The other day, the NYTimes published a piece about the legacy, or its lack, of Gloria Steinem. Steinem emerged as a figurehead for feminism in 1970, during the debate surrounding the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, and is often still the one people call for a sound byte when there's a "women's issue" on the table.
I've been thinking about the question the article poses, about leadership for the feminist movement, and about what people have been calling the War on Women. While I'm not sure it's coordinated enough to be called a war, I do know that in recent years, I have felt more like being female is a liability. It's been evident in my health care (where I've had to fight to be treated with dignity), in my workplace (where male leaders continue to tacitly condone sexist behavior, especially the sort that HR can't sanction), even at the grocery store (have you noticed that products for women almost always cost more than the equivalent products for men? Someone else besides me noticed, too). And I've found myself, especially after this past year, asking, who is speaking for us now? (Though I know Mel is speaking for me at the White House, and that's comforting.)
The reality is that we may not ever have another Gloria Steinem. And perhaps, as Steinem herself thinks, the movement never should have had a first one. What we do have (and have had for a long time, of course -- I had plenty of courses on feminist theory) are feminisms: the lived experiences of the diaspora. We are telling our stories in more ways than ever before. More women have access to the megaphone. Certainly, there are a lot of great blogs and blog aggregates out there: Jezebel, Feministe, Slate’s Double X, BlogHer are among what I consider to be the "big" ones, and then there's a host of others -- the ALI blogging community is a perfect example of this phenomenon, and I came across one the other day which sports the fabulous name "Team Uterati." (Among her recent posts is a gut-wrenching story about a woman in Texas who had just discovered that her baby had severe irreversible health defects, and who was forced to have three ultrasounds in a single day and endure a tortuous description of her son-in-utero before she could have an abortion, partly because of a morass of laws and guidelines that didn't get passed at the same time.)
The Times calls it "a matrix of voices, an antic and hyperlinked conversation in which no one figure dominates."
So has social media erased the need for feminist leaders? Is populism the new social activism?
With all of this chatter, I confess I'm left with nagging doubts. Does this broad approach to feminism cause diffusion of its message? Is telling our stories enough? And, asks Pat Mitchell of the HuffPo, "In a globalized, media-saturated world, are we as aware of the range of experiences, conversations, and considerations?"
There's this, a group launched on Facebook that plans to coordinate marches across the country on April 28th. And that sounds promising. But I don't feel like marches in 2012 have the same effect as marches did in 1970. I feel like what matters is capital: where women spend their money. And maybe how women can get past the feminisms to send a unified message that things need to change.
I'm publishing this recipe today because it was given to me by my husband's aunt, who married into a very feminism-oriented family (and who is a pretty vocal feminist herself). It's a potluck-y sort of thing; it's also the sort of salad in which you can taste all the vegetables while you're appreciating the flavor of the whole. And it's got a surprising kick that you might not notice at first bite. Sort of like those of us of the double X persuasion.
Toyoko Bean Salad
with Chili Lime Dressing
2 c. green beans, chopped
1 (19 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 (19 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 c. corn kernels (frozen is fine)
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 c. fresh coriander or 1/4 c. parsley, chopped
2 T. olive oil
1 t. lime rind, grated
2 t. lime juice
2 t. chili powder
1 t. sugar
1/4 t. salt
In saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add green beans and cook until tender crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain and chill in cold water; drain and set aside.
Drain and rinse chickpeas and black beans thoroughly; place in a large bowl. Add orange pepper, corn and onions; set aside. (If using frozen corn, make sure you do this enough in advance for it to defrost, or run it under some hot water for a few minutes.)
CHILI LIME DRESSING: Combine the ingredients; pour over the beans and toss to coat (Dressing can be made ahead: cover and chill for up to 24 hours, but don't add it to the beans until you're ready to serve it). Adjust seasoning to personal preference.