Monday, 8 March 2021

International Women’s Day

 It was no coincidence that ‘The Glorias’ was shown on Sky Cinema yesterday. The life, travels and travails of Gloria Steinem, from little girl through to footage of the real self protesting at Trump in 2016, was powerful and a joy to watch. 

It was not an easy early life, especially for the teenage Steinem. But she was a wanted child and was loved as a little girl. And it made me, the viewer, still feel the impossible is possible. A great film, directed by Julie Taymor who was behind ‘Frida’, which I recently rewatched. Strong women, all.

‘The Glorias’ is a non-sensational telling of Gloria’s writing and feminist-activist life. I was ahead of the curve. I read about it in the reviews as the one to watch in praise of International Women’s Day. But, after working in the garden, depositing gravel and bark and re-digging the veggie plot, I wanted an early afternoon Sunday treat. I didn’t get to the reviews until after I’d seen it. Richard was truly engaged, too. And it dovetails aspects of ‘Mrs America’ - where Rose Byrne plays Steinem. Steinem herself preferred the depictions of her in ‘The Glorias’. All credit to Lulu Wilson, Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore who are Steinem at various stages of her hardworking life.

I was shocked, yes, truly, that as a woman in a man’s office she was considered to be the coffee provider for the male newspaper journalists. It shows I’m from the next generation along. Steinem is a pre-war baby. I was born almost a quarter of a century later. And no man, in the working environment, has asked me to make him coffee. Ever. So fuck off.

It is with thanks to Gloria, Ms, Rosie Boycott et al at Spare Rib and Dame Carmen Callil and others at Virago that women my age have read about the fight - and enjoyed the profits of those fights - to have choices over our working conditions and reproductive lives. I didn’t have to go through an abortion, as did Steinem and countless other activists in the 60s and 70s, because the pill was prescribed for me when I was in a long-term relationship. Easy. But only easy because others before me had made it so.

As a teacher I enjoyed equal pay from day one. And it is only now, now my husband is ill, that I cook for him every day. For forty years he was the chef in our household. 

A significant part of ‘The Glorias’ shows Steinem’s connections with Indian low caste women and their physical struggles with never-ending childbirth and brutality within marriage. Later she is a scribe for Native American women at a women’s convention and presides over one of their leaders’ ceremonies: This Native American speaker becomes a female chief of her tribe. Hoozah! Steinem is also part of a discussion group of Asian American women who felt their voices were not being heard. To say nothing of black African American women’s fights for equality.

Steinem didn’t shy away from being an advocate for these groups. In this way she is truly an international spokesperson for International Women’s Day.

‘The Glorias’ was so involving and, at 2 hours 20 minutes, a long watch; it deserves another viewing. When I’m not cooking or making coffee. 

I loved the way Steinem walked out of one of her jobs because she was asked to post some letters. As Bella Abzug said - she wore a hat so she would stand out and wouldn’t be mistaken for a clerical assistant. We owe these women. But the fight is not yet over.

Happy International Women’s Day. Take nothing for granted.

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