• Thu, Aug 11 2011

Sheryl Sandberg: “My Life Is Better Because Of Gloria Steinem”

Sheryl Sandberg recently wrote an article for The Huffington Post on the upcoming HBO documentary, Gloria: In Her Own Words, which looks at the life of feminist Gloria Steinem. Sandberg wrote, “As I watched her evolve from a journalist forced to cover patterned pantyhose to an activist demanding equality for women, the simple truth struck me over and over again: my life is better because of Gloria Steinem.”

Sandberg gives credit to Steinem for essentially starting the women’s liberation movement and fighting for equal rights, reproductive rights and basic respect. “She also worked tirelessly to extend that support to others in need, including the gay community and minorities of all kinds from all over the globe. Viewing herself as more persuader than crusader, she launched Ms. Magazine in July 1972 to amplify her voice.”

Sandberg quickly points out that Steinem does not want women to thank her for the work she has accomplished for their rights. At a Q&A after a screening of the documentary, Steinem insisted, “If I’d been hit by a Mack truck, the woman’s movement would have still happened.” Sandberg didn’t really agree with this statement, but she found it very gracious.  Steinem told Newsweek recently, “Obviously we’ve come a long way on many fronts, at least for some women in this country.” But then she went on to point out that Anders Breivik, the Norwegian man who massacred 77 people in late July, was motivated by women hating and blamed his mother for “feminizing” him. However, this aspect of the story barely got any coverage, according to her. Steinem also mentioned Dominique Strauss-Kahn. “Anyone can see this is a pattern of behavior,” she said of Strauss-Kahn. There is still a lot of work to be done according to Steinem. ”The point is we go forward,” she says. “We’re nowhere near where we need to be.”

Sandberg did agree with this sentiment, especially in terms of women achieving equality in the workplace. “Women continue to need protection not only globally where many women lack basic civil and human rights, but also here where the most dangerous place for an American woman is still shockingly in her home. We’re currently 70th on the list of nations for electing women to our national legislature and in 44 years, we’ve closed the pay gap by only 19 cents. We can — we must — do better,” wrote Sandberg.

The new documentary, which will air on HBO on Aug.15, traces Steinem’s life from her teenage years to her early career as a “trailblazing magazine writer in Mad Men–era New York and her 1963 undercover exposé of life as a Playboy Bunny. She recounts her feminist “conversion” at a 1968 abortion-rights rally and the founding of Ms. in 1971 in a one-room office littered with cardboard boxes.”

Newsweek believes the documentary may make a whole new generation aware of women aware of Steinem’s role in women’s rights. However, Steinem said she doesn’t want to be thanked by younger women for helping define the term sexual harassment. She pointed out that as a young female journalist entering the workforce in the 1950s, “there were no words for sexual harassment. It was just called life.” Steinem referenced the words of another great feminist, Susan B. Anthony, to express what her goal for women’s rights has always been: ”Our job is not to make young women grateful. It is to make them ungrateful so they keep going.”

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