Some days I just can’t help laughing at the spectacle that is politics in America. When I came across the Salon story about Lands’ End having to pull an interview with Gloria Steinem from its catalog because of protests from conservatives, I honestly didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. Second, I’m annoyed that I can’t see what the offending text actually was (yes, I will be very happy with anyone who can get me a scan or screen capture of it), because I’m forced to make assumptions – something I hate doing.
However, I think it’s safe for me to assume that Lands’ End didn’t choose to feature primarily Steinem’s pro-choice work, and probably offered some fluffy biographical information that focused primarily on the woman’s philosophy about equality for women. Also, I’m enjoying the relative irony, since some prominent conservative women who decided to take to social media to complain about this biography arguably might not be enjoying the platforms they have today if it wasn’t for Steinem and her contemporaries. Disagree with her philosophies on abortion all you want, but the bottom line remains that she walked the walk for equality. Like it or not, many women took up where she left off thanks to her words, including me. Sure, my little “firsts for women” were minor in the grand scheme of things, but if I hadn’t read my mother’s copy of Steinem’s Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, I might not have chosen to be the first Girl Scout in our town’s Memorial Day parade, or the first active female firefighter in our volunteer fire department. Small things, but they made a difference here, because girls’ groups in general are included more in our parades today, and there are several women in every fire department in our area now.
I wasn’t even 13 years old when I first read Steinem’s work, but I was mature enough to recognize that it is possible to read and learn about people I disagree with, at least in part. Ideas aren’t “owned” by particular people, nor are they rendered irrelevant or useless simply because of the person expressing them. And finally, no person should be defined by a single opinion she holds.
As for Lands’ End and the supposedly “evil” charity they were going to contribute to in honor of Steinem, no it isn’t a “pro-abortion” organization, per se. The work of the Fund for Gender Equality is all about promoting women into positions of control in their nations, in business and politics. No, I’m not going to go digging to find out if even a single dollar goes to providing abortions, because I understand one very important fact in this – men in the countries where this fund is used have used rape and pregnancy as ways to control women in far worse ways than we have ever seen in the US. There is nothing sacred about that – it is evil, pure and simple.
Like it or not, Steinem earned her place in history, and there is no reason to say that no one should be interested in reading about her. When we have reached the point where we find it necessary to silence all opposition, we have failed. It’s easy to defend the ideas of the people who agree with you. Declaring the ideas you disagree with invalid, and defining people by single concepts is simply infantile. Grow up.