As I watch the new PBS series, "Makers: The Women Who Make America," which kicked off Feb. 26th, I am reminded of my encounter with one of those makers, Gloria Steinem, in the election battleground state of Ohio last fall.
I was also reminded of her as I awoke to read "Amazon Acts to Halt 'Keep Calm and Rape' T-shirts" story from the UK. And as I watched newbie host Seth MacFarlane open the 85th Academy Awards with a song titled, "We Saw Your Boobs."
Activist, author, editor, lecturer, journalist and Ms. magazine co-founder Gloria Steinem says she only took on projects to advance the rights of others when no one else would. Someone has to do it, she felt. And so she did.
Born a hundred miles West of Cleveland in Toledo, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie, Gloria Steinem spent a couple days reminding students, faculty and members of the community who attended the events celebrating WEAL (founded as Women's Equity Action League in 1968 at Northwest Ohio's Bowling Green State University) of this. Women have come a long way, baby, but still have a long way to go.
Mary Ellen Mazey serves as the current president of BGSU. A benefit brunch was recently held at the President's house. A graduate of one of the prestigious Seven Sisters, Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, Steinem urged those at the brunch benefiting the newly-created Elizabeth Boyer on-campus center for single mothers not to give up, but rather to align ourselves with like-minded people in supportive groups. She said, "They used to be called consciousness-raising sessions, then they became rap groups, then it was called networking and today we call them book clubs." I laughed to myself because within the past few years, I have joined several book clubs -- two for alums of colleges I have attended and a third through my church, my first foray into this terrain.
But this was not my first time talking with Gloria Steinem. I had done a phone interview with her in the late '90s, when I was hosting a call-in radio show at WMAL-AM in Washington, DC about "Take Our Daughters to Work Day." Later, it would include taking sons, too. And it wouldn't just be mothers taking their children. Fathers were to join in.
I love the way her brain works. She thinks about things no one else does as she spoke off the cuff without notes. She sees analogies and the forest, while the rest of us are missing it seeing only the trees.
It's because Steinem is so able to think outside the box that she should run for public office. During the fall campaign, both candidates President Obama and Governor Romney were strongly courting the women's vote. Women often have more in common than men realize. For example, although coming from different political parties, Ann Romney and Gloria Steinem share the experience of both being breast cancer survivors. I asked Steinem about the progress of the Equal Rights Amendment, known as the ERA. She told me it is the only amendment where a time deadline to get it passed was attached to it.
If the time deadline were removed, the ERA is only three states short of being ratified and becoming the law of the land. A justification in the past for not ratifying it was that women could be assigned to combat roles in our military. Well, that just happened without the passage of the ERA last January, when Pentagon Chief Leon Panetta lifted the ban on combat duty for women. Another argument against its passage was coed bathrooms. Many college campuses today have not only coed bathrooms, but coed dorms, and still no ERA.
I also asked her when she was going to run for office. As a lawyer myself, I can say that we have too many lawyers in Congress. Lawyers like to argue. And are all trained to view the world a certain way in law school, regardless of political orientation.
It's been said that variety is the spice of life. Where are the artists, astronauts, athletes, architects, actors and activists? Not to mention doctors, plumbers, mail carriers, nurses, chemists, pharmacists, musicians, teachers, realtors, engineers, researchers and members of the clergy? If our founding fathers had wanted all our legislators to be lawyers, they would have written it into our constitution.
In modern history, most of our presidents have not been lawyers. Between General Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, there is not a lawyer among them.
Who are the lawyer-presidents? Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Of those four lawyer-presidents, Nixon resigned in the middle of his second term in disgrace to avoid impeachment. Clinton, although remaining in office, was impeached. President Ford was never elected president by the voters. He was appointed president by Nixon. That leaves recently re-elected lawyer-president Barack Obama, whose story is not yet finished.
Mr. President, how about an appointment for Gloria Steinem? Foreign or domestic. An ambassadorship, perhaps? Or a cabinet post? Maybe come up with a new cabinet post, like Secretary for Women? Maybe then we would get equal pay for equal work. Finally. There's been a dearth of women in your cabinet this second time around. Let's harness the genius and talent of Gloria Steinem. The mind is a terrible thing to waste.