Interesting to read a broad swath of Steinem's work. I didn't know she was originally a journalist, so this book had essays ranging from political profiles to her undercover expose titled "I was a Playboy Bunny".
Some things I found interesting:
- Some of the issues she mentions strike me as being in the past, happily -- like women being preferentially let go since they are perceived as not needing their jobs as much as men.
- "Ms." wasn't really used until the 70s. From Wikipedia: "In February 1972, the US Government Printing Office approved using "Ms." in official government documents."
- Her essay on transsexuals, which was written ~1980, reads as seriously dated. For instance, she interprets transsexuals in a feminist light, saying it's a shame that our gender roles are so black and white that they can't accept themselves as they are, but feel compelled to "mutilate" (!) their bodies to conform. I don't think that's how doctors, psychologists, and transsexuals themselves would frame their experience!
I guess "progressive" is always relative to your time. Reminds me of Lincoln's claim that slavery was bad...but that said, Blacks aren't equals and shouldn't mix with Whites, duh. See also the discussion of homosexuality in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask.
Her essay on porn vs. erotica is similarly dated. It basically claims that women who engage in S&M are exploited and lack self esteem. I feel like she probably wouldn't make such a sweeping statement today. I'm not sure how much that says about the evolution of feminism vs. the evolution of our sexual culture and status quo.
At The Ladies’ Home Journal where I was an occasional consultant and writer, one of its two top editors (both men, of course) was so convinced that I was nothing like its readers (whom he described as “mental defectives with curlers in their hair”) that he used to hand me a manuscript and say, “Pretend you’re a woman and read this.” - location 270
The New York Times Magazine seemed to be continuing its usual practice of allowing women, minorities, and homosexuals to write first-person confessional pieces, but, in the name of objectivity, assigning white male heterosexual “authorities” to write definitive articles on these groups. - location 276
Reporters at press conferences who routinely assumed I could answer questions about all women but Dorothy could answer only about black women, or perhaps only about the few black male leaders whose names were the only ones they knew. Just as male was universal but female was limited, white was universal but black was limited. (We tried to turn this into a learning experience by letting the questions go on for a while—and then pointing out the problem.) - location 340
Talking with Flo about her first book, Abortion Rap, in a Boston taxi and hearing its elderly Irish woman driver say the much-to-be-quoted words: “Honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” - location 362
Most of all, learning from Flo’s example that you didn’t have to accept the terms of the opposition. For instance, when a hostile man asked if we were lesbians (as frequently happened; why else would a white and black woman be colleagues?), Flo would just look him in the eye and ask, “Are you my alternative?” - location 370
One of the most helpful things ever said to me came from poet Sandra Hochman: “Don’t think about it. Just pretend you’re Eleanor Roosevelt and you have to do this idiotic television show before you can go on to do something really important.” Perhaps this is the Art of Zen Speaking. - location 402
“I don’t like to write. I like to have written.” - location 422
Women whose identity depends more on their outsides than their insides are dangerous when they begin to age. - location 429
an early feminist group had asked women to talk about their real life experiences with illegal abortion. I sat in a church basement listening to women stand before an audience and talk about desperately trying to find someone who would help them, about enduring pre-abortion rapes from doctors, being asked to accept sterilization as the price of an abortion, and endangering their lives in an illegal, unsafe medical underground. - location 526
For the first time, I began to question the honor of being the only “girl reporter” among men, however talented and benevolent they might be. All the suppressed anger of past experiences I had denied or tried to ignore came flooding back: the apartments I couldn’t rent because landlords assumed a single woman couldn’t afford it (or if she could, she must be a hooker); the political assignments lost to younger and less-experienced male writers; the assumption that any work I did get was the result of my being a “pretty girl” (even at a time, I suddenly realized, when all of my editors had been women); the lowered payments because women didn’t really need the money; the innuendo’s that came along with any recognition (“easier than you think,” was how Newsweek had captioned my photograph as a young writer - location 544
Giving a speech in Texas and finding dozens of people outside the amphitheater with signs: GLORIA STEINEM IS A HUMANIST. I thought, How nice, they must be friends. But as I got closer and saw the hatred in their faces, I realized they were rightwing pickets to whom humanist—or any other word that means a belief in people instead of an authoritarian god—is the worst thing you can be. - location 623
There is also the great reward of working full time at something I care about so much that I would do it for no money at all, plus the problems of making far less money than would be possible outside a social movement. The last would be okay if “rich and famous” weren’t so often one phrase that it’s hard to separate them. Being resented for having money that doesn’t exist is not a great combination. - location 643
Being stopped in the street by a truck driver who tells me that the woman he loves and has been living with for three years wouldn’t marry him and have children because he didn’t want her to go on working—until then he heard some interview in which I asked men to consider how they would feel if they were exactly the same people but had been born female. He tried this exercise for a while, and changed so much that he and his friend were now happily married. He is thanking me—but the miracle of empathy is his own. - location 651
The wardrobe mistress told me to take off my clothes and began to search for an old Bunny costume in my size. A girl rushed in with her costume in her hand, calling for the wardrobe mistress as a wounded soldier might yell, “Medic!” “I’ve broken my zipper,” she wailed, “I sneezed!” - location 786
I went back to the Bunny Room, turned in my costume, and sat motionless, too tired to move. The stays had made vertical indentations around my rib cage and the zipper had left a welt over my spine. I complained about the costume’s tightness to the Bunny who was sitting next to me, also motionless. “Yeah,” she said, “a lot of girls say their legs get numb from the knee up. I think it presses on a nerve or something.” - location 1076
