Is feminism dead? When Time magazine's June 29 cover posed that question alongside a picture of TV's short-skirted, ditzy attorney Ally McBeal, it was not in attempt to answer it as much as to render it moot. Indeed, one wonders what happened to feminists, as the women's movement seems to have been hijacked and is turning a profit for style-over-substance media monsters such as Lilith Fair and the Spice Girls, with their vacuous cries of "Girl Power."
Seeing the political leaders who defined modern feminism still on the road brings a sigh of relief. All is not lost. As evidence of that, Gloria Steinem, arguably the most visible symbol of American feminist thought, will speak at Southern Methodist University's McFarlin Auditorium on Thursday. Hopefully, she'll remind us what "girl power" is really all about.
Steinem has done her share to advance women's issues, but she has also had her share of hardships. The early 1960s saw the girl go from Toledo, Ohio, to New York City, where she tried to survive as a freelance reporter. Though she would eventually cover everything from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. to United Farm Workers demonstrations led by Cesar Chavez, she had to fight her way up in a field that limited women to writing mostly about traditionally feminine topics such as celebrities and beauty. One editor went as far as to say, "We don't want a pretty girl; we want a writer," assuming the two were incompatible.
Steinem proved otherwise. She cofounded Ms., the only feminist magazine--the only American leftist magazine at all--to approach mass circulation status.
The lecture at SMU, "An Evening with Gloria Steinem," inaugurates the Louise Ballerstedt Raggio Endowed Lecture Series in Women's Studies. Raggio, a 79-year-old Dallas lawyer, worked to rewrite the Marital Property Act of 1967 that finally gave married women in Texas control over their own property. Before then, women, along with children, convicts, and mental patients, could not sign contracts or do business without the signature of a man. Raggio remembers having to ask her husband, also an attorney, to sign the bail bonds for her clients.
Raggio's scrapbook will be on exhibit during the lecture, outlining her long line of firsts: She was the only woman in her law-school class, the first female criminal prosecutor in Dallas County, first female director of the State Bar of Texas...you get the idea.
"An Evening with Gloria Steinem" happens October 1 at SMU's McFarlin Auditorium. Tickets are on sale at all Dillard's outlets or through the Dillard's box office at (800) 654-9545. Prices range from $10 to $35. McFarlin Auditorium is located at 6405 Boaz Lane on the SMU campus.