“I’ve learned only one thing: No matter how hard it is to do it,
it’s harder not to do it.”

Watching Gloria: In Her Own Words, a documentary about Gloria Steinem now airing on HBO, made me think of how this icon of the feminist movement impacted women’s lives in ways deeper than I realized in my formative professional years. (A time in the ‘80s when, as a magazine editor, my frustration at the lack of financial parity with a male art director – because he was married and had a family and I didn’t – was typical.)

Polarizing aspects aside, I don’t think it’s exaggeration to say that most working women owe some little debt to Steinem, who took such a simple concept, economic fairness for half of the population, to the streets, and to the publishing world with the groundbreaking magazine Ms., in an in-their-face fashion that could not be ignored by the powers that were.

She didn’t do it alone, that’s for sure, but (here we go again) as one of the more “attractive” faces of the movement, she got the lion’s share of the attention. (The sad and sexist ridicule by such antediluvians of the network news establishment as Harry Reasoner and Howard K. Smith has to be re-seen to be believed.)

Listening to her now is a reminder that feminism is really only a part of the larger word “humanism” when it comes to addressing the continuing inequality that exists in so many sectors of society. And we’ve come a long way (maybe) — in no short measure thanks to pioneers like Ms. Steinem.

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