Inspirational Woman of the Week: Gloria Steinem

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This week I had the awesome opportunity to hear Gloria Steinem speak at the Spring Gathering for Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania. This annual event brought together 500 people spanning four generations to celebrate the work and achievements of Planned Parenthood in the region. It was incredible to see the National Constitution Center full of women and men who are passionate about reproductive rights and Planned Parenthood’s mission. This group included Michelle Sanger, great-granddaughter of Margaret Sanger and Patricia Carbine, one of the founding editors of Ms. Magazine.

Gloria Steinem is a personal inspiration of mine and a role model for every young woman. If your not familiar with her story, Gloria Steinem is a journalist and political activist who became a leading spokesperson for the women’s liberation movement through her coverage of women’s rights issues. She was the founding editor and publisher of Ms. Magazine, a groundbreaking feminist publication that is still popular today. Along with other feminist leaders, she founded the National Women’s Political Caucus in hopes of expanding women’s involvement in politics. Gloria’s activism played an important role in popularizing the second wave of feminism and she has been a force in promoting reproductive rights for American women ever since.

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Gabrielle Reece: “Women Should Be Submissive to Their Husbands”

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Gabrielle Reece, a professional volleyball player and model, appeared on the Today Show this week to discuss her new book, My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper.  In this book, Reece discusses her marriage to professional surfer Laird Hamilton and explains how they managed to get through the tough times together.  She gives women some interesting marriage advice that I find hard to accept from a modern feminist perspective.  She claims that women should strive to be truly feminine to have a happy marriage, and in her eyes, “true femininity” means being submissive and obedient to your husband. Reece explains:

“To truly be feminine means being soft, receptive, and — look out, here it comes — submissive.  I think the idea of living with a partner is ‘How can I make their life better?” So if I’m the woman and he’s the man, then yes, that’s the dynamic.  I’m willing and I choose to serve my family and my husband because it creates a dynamic where he is then, in fact acting more like a man and masculine and treating me the way I want to be treated.”

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Sheryl Sandberg: Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders

I recently came across a very interesting TED Talk featuring Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook.  If you are not familiar with Sheryl Sandberg, she is an extremely impressive woman.  After earning her M.B.A at Harvard Business School, she went on to work for the World Bank and Google before joining Facebook.  In this speech, Sandberg discusses some of the main points of her new book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead She gives some very useful advice for women trying to have a family without derailing their career.

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Rape Culture in the US Media

The recent events in Steubenville have brought the topic of “rape culture” back into the spotlight.  While I was reading articles about the case, I was truly shocked that the first reaction of the media was to blame the victim and feel sorry for her attackers.  After hearing journalists make excuses for the rapists and lament their bright futures,  I couldn’t help but wonder how victim blaming is so easily accepted and overlooked.  Besides that fact that it is unfair and hurtful to women, it seems demeaning to men as well.  When we make excuses for rapists, we are saying that they cannot be held accountable for their own actions.  By blaming a sexual assault on the victim’s appearance or the fact that they was drinking, we are basically saying that men have no control over their own actions.  By absolving them of all guilt in the situation, you are admitting that violence is inherent in man’s nature and that we cannot reasonably expect anything better.

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Understanding the Gender Wage Gap

I was always a good student growing up. In high school, I took all honors courses and graduated in the top 10% of my class. When I started researching colleges and imagining my career path, I had two main directions in mind. I either wanted to be an elementary school teacher of an interior designer. Today, I wonder – why did I never dream of going to law school or medical school? Why didn’t I consider being an engineer or a chemist? Some of my classmates with similar grades and abilities had much more ambitious goals. For some reason, these ideas never even came into my mind as possibilities.  This realization got me thinking about my childhood influences. My mother’s primary role was being a wife and mother, and the same was true for most of the women I knew. Of all the female role models I had growing up, very few of them had full-time careers and none were the primary bread-winners for their families. Even though my parents were always supportive of me and never questioned my interests, I couldn’t help but form some conceptions about women’s role in society.

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My Feminist Manifesto

Until recently, I had no idea what the word “feminist” even meant, let alone identify myself as one.  The word “feminism” held no real significance for me, and none of my friends or family considered themselves feminists.  I had all the stereotypical images in my head; angry women protesting and burning bras.  I believed that feminism was a movement that was important in the seventies, but had no value for a 21st century woman like myself.  This all changed last year when I took a Women’s Studies class.  On our first day, the professor asked us to write one page about the role our gender has played in our lives and how this has contributed to our oppression.  I was a little confused by this assignment.  I just stared at the empty sheet in front of me and thought to myself, “Well, I don’t really feel oppressed.”  As I sat there and reflected on my life, I started to recognize all the experiences that had been influenced by my gender.  I began to recognize events in my life that I had always assumed were a part of growing up, but are actually just part of growing up as a girl.  These experiences began to reveal a very different picture of my life.  By looking past my preconceived notions about what life is supposed to be like, I immediately started to recognize all the ways my life was determined by my gender. Everything, from the stories I read in school to images I saw in the media, created and reinforced images in my head of what a girl should be like.  Without knowing it, these images influenced my decisions, both big and small.

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