On Gloria Steinem

WHY would Gloria Steinem SAY that?? I’ve gone from respecting Steinem and what she has done in her lifetime for women to being infuriated by her for her bullshit about women supporting Sanders, but I feel guilty for feeling that way? No real question just totally unsure how to sort out my emotions on this.


Gloria Steinem is eighty-one goddamn years old. Eighty fucking one. She’s allowed to make a slightly out-of-date but perfectly harmless observation, that in all honesty, wasn’t that inaccurate. Women do tend to get more radical as they get older, and for the exact reason Steinem suggested — they lose power with age where men gain it.

Could she have ended the observation there? Yes, that would have been best, but she was sitting across from a political comedian and she tried to get a political laugh and she made an error in judgment. She made a stupid joke at the expense of young women, and it was neither funny nor accurate. She fucked up on live television. Oops.

Now the international association of the united sisterhood of think-piece writing feminists (of which I am a proud, card-carrying member) has gone puppy-monkey-baby bananas over this poorly worded, off-the-cuff remark.

I get it. It’s always think-piece season, but this right here is some weak fucking tea. Did Steinem say something stupid? Yes. Should she issue some kind of apology or statement revising her remark? That would probably be wise. Do the rest of us wish our eighty-one year old grandmothers were half as woke as Gloria Steinem? Of course we do.

This thing right here (and the thing with Madeleine Albright and pretty much everything with Hillary Clinton) isn’t a product of bad feminism. It’s a product of a massive generation gap between old-school establishment Baby Boomers and marginalized Millennials who are rightfully tired of listening to a bunch of crusty old cunts be disrespectful.

Yes, I called them crusty old cunts, but guess what? We’re all gonna turn into crusty old cunts one day. It’s inevitable. In the meantime, I don’t want to burn Gloria Steinem at the stake, I have huge amounts of respect for Madeleine Albright, and I’ll still be happy to vote for Hillary if she wins the nomination.

I recognize this as the old disrespecting the young more than feminists disrespecting other feminists, and sure, that deserves to be addressed, but I’m also fairly forgiving about shit like this.

Maybe I’m used to looking the other way when old people act their age because my own grandmother was half a racist lunatic. Maybe I’m willing to cut a little extra slack for trailblazing women who literally changed the world. Maybe I’m wrong about all of this. Who knows? But hey, I’ve added my think piece to the pile, and now I can go about my day thinking about something else.


12 thoughts on “On Gloria Steinem

  1. Rainbowpony says:

    Get over yourself OP. If you threw a tantrum on the occasional time a decades long, totally worthy friend said something off the mark, you’d be friendless and you’d deserve it. Same goes with Steinem. She’s done more for your quality of life than you’ll ever do for yourself, and that position deserves tremendous respect.

    Maybe it strings a bit because Steinem calling out a younger generation rings a bit true. Although Steinem’s comments are wrong, I absolutely believe that sexism has always worked against Hillary. People are not comfortable or accepting of women in power, and I have often wondered if younger women – who are so vocal in their feminism – have thoroughly vetted their own feelings about women in power.

  2. J Lynn says:

    I wonder if part of it is that young people _want_ to believe sexism is over (“war is over if you want it”) — or, more accurately, _almost_ over. That’s what I wishfully half-believed when I was 20 and still in college, 20 years ago. I now know the obstacles against women were and are more entrenched than I could have imagined when I was young. Meanwhile, paradoxically, things are better than ever and still improving. In other words, progress is happening, but the gap between oppression and justice is much much bigger and more stubborn than I had realized as an idealistic young feminist.

    On a slightly different topic but along those same lines, I don’t think Hillary’s incrementalism is a cynical choice, a mere personality trait, or evidence of some nefarious elite collusion. I suspect it’s the result of decades of hard lessons learned.

  3. M says:

    “Men gain power with age whereas women lose it.”

    Please elaborate. Also how the fuck do you deal with life believing that? I am disagreeing with you off of pure anger right now. I don’t have any reasons but I’m not about to accept that shit and fuck you for writing it. What the hell what the hell what the hell.

    • The Coquette says:

      It’s a fairly transparent sociological observation. I think maybe you need to elaborate on why it makes you so angry.

        • The Coquette says:

          There is so much to unpack in those three short sentences I hardly know where to begin. What’s good though, is that it seems like I’m closer to understanding the source of your anger. I feel like maybe you’re misinterpreting the original statement, especially out of context. It’s not that younger women have more power with respect to older women. It’s that when men and women are younger, there is more a balance of power between the genders. In some ways, young women may have more power than young men. However, as both men and women age together, men tend to gain more power over time than women. Obviously, this is a sweeping generalization with millions of exceptions, but it is a fairly transparent side effect of our patriarchal society. I hope it’s clear that I’m not advocating this phenomenon. I think it fucking sucks, but I also know better than to live in denial of it.

        • Margo says:

          Well also women tend to disappear as they age. I mean we can quibble about hypervisibility =/= power but it seems reasonable to say that young women are seen and heard and given space in ways that older women are not – look at film and TV casting. There’s also various bullshit forms of power that women are accorded under patriarchy that are only accessible when we are young – look at #wastehistime.

          There’s lots of types of power – leverage, control, influence, authority, agency, ability… some are more robust than others but that doesn’t invalidate the statement.

    • J Lynn says:

      Thanks! I’ve always thought Katha Pollitt did the best short-form op eds. I’ll have to follow her because I always forget to check in at the Nation. The linked pieces by Jill Filipovic and Rebecca Traister are good too.

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