9.08.2006

Gee-El-Oh-Are-Eye-Ayyyyyyyyy

There are few events for which I'd interrupt this week's self-imposed blogging hiatus. One of them is scooping the mainstream media with a juicy tidbit on the strange spontaneous combustion incident of the entire Republican congress.

The other is an interview with Gloria Steinem.

As in me. Interviewing her. Yesterday.

I have to write about it this very minute because I've been bursting at the seams for the last 36 hours, dying to stop every single woman I've passed on the street, grab her, shake her and scream YOU CANNOT GUESS WHO I JUST TALKED TO! But they already think I'm a little strange up here, what with the black clothing and all. So that brings me back here to Mom-101.

When, back in mid-July I made an off-handed reference to her in a blog post title, it never crossed my mind that it would somehow lead to her "people" right to me. And yet it did. Greenstone Media (which I wrote about last week) was gracious to include me in a group of ten prolific women bloggers yesterday to hear firsthand what Ms. Steinem has to say about her new radio network for women. Then we were each allowed to ask her a question. About anything.

Pinching myself. Pinching myself.

Here's the thing: In fifth grade, when we each were assigned to report on a different Time Man of the Year, I chose 1975's "American Women," culminating in my thesis that, um, maybe they shouldn't call it Man of the Year anymore? By the end of that year, I was devouring my mother's Ms. magazines, falling asleep with them open on my chest, the way other fifth graders did with Teen Beat.

Yes, Gloria Steinem was my Sean Cassidy.

For those of you not-so-political moms who might be a little scared of what you think Gloria might stand for or all that scary militant F-word business, here's an anecdote you might appreciate: My mom attended a talk of hers back in the early 90s. Right in the middle of the speech, a baby started crying in the back of the large hall. The mother of the baby stood up, surely a bit embarrassed, and started to hustle her infant quietly out of the room.

Right then Gloria stopped her speech midsentence, looked at the mother and insisted, "don't you go anywhere. That is the most beautiful sound in the world."

Walking the walk. Walking the walk.


How do I ask one of womankind's greatest assets a single question? A hundred questions, no problem. But just one?

So what I asked (in my trademark rambly, get-to-the-point-already and stop gushing kind of way) was how she perseveres. How--after this administration has created such a hostile environment towards women and the issues we care about, seemingly reversing years of the progress she has made--she keeps on keeping on day after day. Or rather, how I can keep on keeping on.

I asked this because I used to be far more political than I am today. This blog is not nearly the liberal soapbox it might have been in 2004, when I thought there was a chance of reclaiming the country away from the dark forces. Back then I read TPM and Daily Kos with more frequency than I read personal blogs today. If such a thing is possible. I hosted political fundraisers. I shook hands with candidates. I wrote many checks. The world seemed primed for positive change.

Nate and I were thrilled at the notion of bringing a child into the world during more prosperous, peaceful times and so we conceived Thalia in October of '04. We were not alone. In fact, so many like-minded friends conceived children at the same time that we thought of it as a liberal baby boom. We still refer to these kids as The Pre-Election Optimism Babies.

Thalia was our little optimism baby. Our beacon of hope.

And then we lost. The country lost. The world lost. And I became despondent.

I threw all of my passion into the pregnancy, into Thalia, into researching crib mattresses and fragrance-free detergents. My default tv channel switched from CNN to the Food Network. I started skimming most of my moveon.org emails, and deleting others entirely. I stopped signing every petition that entered my in-box, stopped calling my Senators, stopped emailing my Congressional representatives.

But lately I've started to feel that putting my finger in my ears and singing LALALALA is not really something I'm comfortable with over the long-term. I've always been a marcher, a protester, a boycotter, a person of action. And so I was hoping that Gloria Steinem, The Gloria Steinem could personally tell me how to dust myself off and keep going. For my head. For my daughter.

