HBO has done a fabulous one-hour documentary about Gloria Steinem called “Gloria: In Her Own Words,” revolving around a recent interview with her. All the best things I remember about her from the earliest days are highlighted , not the least her constant insistence on having a speaking partner – inevitably a black feminist – who also was to be hired before she accepted a gig. Steinem grasped the interplay of gender and race and understood, too, how class changed the experience of women. This was not always true of her colleagues at Ms. Magazine – whom I met in Boston before the first issue was published when they were trying to gain support. But Steinem had her own set of admirable principles. She also had a great facility of the tongue, combined with courage, which she began to exercise when she was unable to get her journalism about the budding women's movement published.
Her relationship with her beloved friend Bella Abzug is showcased in the context of their amazing perseverance in feminism. Flo Kennedy, too, was always a large part of her life. Steinem’s exhilaration at being part of a movement is palpable and her utter commitment is obvious.
A documentary about her is, in many ways, a documentary about American feminism since the late 60s. I found myself in the film – not literally but very personally, for it was in some ways also the story of my own life. I was going through parallel thoughts and changes in Boston as she came of ideological age in NY.
What I forgot was the degree of painful attack and misogynist insult that she suffered over and over and over. Each time, she said in one of the many interviews that are excerpted in the film, she felt that she never wanted to go out of the house again. Each time, Bella helped her remember why they were fighting the good fight.
Today, when the war on women is a major component of the right –wing agenda and when we all feel that we are living in perilous, dreadful times, this film is inspirational. It is just a shame to see that we are fighting the same battles over and over.
It is "On Demand" on HBO already, so if like me you don't have HBO, find a friend who does. Here’s a 90 second piece of it that I found on YouTube: