Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a speech by legendary, mother-of-all feminists Gloria Steinem at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center here in Austin. As a mother of three daughters I am anxious to learn if feminism is an ongoing movement that will continue to grow roots into the younger generations or if it is subjected to cyclical patterns where in which the expected roles of women ebb and flow with cultural and political currents. Strauss and Howe’s in The Fourth Turning suggest that some cyclicality is at work and note fluctuations between eras dominated by traditional gender roles and other eras when women take on more androgynous fashions and social roles. Cyclical theories will typically emphasize these undulations in social trends, but there is clearly a progressive “upward” movement at least in modern age. During her speech Steinem counteracted the myth of declining feminism, but she also touched on the backlash and the “feminazi”-accusations from extreme anti-feminists like Rush Limbaugh.
I enjoyed the speech, but I must say I was hoping to hear more about her thoughts about the future.
Had I had the guts to ask her in person, I would have wanted her to weigh in on the current “have-it-all” discussion that started with Dr. Anne Marie Slaughter’s famous article in The Atlantic a few months’ back. I would have liked to know if women in the future will be stuck in the “mommy guilt” of never having enough time for either children, work or even themselves. Will young mothers in 2030 get more help – or rather, shared responsibility – from their partners and from society in general? Will the discourse shift from “I (a women) can’t have it all” to “We (women, men, blue-collar, white-collar) can’t have it all?” Also I would have liked to know what she thinks of reality shows and sit-coms that encapsulate female characters as crazy bridezillas, desperate housewives and carnivorous cougars. Are these shows, none of which I can recall many of back in the ’70s and ’80, signaling the backlash against women or is it just innocent satire? Does it change how young men view women? And likewise, does pornography change how young men see women? I think I already have the answer:
Image: Flickr marniejoyce
Video: MissRepresentation extended trailer