Steinem: Women are ‘made to feel that our bodies are ornaments, not instruments’

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Recently, The New York Times called Gloria Steinem “a woman like no other” and posed an interesting question: “Where is the next Gloria Steinem, and why — decades after the media spotlight first focused on her — has no one emerged to take her place?”

Journalist Susan Faludi had this response: “We’ve not seen another Gloria Steinem because there is only one Gloria, and someone with her combination of conviction, wit, smarts and grace under fire doesn’t come along every day.”

I’d argue that it’s because there are far more women now advocating for women’s rights. Rather than there being only one or two or three dominant voices, there are many. I was reminded of this when I heard young women from Barnard College share views on women’s rights and gender equality as part of a TV interview on The Oprah Winfrey Network.

Oprah and Steinem aired the interview at Barnard and gave students an opportunity to ask questions about a variety of topics — modern-day feminism, women in politics and what it means to be “a successful woman” in today’s world.

I looked up the segment online and came across a Webisode that centered on body image. As I watched it, I was especially struck by Steinem’s remark at the end. As women, she said, “we’re made to feel that our bodies are ornaments, not instruments.”

I’m happy there are many women — and some men — highlighting the issues women face and advocating for women’s rights. As cliche as it sounds, there really is power in numbers. The New Yorker’s Emily Nissbaum put it well:

“We often have a cultural fantasy about individuals,” she said in the Times story. “Collaboration is just as frequently the source of great things, and it’s less rarely recognized. Change doesn’t always happen because of one person, but that’s what makes for great biographies.”

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