When young adults are asked to name well-known feminists, common responses include Taylor Swift, Meryl Streep, and a variety of other big-name celebrities and social media stars. Everyone has a standard in his or her mind of what a high-profile feminist looks like and the type of opinions a feminist holds.
While the revival of mainstream feminism has become very influential on modern culture, it neglects to relate today’s advocacy efforts with the work of the many notable feminists who laid the foundation for the movement towards equality for all. The 60s and 70s were full of social justice activism, and the roots of the modern day feminist movement can be found in these decades.
Contrary to popular belief, intersectional feminism is not a revolutionary concept but instead an understanding of feminism that has only recently begun to be re-examined. Intersectional feminism recognizes that in order to fight for equality, one must take into account the multi-layered facets of bias including sexism, racism, and transphobia. Intersectional feminism’s true pioneer, Gloria Steinem, is perhaps one of the most accomplished feminist advocates of our time, yet very few Millennials know the extent of her body of social justice work.
Steinem is best known for incorporating women’s studies into mainstream media and pop culture. Steinem worked as a freelance writer in the late 60s, publishing articles for The New York Times Magazine and Esquire. In 1968, she helped to found New York magazine, where she worked as a political columnist and feature article writer. A few short years later, Steinem would help co-found Ms., a magazine published by the Feminist Majority Foundation that continues to provide women with a news outlet created by women, for women. Steinem has worked to create many foundations to empower all women including the Women’s Action Alliance, the National Women’s Political Caucus, and the Ms. Foundation for Women. After realizing the detrimental effects of mass media on the value of women in society, Steinem founded the Women’s Media Center to prevent and counteract the misrepresentation of females by the media.
Steinem’s thoughts on the purpose of feminism have always been progressive, as she believes that feminism ought to be an inclusive movement that transcends class, race, and sexual orientation. She served as a member of the Beyond Racism Initiative, a three-year effort led by activists from South Africa, Brazil and the United States to compare the racial patterns of the three countries. She received the first Doctorate of Human Justice ever awarded by Simmons College and the Ceres Medal from the United Nations for her work to improve the quality of life for all human beings. Steinem was awarded the National Gay Rights Advocates Award for her activism to help the LBGTQ community thrive.
While Steinem’s career as a feminist advocate of social justice is often associated with the 60s and 70s, many of her well-known initiatives have sprung up within the past decade. She continues to travel the world, giving speeches and talks to audiences of all backgrounds and contributing to on the groundwork for human rights. Steinem’s legacy becomes more and more apparent in the modern feminist movement, as more advocates turn towards an inclusive definition of feminism and work to find solutions for all social injustices.
Later this year, Steinem will be releasing her own memoir My Life On The Road, detailing her life as a journalist, globetrotter, activist, and feminist. This will be a great read for anyone looking to continue the fight of feminists worldwide.
Feminism is a powerful movement built upon the hard work of many activists and advocates over the decades. This makes it even more crucial to remember that as we move forward, we must never forget those who came before us.
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