WeWalk: Behind the Scenes of Opening the Way

Opening the Way is a walking tour celebrating women's history in downtown Manhattan. It is a multifaceted new project developed by the award-winning nonprofit organization Women's eNews. The walk honors the achievements of women such as Margaret Sanger, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Ida B. Wells -- 21 women in all. This blog has been created to update fans of the walk on its exciting developments and expansion. Please join us in revitalizing history that has been ignored or forgotten!

Friday, August 19, 2011

HBO Premieres Inspiring Documentary of Gloria Steinem

On Tuesday night, activists from across the entire nation tuned in to a special HBO feature about the life of prominent feminist activist Gloria Steinem and her role in jump-starting the national movement for equality in the 1960s and 1970s. Called "Gloria: In Her Own Words," the film profiles the nationally renowned speaker and author through both archival and recent interviews, footage, and first-hand accounts from Gloria herself.

The documentary embraces Gloria’s aspirations as both a journalist and a feminist. Starting out as a writer, one of her most ambitious projects was going undercover as a Playboy Bunny to expose the working conditions for what much of society assumed was a glamorous job. She found that there was nothing fun about it, but that the work was long and difficult. Gloria regretted having written the piece shortly after it was printed, as media outlets didn’t take her seriously because of it. But as feminism became a more integral part of her identity, she was grateful to have had the experience.

Gloria's next awakening came after she got an abortion at 22 years old. “I suddenly realized—why is it a secret?… I began to understand that my experience was almost a universal female experience.” She began attending abortion hearings and rallies in New York and Washington, DC, and reminisces about reactions from the media—for example: “We were accused in the press of having penis envy.” People thought feminism was irrelevant and destructive; but as Gloria points out in the film, “hostility is a step forward from the ridicule.”

In addition, living in New York City at the cusp of the gender equality movement in the mid-twentieth century was not encouraging. “There was no word for sexual harassment—it was just called life,” Gloria recalls. There were preconceptions about what it meant to be a single woman, and it was impossible for a woman to be both attractive and serious. This affected Gloria on a profound level. “I work really hard,” she says, and to have her successes attributed to her looks was “really painful.” Such notions continue to haunt her even after decades of accomplishments, but she would not change a thing about who she is. “Maybe I helped to break a false stereotype,” she reflects.

Gloria’s advocacy and commitment to equality has been an inspiration for multiple generations of women. “She became a vessel through which some women discovered themselves, their potential, and the strength to advocate for their own truths,” writes Marcia G. Yerman for the Huffington Post. “I first became a feminist because Gloria Steinem made feminism look appealing,” recalls Michele Kort for Ms. Magazine (the feminist publication that Gloria co-founded), noting her revelation that feminists included students, moms, professionals, and even men. “She was a feminist at a time when many dismissed women’s rights as a joke. She chose not to marry in an era when women were wives and mothers. And she did it all with wit, style and grace,” comments ElectWomen Magazine. 

Don’t miss out on this unique portrayal of one of the most inspiring women of the twentieth century. The documentary premiered on television Tuesday night, but if you haven’t seen it yet, upcoming showings also include August 20 at 2 PM, August 23 at 1:15 PM and 12:30 AM, and August 28 at 5:15 PM.