9.05.2006

Watch Out Rush, Your "FemNazis" and "MediaChicks" Are Coming

NYTimes
September 3, 2006
Questions for Gloria Steinem

All About Eve

Q: It’s been a generation since you founded Ms. magazine and became the face of American feminism, so why, at this late and supposedly liberated date, do we need GreenStone Media, an all-female, all-talk radio network that you just started with Jane Fonda?

The radio has become overbalanced toward the ultraright. AM talk radio does not reflect the fact that only 30 percent of the country, at the most, is anywhere near Rush Limbaugh.

But women, too, can be noisy right-wingers. Look at Ann Coulter.

If you create a movement, you create jobs and profits for someone to sell it out. That’s true of Phyllis Schlafly. It’s true of Ann Coulter; with both of them, I couldn’t invent a better adversary.

Who do you see as an ally? What about Hillary Clinton?

I disagree with her very much on the war. I feel otherwise she’s good on issues. But the war is huge.

Is Condoleezza Rice an ally of women?

I wish someone would write an article called “How Did Condoleezza Rice Get That Way?” She’s so separate from the welfare of the majority of Americans and especially the female and African-American communities to which she belongs.

So you see your radio network as the female version of Al Franken’s left-leaning Air America Radio?

No. No. They are very Washington-directed, very argumentative. What we are doing is more populist, centrist and community-oriented.

You seem attached to the 70’s ideal of communal activity, but most of us are now “bowling alone,” to borrow the title of Robert Putnam’s book on the collapse of American community.

Consciousness-raising groups became networking groups became book clubs. But the books are an excuse for people to come together. There is a reason why societies universally believe that the greatest punishment is isolation.

What sort of community can be formed by a radio network whose Web site denigrates women by promising something “lighter and more entertaining” than political talk shows, as GreenStone’s does?

That probably comes from the phrases women use when you do surveys. The message is they don’t want hostility, fighting, more heat than light.

But do women want a lengthy show on the virtues of Internet dating? That was the topic under discussion when I tuned in the other day. It seemed very young and fluffy.

Not necessarily. The fastest-growing group for Internet dating is older people.

Have you ever gone on an Internet-arranged date?

No. I am not interested in dating. I have a chosen family of friends. They include old lovers, who turn into friends. It’s so wonderful. All the brain cells that were dedicated to sex, they’re free for other things now.

You never had children and seem to prefer living by yourself.

That has less to do with isolation than that I was a parent to my mother, who wasn’t able to function as one.

And where was your dad in all this?

He was a kind, loving gypsy. Until I was 10 or 11, half the year, at least, was spent in a house trailer, going to Florida or California and buying or selling antiques along the way. I always had a fantasy of a house with a white picket fence.

Will you be a talk-show host for GreenStone?

No. My struggle is to write more and talk less.

What sort of book are you working on these days?

“America as if Everyone Mattered,” which is half memoir and half on-the-road book.

Do you write every day?

I try to, but e-mail happens, phone calls happen. My cat, Galahad, tortures a baby mouse, and I put the baby mouse in the garden.

Now that you’re 72, what do you make of the current mania for cosmetic surgery?

Twenty years ago, I had some fat taken out from my eye area. It turned out to be a mistake. I think in the long run it pulled down the lid. I haven’t had any other procedure.

You’ve often been described as “the good-looking feminist,” as if the others were ogres. Does that bother you?

I wasn’t considered so good-looking before I became a feminist.

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