

I recently read "On the Road" by Gloria and was very impressed. Some of it felt a little out of touch with contemporary lives but her legacy is of course impressive.


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