Gloria Steinem in Fort Lauderdale Proves You're All Feminists

There are few words as loaded as the word "feminist." Unless you want to be perceived as a no-armpit-shaving militant lesbian liberal when you define yourself, dropping this f-bomb has oddly become somewhat of a brave thing to do. Like when you're around aggressive vegans who scorn carnivores, people think that feminists are out to castrate all men in their paths. Little do they know that they, themselves, are probably feminists. 

Do you believe in equal pay? Do you believe in contraception? Do you see the females in your life as your equals? Yes? Well that's it then. You're a feminist. It's not about anger, it's not about leg hair, and it's not about hating men. It's about equality.

No one understands this more than Gloria Steinem who spoke in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Sunday. She embodies the opposite look of a stereotypical feminist. This is a woman beautiful enough to have gone undercover as a Playboy Bunny, and smart enough to have written an article for Esquire about women's social injustice a year before The Feminine Mystique came out. But perhaps feeling the need to discuss her looks at all is a symptom of so many problems women still face today.

For the 40th anniversary of Ms. Magazine (cofounded by Steinem) Wonder Woman, feminism embodied, graces the cover. A warrior woman with the lasso of truth -- oh the things she could accomplish in Washington with that lasso.

Steinem is like a Wonder Woman herself. One of the greatest feminist pioneers and the subject of HBO's amazing documentary, Gloria: In Her Own Words, she is currently touring Florida encouraging voters to vote against Florida's Amendment 6, known as the Florida Abortion Amendment. It prohibits the use of public funds for abortions except as required by federal law and to save the mother's life. Additionally, the measure stipulates that the state constitution cannot be interpreted to include broader rights to abortion than those contained in the United States Constitution. It basically allows Florida to flip the bird to the Supreme Court in regard to abortion.

And while opposing Amendment 6, as well as Amendment 8 (which would fundamentally allow tax payer money to go to religious organizations), Steinem talked at length about an underlying political issue: Voter suppression.

She relayed some of the stories she was told about how Florida voters in the 2000 election were disenfranchised. "One of my big regrets was not coming back to Florida in 2000 and standing up for the recount. I don't know if I could've made a difference, but the only way to be effective is to behave as if everything you do matters, because we have no idea what actually will."

She explained that part of the reason Republicans began to put so much money towards negative ads was so they could turn off voters from politics. If you make voters hate politicians -- they won't vote.

 

But she doesn't hate Republicans, if anything, she feels bad for them. "It is no longer the centrist Republican party," she said. She understands that genuine Republicans who care less about social issues than they do about financial issues, are under-represented. She says that if Democrats win this election, "We will not only win our freedom, but we could rescue the Republican Party. Real Republicans will come forward and not replace the Tea Party, because they have a right to exist, but outnumber them."

She elicited plenty of laughter from the crowd when she spoke of Mitt Romney's campaign mantras with regard to reproductive rights and contraception. "It sounds great when you say 'All babies deserve to be born to a loving family,' of course voters would like that. Now if you said, 'If you want to get pregnant every time you have sex, vote for Romney' that's another story.

He doesn't support equal pay, he doesn't support reproductive freedom -- I don't really know what he supports," she says of the candidate.

Although she always remained calm, in a very caring and gentle tone of voice, Romney's lack of support for equal pay perplexes her the most. She explained that equal pay would be the single biggest stimulus the country could have. It would cut poverty in half. It would give 200 billion dollars more to working families. "The average woman would get $148 more per week, and the average woman of color would receive $262 more per week, since they face double discrimination. And these women are not going to put that money in the Cayman Islands or in a Swiss bank account. That money will go directly into our economy."

She is proud of President Obama for saying that equal pay was not only a women's issue, but a family issue.

She spoke of domestic violence, stating the shocking fact that, "More women have been murdered by their husbands and boyfriends than the total amount of soldiers that have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11."

Steinem's overall message was that there are still prevalent women's issues that absolutely need addressing, and her presence in Broward County was no accident. In the last primary Broward had the lowest voter turnout with a meager 10%.

"Go vote," she insisted. They recommended voting early since the ballot is between 8 and 10 pages long, and their stance was to vote no on all the amendments.

"People ask me who I'm passing my torch to, and I always respond by saying that I'm not giving up my torch, I'm using it to light other torches. That's how you create more light."

And in this small room filled with women who fought with her and women who grew up learning about her, more torches were certainly lit.




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