Streams

Gloria Steinem: Ferraro's Groundbreaking Work

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thanks partly to the courage of Gerry Ferraro, the female half of the population isn't viewed as a special interest anymore. We look at the streets of Cairo and at our own Congress, and understand that unless females are present in numbers equal to males, it's not yet a democracy. But there are still big barriers.

Like Gerry, who couldn't start her career until after her children were in school, women raise children more than men do -- to put it mildly. Yes, most of this country now believes that women can do what men can do, but not that men can what women do. That penalizes kids -- and women can't be equal outside the home, including in politics, until men are equal inside it. You can't do two full-time jobs. Everybody needs to get mad that we're also the only modern democracy in the world with no national system of childcare.

Like Gerry, women are also still more likely than men to have economically active spouses, and to be held responsible for decisions not their own. And like Gerry, who traveled and campaigned more than her running mate, and twice as much as Reagan and Bush combined, most women candidates still have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts. Finally, women are still questioned about being "tough enough to press the button," though men aren't questioned about being tough enough not to press it.

The important thing is to keep Gerry and Shirley Chisholm and Hillary Rodham Clinton and all the others who represent the majority needs and views of women in the public eye to learn from. After all, more than fifty women ran for president or vice president before them, but our history books are so biased by race and sex that this comes as a surprise.

I was at the Democratic Convention where Gerry was nominated, I followed her campaign, and I remember the outpouring of enthusiasm and respect and affection she inspired. But when I think of her right now, I also remember her calling me a few months ago about the case of a wife murdered by her husband, yet the husband was able to keep his young children from testifying. Gerry recruited me to lobby, which I did. Only later did I find out that she was in pain and on her way to the hospital for more treatments when she called, yet she was using every minute to improve whatever she could.

Her example will lead and inform and inspire us -- if we're allowed to see it.

Gloria Steinem is a writer, speaker, and feminist activist. Among other things, she founded Ms. Magazine in 1972 and the Women's Media Center in 2004.

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Comments [1]

Natalie Burrows from Brooklyn, NY

I am not a great admirer of Geraldine Ferraro. She had help from her father's prominence and her husband's (illicit) money. Could she have gotten the nomination without that? I doubt it.
Although I didn't vote for Hillary, I have more admiration for her and for heroines going back to Eleanor Roosevelt (both of whom benefitted from successful husbands). Now I most greatly admire Kirsten Gillibrand.

Mar. 28 2011 11:54 AM

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