Who Is Gloria Steinem and What Is Her Role in Feminism?

For half a century, Ohio-born Gloria Marie Steinem has been leading the way in the rights of women and, to a lesser extent, the marginalized citizens of the world in general. Her work in the 1960s and 1970s helped to change the world and pave the way for women’s rights everywhere.

Whether or not you are a woman, the work of Ms. Steinem is important to understand the history of the country and how the patriarchal system has begun to collapse in exchange for more equitable rights for everyone. However, she has not been without critics during her outspoken public career. In fact, proponents on both sides of the feminist discussion often site Steinem during arguments.

Born in the mid-1930s, her childhood included the turmoil of being raised by a divorced mentally ill mother after her parents separated when she was only 10 years old. Her father, a salesman, moved to the West Coast, leaving young Gloria with an unemployed and unemployable mother. Her mother’s mental illness allowed Gloria to see the injustices related to gender, education and economic status.

After she attended college, she began a career in journalism that sparked her activism. She wrote a piece for Esquire magazine during the early 1950s about the marginalization of women. She laid out how women at that time had to choose between a family and a career, predating the better-known “The Feminine Mystique” by a year.

Although she did not gain international credit for that particular piece, it was the first in a long line of articles, essays and other penned works regarding how females in the society are sexualized and don’t have the same voice as men. She even worked undercover as a Playboy Bunny in Los Angeles in order to get an insider view of the sex industry.

Starting in the late 1960s, Ms. Steinem used her voice to promote political activism. Like Jane Fonda and other powerful women at the time, she began to talk passionately about politics and the people who were running for office. Needless to say, the conservative candidates were not always happy with her words and have made great efforts to attack her as a person and a journalist.

However, she has not allowed age to keep her from remaining active in the world of politics and promoting equality for all. For instance, she has been outspoken about female genital mutilation in other countries, as well as male genital mutilation here and abroad. Her stance that these guidelines are designed to suppress rather than enhance the populace is helping to make changes regarding these practices.

Anyone who wants to understand the feminist movement and how it has impacted the world should certainly learn more about Gloria Steinem and the work that she has done. Her powerful words and actions have impacted society in positive ways for the women who live here. While perceived by some as radical, others believe she is exactly what the world needed! She still plays a heavy hand in the world of feminism in this day and age. You can see her here talking at the Women’s March on Washington earlier this year:

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