Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cheers for RBG and Gloria Steinem

Three cheers for feminist leaders in their 80s--Gloria Steinem (b. 1934), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (b. 1933), Virginia Ramey Mollenkott (b. 1932), and Letha Dawson Scanzoni (b. 1935), for starters.

Read the great interview with Gloria and Ruth, who have been friends since the 1970s.

In the 1950s, the Harvard Law School dean met with the 9 women in a class of 500 beginning law students (including RBG) and asked them, "How do you justify taking a spot from a qualified man?"

Gloria Steinem, meanwhile, was interviewing Saul Bellow for an article when Gay Talese, also present, commented, "Every year a pretty girl comes to New York and pretends to be a writer.  This year, it's Gloria."

"The Fights of Their Lives" is the title of this fascinating interview by Philip Galanes.  Photo by Hilary Swift, taken in RBG's private chambers at the Supreme Court.  

Here are seven striking  quotations taken from the interview:

Gloria's new memoir, My Life on the Road (Random House), prompted this interview.  See this review by Ann Friedman:

Friedman faults GS for three things: not valuing online dialogue enough, including only her professional and intellectual life in the memoir, and not explaining her current decision to focus on nesting as well as traveling.

The charge about not including her emotional and relational life is not fair.  GS has already written seven other books, including Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983) and Doing Sixty and Seventy (2006).  When one sets out to write a memoir, one has to choose what to include and what to leave out.  The current book is already 276 pages, without her personal life.  

Is Friedman wishing the book were twice as long?  Of course the love/family vs. career conflict is a prime topic in most women's lives today, and we would like to know what suffering GS encountered in the choices she made.

However, that's not what she chose to write about.  The central metaphor of this book is the road--a life centered on travel.  Let's respect her choice--choice--and not demand discussion of the home vs. work issue that men are rarely asked about, until they decide to retire "for family reasons."

As for not explaining her decision to seek a balance between nesting and travel in her eighties, please!  The woman is 81 years old.  She has already addressed the subject of aging in her previous book, Doing Sixty and Seventy.

Perhaps Friedman's core quibble here is that GS "assures readers that we don't have to give up the journey in order to have a home, and vice versa." I will have to read the memoir to find out whether I agree that GS asks too much of women in a you-can-do-it-all-have-it-all mode.

That problem--not being able to balance work and home adequately--is the subject of the memoir I am working on.

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