I fell in love with Gloria Steinem. I recently wrote a 20-page junior thesis about how she became the face of feminism and moved the Women's Liberation Movement forward in the 1960s. The majority of my classmates had never heard of Women's Lib; they thought that women's equality ended with the suffrage movement. I became so passionate about my chosen topic that I found myself getting angry when I realized that the issues prominent in the Women's Liberation Movement are issues that have yet to be solved. Feminists in the 1960s fought for reproductive rights and the legalization of abortion, but many Americans today still insist that abortion should be illegal and that the government should make the choice for women. Feminists in the 1960s also fought avidly to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which prohibits discrimination based on gender, but has still not been ratified by enough states to be implemented.
Gloria Steinem is pithy, brilliant and everything I want to be. I admire her so much that I wrote a fan letter to her office, and when I got a generic reply from her secretary, I pursued and eventually obtained a personal interview. I was able to quote Gloria Steinem for my paper, but more importantly, be in direct contact with my idol and be amazed once again at her commitment, relatable manner, and relevance.
When I handed in the paper, I read speeches by feminists like Hillary Clinton, wrote an article about gender issues in high school sports for my school newspaper, and brought up women's equality in conversations with my friends. I made the active decision to ask a boy to prom, despite raised eyebrows from my female friends, who have spent months worrying about who will ask them. With my newfound feminist attitude, I was ecstatic to learn that my school was gathering on Diversity Day to watch Miss Representation, a documentary about the media's influence on female objectification. I literally gasped at the statistics that the movie revealed; for example, 65 percent of women and girls have an eating disorder; and the number of females who want to be president is cut in half when girls move into high school.
I now consider myself a feminist, but that doesn't mean I'm willing to give up my femininity. One of the factors that made Gloria Steinem so unique and groundbreaking is that she obviously enjoyed her womanhood; she still dressed in miniskirts and had relationships with men. I still want to go to my junior prom, and I still apply makeup every morning. Women's equality will not come from diminishing femininity; in fact, being feminine might be the most essential way to dismantle patriarchy.
My friends refer to me as the "feminist" of the group. But why am I the only feminist? I think that every girl who values herself and considers herself equal to a boy is a feminist. And I think boys can be feminists, too. Feminism is not a strident or militant concept; it is all that is just in our progressive world. After all, it was Gloria Steinem who said, "You're either a feminist or masochist -- those are the only two choices."
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