Her words (and here I paraphrase) were that we should look at the facts, look at the public opinion polls and then we will know know that we are not alone, not fighting against all odds. That the vast majority of the country supports us on the issues we care about. And that the political defeats are not because our country as a whole is sliding in the wrong direction, but because of a failure to get out the votes needed to avoid the painfully narrow margins. To go further, she claims to be not disheartened by the last election, but inspired by it; because it is the first time in recent memory that people were not just voting--they were fighting to vote.

Then she summed up by saying that to keep our spirits up, we should simply look at where our spirts are. Not where they aren't.

In other words: This woman who has been called every name in the book, who has been spit at and threatened and attacked and seen certainly a darker side of humanity than any of us ever will,

she is an optimist.

An optimist.

And the truth is, so am I. I'm so grateful to have been reminded of it yesterday.

------------

If you'd like to read other accounts of the phone call, check in with the other impressive bloggers who asked many of the questions I wish I could have: Her Bad Mother, Motherhood Uncensored, Mommy Needs Coffee, Leah Peah, Escape from Cubicle Nation, Ingrid from Three NY Women, Almost Literary, Que Sera Sera, and Brazen Careerist. I'm honored to have been included among them yesterday.

Also check out Greenstone Media if you haven't yet. I'm attending the network's launch party on Tuesday (still pinching myself!) and I can't wait to find out more about it.

------

Ok, one more thing (the reward for sticking around to the end here) - I have just received word that I can ask Gloria Steinem one more question by email. And she will answer. And so I am handing the microphone over to you, the most thoughtful, smart, wonderful commenters in the entire blogosphere, who deserve the opportunity every bit as much as I do. And so...here you have it.

What would you ask of her? Anything. Any topic. Post it in the comments and I'll send one off to her, with the answer forthcoming.

Now back to my regularly scheduled vacation.


39 Comments:

Anonymous laurie said...

wow -- congratulations! that's big stuff. and thanks for taking a break to tell us all about it. great question you asked -- and great answer to report.

the question i'd like to ask her is how does she feel about the state of feminism today, what with younger women shrugging off (or outright rejecting) the label "feminist" and a veritable civil war breaking out between mothers who choose to continue their career paths after their kids are born and mothers who have decided to stay home with their kids rather than continue flexing their feminist career muscles. is feminism still persisting or did it derail somewhere along the way?

9/8/06, 10:41 PM  
Anonymous neva said...

just when i'm sure there's no way in hell to impress me any more than you already have... oops! you do it again!

i love that you were able to speak with this amazing woman, but i love even more knowing you grew up admiring her and all she stood and/or stands for.

i don't know if i'd have just one question... i think for now i'll just be happy with the knowledge that Ms. Steinam -- like me -- is an optimist, despite the turn of events over the course of the past few years. in the end, i think that's all any of us can be. the alternative is to give up, and, girlfriend, i'm just not ready to do that.

thank you for taking a break from your "break" to share this wonderful post. i confess it was a little hard to read through the green that permeated through to my very eyeballs... but once i got used to the tint, it was, in a word, spectacular! xox

9/8/06, 10:47 PM  
Anonymous Glennia said...

I'm not sure how to phrase this, but what I would like to know is whether she sees any single issue that women can work for that would significantly impact the lives of all women and children? In other words, what should the next "women's movement" be about?

Personally, I'm up for starting a revolution, because I'm f'ing pissed off at what this administration has done to our country.

9/8/06, 10:54 PM  
Anonymous momish said...

Wow! I completely admire (and envy) your opportunity to meet with such an amazing woman of our time! I will definately follow all your links to learn and read more. As for the question? I always wonder when I read about people who are considered icons of a cause or particular genre, like Gloria Steinem is for feminism, what else they would want the world to know about them that is also important. Something more private, you know? It seems like they only get to toot their horns about what they are publicly revered for and not some other values or traits they would also like to be known for, but gets overlooked.

9/8/06, 11:23 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Ahhhh. So excited and happy for you. And I would have been the same way. I would be so excited, I wouldn't be able to sleep for DAYS! Squeeeee!

Loved the little story you told about the mom and the baby and What Ms GS said. Sigh....

Hope your vacation is fun and very relaxing!

9/9/06, 12:12 AM  
Blogger tracey said...

FRIGGIN' UNBELIEVABLE!!! What a post. What a story. I am feeling so, so, um, "up with people"!
Thanks for sharing it. I'm so stoaked for you!I can't imagine what a thrill it must be to now be aquainted with YOUR Shawn Cassidy. How dreamy!

9/9/06, 12:33 AM  
Blogger Overwhelmed! said...

Wow! You got to interview Gloria Steinem. That is so impressive!

I really like the question that Laurie posed (I couldn't have worded it better) and I hope that you ask her that one and then post her response. Regardless of what question you ask her, I'll be back to see her response.

And now, I'm off to look at some of the other blogs that you've linked.

Congrats!

9/9/06, 1:33 AM  
Blogger Queen Haline said...

Hi Liz,

Fabulouus post. Sounds like it was a great conversation with Gloria et. al.

I have have two questions.

1) Where is the next generation of feminist leaders? Why is there no one out there who could be an obvious successor to Gloria? What is she doing to grow the next generation?

2) When there are so many important issues in the US that American women are facing, what is our obligation to women overseas living in much worse situations? What is she doing in this area?

Hal

9/9/06, 1:57 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Liz, you and Kristen are so lucky. How exciting. I can see why you'd break your non-blogging to share. Ha, I am glad you did.

9/9/06, 3:04 AM  
Blogger Occidental Girl said...

Congratulations, Liz! I'm so happy for you.

Why is the word feminist considered a dirty word in general discourse? How can it instead get back and represent the beautifully simple idea of equality, of respect; noble ideas for which it first was incarnated to represent?

9/9/06, 4:03 AM  
Blogger Food Mum said...

Thank you for that post about retaining optimism. For your country and for the world too. I think one ot the best things for me about blogging is the discovery of so many women writing out there, who can see straight and aren't brainwashed into accepting the political establishment.

It gives me hope, here on the other side of the world, despite George Bush and all that crazy paranoid mindset, that there are sane people keeping a human perspective to regain the balance.

9/9/06, 6:12 AM  
Anonymous Mother said...

After speaking with her, I have a totally renewed sense of optimism as well as faith in the feminist movement.

I'm embarrassed to say that I never really did until Grad school. I wasn't exposed to feminism in ANY form whatsoever - however, after grad school, I was very interested in women's studies.

And now, with a daughter? I think it's in the forefront of my mind everyday.

I feel like somewhat odd (weird, not worthy, perhaps) being on that call, knowing the impact she has made on the world and in your life and not really having the same experience. I'm envious of you and your experience - I only hope I can do for Q what your mom did for you. It speaks (in my opinion) to why you are so fearless and successful in your life.

9/9/06, 8:45 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

It was a thrilling and unexpectedly warm-and-fuzzy experience, talking to her. Your (mom's) anecdote about her actions with the mom-with-baby really capture everything that she exuded over the telephone - warmth, empathy and passion.

9/9/06, 9:34 AM  
Anonymous Carla said...

As a step mother of a 16 year old girl I would like to know how we as parents can combat the gangsta wanna be mentality. With the booty shaking, the acceptance of being called a bitch or ho, it boggles my mind that our media and society find this acceptable. Please note I am not a prude nor am I religious, I simply feel that women have slipped backwards with this placement of women as a commodity.

9/9/06, 11:17 AM  
Anonymous wendy boucher said...

You rock, Liz, and so does Gloria. I'll be thinking about a question but there are some great ones here already.

My political leanings have been pushing on me lately too, thus the recent rash of political cartoons on my blog.

9/9/06, 11:25 AM  
Blogger Keri said...

Wow! What a wonderful opportunity you had to talk to Gloria! Here's my question:

In this world today, what is the best way that we, as parents, can raise our children to be socially conscious?

9/9/06, 11:45 AM  
Blogger Recovering Wino said...

Such a wonderful opportunity! Congratulations!!

9/9/06, 3:32 PM  
Blogger Queso said...

Very cool. All around.

Here's my question I would ask...I work with a lot of bright women in their 20's with great leadership potential, and I'm curious: What can we do to encourage them to get more excited about US policies than US Magazine?

P.S. (Besides the obvious...bringing up issues in relevant, cool/hipster speak conversation...still, I often get blank stares. Apathy is winning.)

P.P.S. (Also please know, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with US magazine; because, come on, what else would we read when we get haircuts and how else could we get our important Suri news? Oh yeah, the 8 p.m. network news. But still and come on people. Why do these women just a few years younger than us seem even so much more obsessed with celebrities than we are?...and as I'm typing this it's hard to believe that's even possible, but it seems to be.)

P.P.P.S. (Also, I really do love our 20-something sisters...and our country..., and that's why I'm asking this question.)

9/9/06, 3:45 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Davis said...

I love the other questions people have put out there, especially Laurie and Girl ConQueso. Besides the concerns over the newer/younger generations of feminists and feminism, I would want to ask her what her response to Disney Princesses, Barbie, etc would be if she was the mother of a young girl today. If I ever have a daughter, I would be torn between completely shutting her off from that stuff and letting her be her own person (even if it meant dressing as a princess).

And I KNOW that 2004 optimism! Our younger son was conceived the night of a Kerry rally in Iowa over the 4th of July weekend in 04. And I got a positive pregnancy test during Elizabeth Edwards' speech at the convention at the end of July!

9/9/06, 3:56 PM  
Anonymous Izzy said...

Very cool! but I must get down to business on theoff chance that you haven't already chosen a question (pick me! pick me!)

Here goes:

What is the one single most important thing a mother can do to raise a strong, confident, self-respecting daughter in these seemingly regressive times?

:)

9/9/06, 4:14 PM  
Blogger metro mama said...

Congrats.

I like Izzy's question.

Now, get back to your lobster and margaritas.

9/9/06, 4:50 PM  
Blogger PunditMom said...

Wow! I'm so envious!

I'd like to know what she thinks is the real fuel behind all this 'mommy war' stuff? I'm beginning to think that those writing about, supposedly to help "us" get past it, are really the ones stoking the fire. Is that possible? And how can we move past all that nonsense to make things better for our daughters when they are adults?

Also, it's interesting you mentioned Escape from Cubicle Nation ... I love her blog, too.

9/9/06, 5:49 PM  
Anonymous Y said...

Oh Yeah? well... Well... I'm friends with Jay Mohr! So there!!!

That's really awesome for you and the other bloggers. Congratulations, mamacita.

;-)

(Speaking of Jay. I never did send you the emails that I promised. Oops.)

9/9/06, 6:44 PM  
Anonymous croutonboy said...

Wow! Congrats on the killer interview!

9/9/06, 7:12 PM  
Blogger SuzanH said...

Amazing!

I love her. And, like you, I've found myself less and less involved in anything political. I'm glad to hear that there are others who feel the same way, and who are also looking for a way back.

As for a question? I like Izzy's. It's a hard row to hoe.

9/9/06, 7:47 PM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

There are times in our life that are pivotal and this sounds like one. Congrats.

9/9/06, 7:55 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I am also curious about the root of the Mommy Wars. How did women get set against each other so completely?

9/9/06, 8:17 PM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

How can a woman who takes a more traditional role (staying home raising children) espouse feminism without diminishing the value of her own choices?

And, in some ways, isn't Feminism itself to blame for the rift in womankind by establishing and promoting a laundry list of tenets to which a woman must adhere to in order to call herself Feminist and qualifying certain choices as unworthy?

I know, it sounds really highbrow and philosophical and stuff, but you know how I feel about the Pandora's box that is Feminism. I really would like to know what she thinks about Feminism and traditional female roles and how to reconcile the two.

9/9/06, 8:43 PM  
Anonymous J.Lisa said...

Wow, Liz. That is amazing. I am so excited for you.

