Gloria Steinem is an icon. She is a witty, insightful, incredibly sharp woman who helped to bring modern feminism into the public eye. I need to say -- first and foremost -- that I don't write this because I lack respect for this woman. Anyone who has the balls to get half-naked and go undercover inside the Playboy mansion to unveil how sexist it really was is, is someone absolutely worth respecting in my book. It's been nearly 50 years since she did this and nearly 50 years since the start of the second wave of feminism. For her time, someone like Gloria Steinem was exactly what this country needed. But -- if I were to ever meet her at a party -- I think I would probably want to punch her in the face.
Right now, I accept the fact that -- to some people -- this statement makes me hugely unpopular. But in the '60s and '70s, Steinem was a radical because she had to be. She had to be this tough-as-nails, man-hating bitch to prove her point in a society still overwhelmingly dominated by men. But since then things have changed, many great steps have been made in the name of progress. There are so many things that still need to be done, but they call for someone who attacks things in a way different from what Steinem did.
The word "feminist" has gained a pretty bad reputation in recent years. This is because of the massively obnoxious women with hugely radical views, exactly like Steinem. They are the ones who walk around the streets of New York topless and screaming obscenities whenever they get looked at. They essentially reject all men and -- odds are -- they probably get offended when a guy holds a door open for them. Everything is taken to the extreme and, in the '70s, that was needed. Now, an issue as relevant and scary as rape culture isn't getting the attention it really needs because people are too busy paying attention to the half-naked, crazy women yelling about it. Today, the word "feminist" produces images of a constantly complaining, man-hating lesbian. And that stereotype has permeated so deep into society that it's become essentially impossible to break.
I remember distinctly one instance where I was talking about Women's Studies with a friend. He asked me why I chose to study that in school and, when I explained my reasoning, he replied with, "You feminists, always complaining." At that point, I would've reached through the phone and smacked him if I had the opportunity. Feminism has its place in society. And the issues that feminists fight for show themselves almost every day. In the Stanford rape case, the judge cared more about the well-being of Brock Turner than the woman he violated. Hillary Clinton has been asked numerous times if she can balance being a grandmother and president at the same time when Mitt Romney had over 20 grandchildren during his campaign. These are real issues. But it's these "feminazis" that make it hard for people to take them seriously.
The issues posed by feminists today do not necessarily call for obnoxious, naked protesting through city streets. Things like that just make no sense to me. I see pictures of women storming around topless with the words "still not asking for it" painted on their chests and getting angry when men look at them. You see something weird, you stare at it, that's just how the world works. And men -- rapists or not -- will keep staring and ignore the real issue. If these women just used those same tough attitudes to fight against the Stanford ruling or to bridge the wage gap, so much more would be done. Politics can use a hell of a lot more ballsy women like that.
In my first year of studying gender, I learned about a term called "enlightened sexism." Basically, people think that women already have complete equality, so they think it's OK to continually say or do sexist things. That is an issue that needs fighting. And it doesn't call for one single, outspoken leader. What it needs is many people to try and change it within their own lives, and gradually change society's view over all. In 2016, someone like Steinem just isn't needed anymore.
Gloria Steinem reminds me so much of the 2016 "feminazis" that I try so desperately hard not to be. I can't call myself a feminist without people looking at me like I'm crazy. People ask me what my minor is in school, and I have to mentally prepare for the barrage of comments that I always get when I say that it's Women's and Gender Studies. I call myself a feminist because we live in a society where the patriarchy is all too real. The word "feminist" is not something you say to make yourself look cool at parties or show people how tough you are. It's more serious than that. In the '70s, naked protesting and bold, in-your-face tactics would've worked. Now I just think that things have gone a little too far, and it's making the rest of us look bad.