Introducing Ms. Gloria Steinem


I had the great and terrifying honor of introducing Gloria Steinem at an intimate benefit for Ms. in San Francisco last week. I was up late the night before struggling with these questions:

How do I properly give homage to someone who provided my generation the luxury of largely ignoring the movement — to which she has dedicated her life — that enabled us to charge into the colleges of our choice, wearing what we wanted and having abortions without hassle? How do you thank Gloria and honor the effects of her work, which gave us such equal footing, that we were allowed the audacity to scoff at the feminist movement that got us into the co-ed dorm rooms where we sat rolling our eyes.

And then I hit my mid 30s. Looking out from this new perspective, with a baby and a step-son and an MBA, I realized, like many of my generation, that once you get past your first several years after college or grad school (where the playing field is fairly level — thank you, Gloria) the percentages of women in places of power are far from equal.

I learned that over my lifetime I will earn $2 million less than my male counterparts. And that even though women control over 80 percent of the spending, our voices are largely missing from top corporate and national discussions.

So, for the last several years I have been trying to make up for my youthful, naïve scorn and Gloria Steinem has become my hero.

It was very hard to find words to honor someone I feel I owe so much.

Although the group was small, much smaller than others I’ve spoke in front of, my hands were shaking the iPad I was using as a crutch. I tried to focus on the friendly faces of my co-hosts, women who have themselves shattered many a glass ceiling — women like Gina Pell, Julie Chaiken, Sophia Yen and Gina Bianchini.

Here is what I ended up reading from my wavering iPad:

All week I have been helping my husband, Phil Bronstein, work on a presentation about the disintegration of traditional journalism… it starts out: Traditional journalism is dying, but what is surprising about that is how fast it is happening.

I have been married to a journalist for the last eight years and I know all too well the trials and tribulations facing the media industry today.

In a world where 85 percent of public opinion and news is created by men, often white and affluent men much like my husband, women are being left out of the national discourse and with the cuts and massive shifts in media companies that statistic will likely move in the wrong direction.

So, it is vital that organizations like Ms., an iconic institution of great accountability in journalism — both for and by women — not only maintain itself, but thrive. This is how we reassert ourselves into this important national conversation.

Women control over 80 percent of consumer spending and for the first time ever in 2009 women earned more Ph.D.s than men, but in the world of journalism we have a good fight ahead of us.

Rutgers University study found that 97 percent of op-eds by scholars in the Wall Street Journal are written by men.

What is the cost to society when half of the nation’s best minds and best ideas — women’s minds and women’s ideas — are left out?

This is why Gloria Steinem and Kathy Spillar, the editor of Ms. and executive vice president of The Feminist Majority foundation are so fundamentally important to us. They have changed how all of us here today think and feel about ourselves. And they are on the right track of using a non-profit journalism model to assure women have a trusted voice now and in the future. 

Every issue of Ms. is relevant.

I even named my company, A Band of Wives, after an article I love that was in the first ever issue of Ms. — “Why I Want a Wife” by Judy Syfers, that came out before I was born.

That is the power Ms. has to inspire generations. I hope my daughter grows up in a world with Ms. as a watchdog for women’s issues and an invaluable tool to keep the movement going.

I watched the HBO documentary on Gloria for the third time last night and am constantly awed by her calm, her humor, her honesty and her integrity. You can tell from her incredibly long list of accomplishments that she loves women. She believes in women.

At the end of the documentary she says, “The advice I’d give to young women is not to listen to my advice, but to listen to yourselves. Knowing yourself is more important than knowing me.”  Which is just another example of how much she trusts and values women.

But Gloria, that is one piece of advice I am bucking because watching how you lived your life inspires me to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.  Your words and actions inspire all of us to want to find ways to lift the barriers that still hold us back.

I’m so excited to introduce Gloria Steinem.

Photo courtesy of Margot Duane

This column first appeared on the Huffington Post