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Gloria Steinem: Background information when reading The Female Persuasion

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The Female Persuasion

A Novel

by Meg Wolitzer

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer X
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2018, 464 pages
    May 2019, 480 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Meara Conner
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About this Book

Gloria Steinem

This article relates to The Female Persuasion

Print Review

Gloria Steinem in 2011 Though the character of Faith Frank in The Female Persuasion is an amalgamation of many '60s feminist icons, she appears to be drawn most heavily from Gloria Steinem. Steinem got her start writing articles for magazines like Esquire and Cosmopolitan on women's issue topics such as contraception and abortion. In 1963, she received widespread recognition for going undercover as a Playboy Bunny in the New York Playboy Club to ascertain its working conditions.

In the following years, Steinem became involved with a number of protests and organizations fighting for women's rights, eventually co-founding the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971. Steinem was criticized not only by those opposed to the feminist movement, but by some of the women involved. Her public image was denounced as being too glamorous and a few feminists believed that it indicated she was not as committed to the movement as she led on to be.

The first issue of Ms. magazine, published in 1972 About a year later, while battling breast cancer, Steinem co-founded Ms. magazine with Dorothy Pitman Hughes. A publication focusing on liberal feminist issues, the magazine quickly became one of the most popular in the country, selling out its test copies within days. Over the years, even though Steinem is no longer involved in daily operations, the popularity of Ms. has not diminished; it still exists today as a lasting testament to her accomplishments.

In 1992, Steinem published The Revolution from Within: a Book of Self-Esteem, Steinem's treatise on the importance of valuing yourself. The book faced backlash from some readers who felt that her emphasis on personal development was a step away from her social activist work. However, Steinem stood by her opinions voiced, believing that a strong self-image was the first step towards making greater social change. She said: "We need to be long-distance runners to make a real social revolution. And you can't be a long-distance runner unless you have some inner strength."

Steinem continues to speak out on a number of issues facing women today, particularly the importance of intersectional feminism, which is built on the premise that women's identities are framed not just by gender, but also by sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and other factors. Steinem keeps up the fight to dismantle still-rampant misogyny and sexism across the world. Recently, Steinem, alongside fellow women's rights activist, Ruchira Gupta, traveled throughout India, meeting with the country's young feminists and writers and creating a dialog of empowerment between women of the U.S. and those of India.

At the 2017 Massachusetts Women's Conference, Steinem, a keynote speaker, said: "Clearly at this moment in time we are gaining our voices in a way that has never happened before." In the landscape after the 2016 Presidential election, which was particularly disheartening for American feminism, Steinem continues to encourage women to better the world for themselves; though the path may be difficult, the possibilities to continue to make change are endless.

Picture of Gloria Steinem from Ms. Foundation for Women

Filed under People, Eras & Events

Article by Meara Conner

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Female Persuasion. It originally ran in May 2018 and has been updated for the May 2019 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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