I asked what she had done before becoming a Bunny. “Nothing much, a little modeling once in a while.” And what did she hope working as a Bunny would lead to? “I thought maybe I could save enough money to get some test shots and a composite and I could be a real model,” she said. “But after three months of this, I want to get married. Guys I wouldn’t look at before, now I think they aren’t so bad.” - location 1158
Many Bunnies regard plastic dry cleaner’s bags as dangerous for bosom stuffing because they make you perspire, thereby causing a weight loss where you least want it. Kleenex and absorbent cotton are preferred. - location 1230
The young student was shocked and confused as the march moved into a world lit by the revolving red lights of the police vehicles, rising smoke, and screaming fire engines. “He didn’t approve of violence,” she said about King, “and it isn’t right to do this.” - location 1483
“That’s it for me,” a neatly dressed young man said. “They do something like that to a man like King … a man like King.” For the leaders, the activist heroes, the dilemma was worse. Privately, most of them—even Rap Brown—had admitted they hoped in their hearts that King was right. “Now,” explained black militant author Addison Gayle, “we’re all a little scared. Because we have to believe our own rhetoric.” - location 1487
Though Smith was proud of the fact that men greatly outnumbered women on its faculty—a proof of seriousness still highlighted in the college catalogue even when I was there in the 1950s - location 2211
But even as the reporter and I discussed those interesting reasons why Smith had produced more than its share of independent achievers, we knew that all of them put together were less newsworthy than one Nancy Reagan. Any First Lady, no matter what she does or doesn’t do, is still more likely to top the lists of Most Admired Women than any woman who has succeeded on her own. - location 2215
When she admitted that, when first married, she assumed she had to clean bathrooms—until her husband stopped her by saying he hadn’t married her to clean bathrooms—there was the silence of envy. - location 2257
(I remember with gratitude the banner carried by some very old and bawdy women who led the parade while I was a student: hardly a man is now alive, who remembers the girls of ’95.) - location 2280
Only with the 1960s do the groups begin to show much racial diversity. My class, for instance, included not one black student, no Hispanic women, and only one Asian who wasn’t a foreign student. (As a freshman, I had asked a professor why none of the black applicants from my town had been admitted. His answer was a classic mix of racism and sexism: one had to be very careful about educating Negro girls because there weren’t enough educated Negro men to go around.) - location 2282
When she visited me in New York during her sixties and seventies, she always told taxi drivers that she was eighty years old (“so they will tell me how young I look”), - location 2563
we are becoming the men we wanted to marry. - location 2682
Art used to be definable as what men created. Crafts were made by women and natives. - location 2692
Until the 1970s, women had to choose between Miss or Mrs., thus identifying themselves by marital status in a way men did not. Now, more than a third of American women support Ms. as an alternative, an exact parallel of Mr., and so do government publications, business, and the media. - location 2698
“Did you ever hear the story about Judy Holliday?” asked a woman peeling off a sweaty leotard. “When she went for a movie interview, the head of the studio started chasing her around the desk. So she just reached into her dress, pulled out her falsies, and handed them to him. ‘Here,’ she said, ‘I think this is what you want.’” - location 2932
Raymond understands the crushing societal forces that make transsexuals choose this self-punishment, but she mourns the loss of individuals who might have acted as critics and rebels in this sexually stereotyped society. Instead of accepting the idea of “a female mind in a male body” by mutilating their physical selves, they might have challenged the very idea that there is such a thing as a female or male mind. They might have demonstrated that sex is only one of many elements that makes up each unique individual. - location 3657
For that reason, she is also critical of the medical establishment that has grown up around the demand (and the big payments) for transsexual surgery, plus long-term hormonal treatments. Instead of serving more lifesaving but often less lucrative needs for their surgical and hormone-therapy skills, some physicians are aiding individuals who are desperately trying to conform to an unjust society. It’s a small group of successful physicians she names “the transsexual empire.” - location 3661
Feminists are right to feel uncomfortable about the need for and the uses of transsexualism. Even while we protect the right of an informed individual to make that decision, and to be identified as he or she wishes, we have to make clear that this is not a long-term feminist goal. The point is to transform society so that a female can “go out for basketball” and a male doesn’t have to be “the strong one.” Better to turn anger outward toward changing the world than inward toward mutilating our bodies into conformity. - location 3674
On porn vs. erotica:
This confusion of sex with violence is most obvious in any form of sadomasochism. The inability to empathize with the “opposite sex” has become so great that a torturer or even murderer may actually believe pain or loss of life to be the natural fate of the victim; and the victim may have been so deprived of self-respect or positive human contact that she expects pain or loss of freedom as the price of any intimacy or attention at all. - location 3836
Over the years, I heard other clues to her character. When Ella Fitzgerald, a black artist and perhaps the greatest singer of popular songs, hadn’t been able to get a booking at an important Los Angeles nightclub in the fifties, it was Marilyn who called the owner and promised to sit at a front table every night if he allowed Ella to sing. The owner hired Ella, Marilyn was faithful to her promise each night, the press went wild, and, as Ella remembered with gratitude, “After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again.” - location 4104
On female genital mutilation:
The pain of intercourse often leads mutilated women to seek pregnancy as a temporary relief from sexual demands. - location 5047
Someone once asked me why women don’t gamble as much as men do. I gave the commonsensical reply that we don’t have as much money. That was a true but incomplete answer. In fact, women’s total instinct for gambling has been satisfied by marriage. If men doubt the magnitude of the gamble, consider just how tough it is to know that someone you are about to marry, who may be, by tradition and by lack of economic alternative, your lifetime identity and meal ticket, is going to have the law career or foreman’s job or political office that you want for yourself and for your security. Not so easy, right? In the fifties, I remember college friends taking their fiancé’s poems, architectural drawings, or senior thesis to the appropriate professor and asking, “Is this guy any good?” - location 5631