It’s Thanksgiving and an appropriate time to reflect on giving and receiving. A day, a season, perhaps an even longer time to trade in negative dialogue and give it up for someone who has contributed so much to our lives and to many others’ as well. This year I’ve chosen to write about Gloria Steinem. She appeared in our area a couple of times during the election cycle and I felt lucky to be able to hear this icon speak in person at the Lake House.
Shaped by her early years, the author and activist watched her family’s disintegration be blamed on her mother’s journalism career. Convinced that women needed political and social equality, Steinem first rose to national recognition when she worked as a Playboy Bunny and wrote an exposé about how women were treated at male clubs. After her early writing career and the creation of the Women’s Action Alliance, she hit a high point by founding Ms. magazine.
On a personal level, I thank Steinem for taking so much of the flak when I was going through a divorce back in the 70s. My ex would yell and wag a finger at me saying, “If it hadn’t been for you reading Ms. . .” But our ties had been snapped and blaming feminism was a good way to avoid looking at any of the other problems our marriage was facing. Fortunately, we had no kids or money, and with the passage of time, my ex and I were both able to find better life companions. No surprise, he’s now a Sarah Palin fan, a figure supported by many more men than women.
Defining oneself based on marriage, recognizing pro-choice as a key privacy issue for women (“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament”), distinguishing pornography (domination) from erotica (reciprocity) and exposing female genital mutilation are some of the areas where Gloria has educated us all. She has worked against both the Vietnam and Iraq wars and on numerous political campaigns. While President-elect Obama’s victory has ignited the imaginations of minorities, the wait continues for a woman president. Black men were able to vote a half-century before women. Those who believe that feminism is outdated need to review history and recognize enduring inequalities on college campuses and in corporate board rooms.
Remembering her mother who cried every time she mentioned Roosevelt and for those who become weepy in anticipation of an Obama presidency, when Steinem was in Evergreen she repeated a Roosevelt quote: “OK, you’ve convinced me. Now go out there and bring pressure on me.” On the left there is much gratitude for the outcome of the recent election. The task now becomes to push for those issues that will bring a better life for all. As Steinem said: “Our best protection is justice.”
The Founders were certainly a brilliant group of men with a mixed legacy. Madison, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams and Washington were all slave owners. The founding documents don’t mention women — and civil rights in those days were centered on property ownership, race and gender. That legacy continues. Steinem reports, “The International Labor Organization says there are about 12 million people living in literal slavery around the world, and 80 percent of them are women and girls.”
Predictably during this bad economy, voters compromised Jeffco schools. Teaching remains a female-dominated profession, and good ones are the showpiece of fine education. The roll call of what must now be cut from the public school budget is a sorry saga.
Stating that most women self-identify with the term “feminist,” Steinem feels, “We all get radicalized by what affects us.” As media consolidate into the hands of a few, Steinem observes, “We’re changing ourselves to fit the world instead of changing the world to fit women.” Through the Women’s Media Center, her work continues to give females visibility and power. Thank you, Gloria Steinem.
Hannah B. Hayes is a small-business owner and an activist for peace and justice. A recent graduate of Leadership Evergreen with a master’s degree in education, Hayes has remained active in this community through her writing and organizing for 35 years.
In these hard times (even harder for Republicans), it might be difficult to think of things for which to be thankful. After this election, I got to thinking about a couple of sets of people I am thankful for. I guess I had been a little too critical of Sen. Obama during the election, because my 8-year-old asked me one day if Obama would ban science if he was elected president. Of course, he won’t, I reassured my child, because the way our political system is set up keeps terrible things from happening. Now, I certainly think that Obama has shown some indication of pursuing policies that will be detrimental to our economy and our national security, but we still should be grateful to live in a country that assures us of certain fundamental rights. We should also be grateful for the political system we have that also ensures that the pendulum will swing back.
And who do we have to thank for that? The Founding Fathers. These 55 men, and most especially James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John Adams and George Washington, not only risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to create this republic, but were blessed with the intelligence to create a system of checks and balances against federal power, including a separation of powers, federalism and a Bill of Rights.
The way they set all this up means that even with an encroaching of federal powers over the years, we will never be in the extreme position of many other countries. So here’s to the founders!
I am also grateful to some Colorado people who have made all our lives easier. To those who sponsored and passed the state charter school law in Colorado, thank you. Our charter school here in Evergreen is one of the best, and the people there have gone more than the extra mile for my kids. Our children’s teachers are the best there are, and you know who you are, Mrs. Offerman, Mrs. Cox and Mrs. Narans. It’s not that I want to denigrate the terrific neighborhood schools in Jeffco, but I do believe that parent involvement and accountability make a huge difference.
I would also like to thank the sponsors of TABOR and the voters who voted for it, and the voters who rejected the stripping of TABOR in this past election’s Amendment 58. It might not have been perfectly written, but it has protected Colorado from a legislature and an executive who go on spending sprees. Unlike Colorado, more than half the states in the U.S. have faced 2008 budget deficits of more than $50 billion total. Colorado has been relatively protected by TABOR, because spending was not allowed to expand in flush years.
And finally, I am thankful for our readers. Whether you curse me or love me, you read me, and for that, thank you!
Actually, no, Gloria, the best protection is freedom. Freedom is what this country was actually founded on, not justice. Liberals love to use that word, because it means whatever they want it to mean. Usually, it means imposing their will on the rest of us. It means taking away private property rights, making people dependent on the government for security, both financial and personal. It means raising the desires of pushy groups above the good of all. It means defining the good of all to be that which lines the pockets of trial lawyers, enviro-activists and career politicians. It means the very opposite of freedom.
Only in America has a member of a historically disadvantaged minority been able to take power democratically. I do believe that if Hillary Clinton had been the Democratic nominee this year, she would have beaten John McCain. It was just a Democratic landslide year. All of this is due to freedom, the freedom guaranteed by the Constitution and envisioned by the Founding Fathers.
Freedom means that the color of his skin, or the fact of her gender, didn’t matter at all in the final reckoning.
Attorney and political activist Kelly Weist has served on the board of directors of the Colorado Federation of Republican Women and is the co-founder of Mountain Republican Women. She is an adjunct professor of political science at Metropolitan State College of Denver.