On Gloria Steinem and Women’s Rights

gloria steinemBack in March, when Gloria Steinem turned 80 (I know, I can’t believe it, either), I found myself pondering our country’s most notable feminist leader and what her work – and the work of so many other women before, during, and since her rise to notoriety – has meant for women both here in the United States and throughout the world.

Because of Steinem’s work and her willingness to speak out on the inequalities that she witnessed toward women in society, the workplace, and academia, my contemporaries and I have enjoyed a wider range of opportunities than our female predecessors did.  Today’s women find themselves more affluent, more powerful, and more respected, perks that enable them to further create even greater opportunities for other girls and women throughout the world. Oprah, Madonna, and Angelina Jolie all build schools for girls; Meryl Streep donates her resources to support the National Women’s History Museum; Christy Turlington-Burns supports maternal health care in developing nations; Salma Hayek raises awareness and aid for battered women; and Charlize Theron works to help decrease the number of young people in Africa who are affected by HIV/Aids.  Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court (followed by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan). while Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman to run on a presidential ticket (followed by Sarah Palin), and Madeleine Albright became the first female Secretary of State (followed by Condoleeza Rice and Hilary Clinton). Today both political junkies and casual observers of current events wait with bated breath for the moment when Hilary Clinton officially announces her intention to break that last glass ceiling in our country: the presidency.

As they say, we’ve come a long way, baby.

And yet, today, as I sit here, over two hundred girls – victims of kidnappings by the terrorist group, Boko Haram – remain missing after more than three weeks.

The world is outraged by this unconscionable crime against innocent girls, and understandably so. To deny girls an education is an offense many of us find inexcusable not just from an equality standpoint, but from an economic one, as well.  But, to remove girls from their school against their wishes and sell them into “marriage”? Unfathomable.

In 2014, almost a century after women in the United States finally won the right to vote (in a country whose founding principles state, “All men are created equal”), women and girls still experience persecution and abuse here and in other parts of the world.

But, things are getting better.  The Nigerian government finally requested outside help in locating the kidnapping victims (although, let’s face it, it’s probably too late for many of those girls) and acknowledged that they need to address the terrorism issues that have plagued the country for several years. Women of influence, such as former First Lady Laura Bush, continue to promote equality in education and economic opportunities (otherwise known as feminism) for women in the Middle East and Africa. Schools throughout the world encourage girls to pursue traditionally male-dominated fields of study such as math and science. And, more and more frequently we see women move into positions of leadership in all aspects of life from business to politics to the arts.

Every week this blog will endeavor to highlight the achievements of women both locally and globally. It will also look at programs in education that seek to provide opportunities for girls to pursue their academic and extra- curricular interests, no matter how conventional – or unconventional – they may be. Additionally, this blog will offer a space to discuss those issues of concern that require attention and will offer suggestions on ways we can continue to combat the inequities our sisters face that prohibit them from reaching their fullest potential spiritually, intellectually, and economically.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey to promote the continuing efforts of those who work to make the world a better place for everyone, regardless of gender.

After all, there is more to women than just lipstick and petticoats….

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