I usually reserve this blog space for thoughts and ideas directly related to infrastructure for the arts. Today, I make an exception. (If you want to, you can scroll down to a recent post on arts funding or click here.) On the verge of 48 years old, I am a product of second wave feminism. Thanks to Betty Friedan, Kate Millett, and especially Gloria Steinem, I grew up believing that a woman could have all that a man could have. I went to high school with Geraldine Ferraro’s daughter. Back at that time, there was a “women’s section” in the newspaper that today is called the “Styles” section. Serious people – men and women alike – didn’t actually read the styles section. Important viewpoints were expressed on the opinion pages. When I was a kid and there were still cigarette ads everywhere, the mantra of my childhood was “you’ve come a long way baby.” Apparently, Virginia Slims was as wrong about that as about cigarettes.
Women’s rights are now being attacked in a way they haven’t been during my adult lifetime. Feminism, or the women’s movement — whatever you want to call it — desperately needs leadership and vision to lead us through this difficult time. That is why I was shocked – really appalled – that the New York Times, a paper I deeply respect for its nuanced reporting on issues I care about, placed an article about Gloria Steinem and her possible successor as the symbolic leader of the movement in the Styles section and not in the Sunday Review. The article asks an extremely important question: “Where is the next Gloria Steinem and why . . . has no one emerged to take her place?” An article that addresses this critical question for the women of this country in what most people consider the nation’s newspaper of record should be in the Opinion pages, not relegated to the Style sheet. This is an issue of interest to the whole of the country, not just women.
Adding insult to injury, the article that touches on this succession is further devalued by the one that follows it about the young feminist organizer whom Steinem took in as a “roommate.” If Shelby Knox could be the answer to the important question posed in the first article as is implied in the second, then a meaningful profile of her would be more suitable than a description of her “tiny but cozy first floor studio” in the West Village.
If you are a woman at risk of losing access to affordable contraception or at risk of having your rights and your body violated by mandatory invasive medical procedures, you don’t care about a feminist’s apartment. You care about her (or his) ideas. I wish the New York Times had covered that on the front page – and NOT the front page of the Styles section.