Re: Gloria (I can call her Gloria, can't I?), could you please thank her for all she has done. (Especially Free To Be You and Me) And could you ask her what we- mamas with little boys and girls- can do to raise our kids into the next phase of feminism? What can we model, what can we teach, how can we guide these little folks to be the new strong and beautiful feminists (or whatever they will call themselves)? I wonder this more about my son than my daughter, but maybe that is just my own sexism.

You go Liz. And an early Happy Birthday.

9/9/06, 9:28 PM  
Blogger Sarah B. said...

Liz, your question was a great one, and a good one to end on. So glad to have met you!

9/9/06, 11:32 PM  
Anonymous wordgirl said...

You were inspired by Gloria Steinem and now you--in turn--inspire us with your meeting with her. It's the gift that keeps on giving. I can't tell you how much I love this post, because I've been one of those people with my ears plugged singing "lalalala" so that I didn't have to listen to what the dimwitted White House cowboy had to offer in the way of excuses for the way he has destroyed the world's confidence in the this country.
Thank you.

9/10/06, 9:45 PM  
Blogger Ruth Dynamite said...

I thank you, Liz, as I thanked Catherine, for encouraging the discussion and prompting people to think.

My question to Gloria Steinem is one I just wrote about - inspired by you and Catherine and the very idea of Gloria: can men and women ever be truly equal?

9/10/06, 10:34 PM  
Blogger Fraulein said...

I had similar feelings in the fall of 2004. My daughter was born Oct. 1, 2004. We felt so sure Kerry would win. I've been despondent to varying degrees ever since, because I so desperately want the world to be a better place for her. I would love to hear from Gloria Steinem how she keeps her optimism. Because lately, especially with the 9-11 anniversary, that feeling has been coming back -- I've had to take a blogging break. The right-wingers are really getting me down right now.

9/11/06, 2:13 PM  
Blogger kim said...

Wow.. how fantastic is that??

I hope you enjoy every second... you really deserve it !!

9/12/06, 1:58 AM  
Anonymous Christina/aka Kitty said...

Blog Antagonist, thank you for putting my very question into words---words that are so much more coherent than what I've been banging around in my head for the past two days.

I LOVE being a SAHM; don't miss the corporate world one tiny bit. But, I worry that I am somehow hurting my daughters by showing them such a traditional mother role. I think of myself as a feminist (after all, I chose this role) but wonder what I can be doing to SHOW that I'm a feminist, esp to my girls.

9/12/06, 4:41 PM  
Blogger happygal said...

This Blog is incredibly inspiring. Keep up the good work, it is a joy to read. So glad you got the opportunity to interview Ms. Steinem. She is one of my heroes.

-Barbara, mom of 2 under age 5 and proud to be a Feminist
(which to me means having the freedom to have many choices and opportunities in life...I hope I can impart this to my young daughter)

9/13/06, 7:45 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

I remember now. I remember what it was about Ms. Steinem that bugged me. And I know it's trivial, but it bugs me to this day.

Back when President Clinton was being charged with harassment of Kathleen Willey, Gloria testified that it wasn't harassment because Kathleen said no to his sexual advances. It felt like a double standard and I back-pedal on her part to protect the Democrat president. I just felt like all the fighting Gloria did for women's rights and to stop sexual harassment was shot to hell when she said that. As a woman, I felt betrayed -- and before that remark, I looked up to her.

Call me crazy, but that's what I felt. I'm sure she was great to interview though! I'm so envious of you!

9/15/06, 10:19 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Dana, I don't know about that particular incident or whether GLoria was called to testify for any reason - that sounds a bit off to me. Even so, I do know that Cinton was vindicated of this (yet another) false accusation by none other than Linda Tripp, no fan of Clinton's herself. She testified to the grand jury that Willey had a thing for the Prez and conspired to seduce him at every opportunity. I wouldn't fall on my sword to defend Kathleen Willey, that's for sure.

9/16/06, 9:57 AM  
Anonymous Bonnie said...

AWESOME. Let me guess, were you a Deaniac? My husband and I were present at the Dean Scream, and I have to say that year was all downhill from there.

10/13/06, 7:28 PM  

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