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Regina Weinreich

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Gloria Steinem and the Faces of Feminism: MAKERS: Women Who Make America

Posted: 02/08/2013 12:11 pm

The Women's Movement is not only about Gloria Steinem, she will readily tell you. First, as Rita Mae Brown exclaims in MAKERS, a documentary chronicling the most recent phase of the Women's Movement, she's drop dead gorgeous. Then again, she's smart, talented, and even when the focus is on her, as when she walked the red carpet at the MAKERS premiere at Alice Tully Hall on Wednesday night, she really wants to home in on YOU, who you are, what you dream. This poise, an outward gaze, gives Steinem enormous power.

But MAKERS is a term for all women, whether or not she calls herself a feminist, makes a home, works on a construction crew. She may be the first woman firefighter, first female brigadier general, or first woman orthodox rabbi. In fact when asked about taking on patriarchal Judaism, Rabba Sara Hurwitz allowed, it was finally the decision of a panel of male rabbis that certified her profession, which may be the point. Clearly competent, she represents the principle and spirit of the movement's next moment. However a woman gets there, it is instructive to see the shoulders she is standing on.

Here are some of the women who milled about at the ceremony, screening and buffet dinner: Lilly Ledbetter, whose activism led to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, came from Alabama for this event, en route to Albany to continue her fight for equal pay for women; Julie Taymor is currently starting a new theater in Brooklyn with a production of Midsummer Night's Dream; Tovah Feldshuh stars in a one-woman show this weekend at 54 Below; sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Fear of Flying novelist Erica Jong, "That Girl" Marlo Thomas, and the list goes on: Diahann Carroll, Katie Couric, Arianna Huffington, Felicia Taylor, Peggy Siegal, Afghanistani film maker, Sonia Nassery Cole, Girls' Allison Williams, the new face of sponsor Simple skin care joined in with showrunner Dyllan McGee, and the many talents creating this inspiring project.

Some men attended too: AOL's Tim Armstrong, Phil Donahue, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Joe Pantoliano, and Daniel Boulud. This being awards season, his Restaurant Daniel will host the New York based members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for a meal especially prepared for Oscar night. Barak Goodman, director of the first two hours of MAKERS -- to air on PBS on February 26 -- praised activist Alix Kates Shulman, author of Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen, for her excellent interview.

Hers was among many feminists featured in MAKERS, especially evocative of that early time was Against Our Will author Susan Brownmiller. The drama of Billie Jean King besting Bobby Riggs in a historic tennis match brought cheers, as did a woman marathon runner, seen in archival footage being ousted from an all male race in progress, only to have her fellow competitors rally in her behalf.

Not enough is said about Steinem's mentor Bella Abzug, or Feminist Mystique writer Betty Friedan with whom she had conflict: but the program makes the important distinction that Friedan wanted to modify existing society, as Steinem called for an overall restructuring, a revolution. Fractured and complex, the Women's Movement needed to address issues presented by different classes and economic levels, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and hey, we're only in the middle of the first 100 years.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.

 
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