We See Chick Flicks: “Gloria: In Her Own Words”

Gloria Steinem became famous in 1963 when she published an article called “A Bunny’s Tale” in which she went undercover at a Playboy Club to expose the treatment of its waitresses. In the decade-plus to follow, Gloria became one of the most public faces of the burgeoning “second wave” feminist movement. She fought for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, advocated for abortion to be legalized, pushed the mainstream women’s movement to recognize that lesbian rights were an integral part of women’s rights, and of course was the very first editor-in-chief of Ms. magazine. The heyday for the “third wave” feminist battles have arguably passed, but Gloria Steinem is still kickin’ (enough to put Glenn Beck into a fit, shrieking about how the “’60s have passed”). Any young woman or young man who has discovered feminism in the past 50 years will come across something that has Gloria Steinem’s fingerprints on it. Naturally such an icon deserves, at age 77, to be memorialized in her very own documentary.

The Verdict: For an hour-long documentary (which is quite short), “Gloria: In Her Own Words” hits all the bases. It covers the whole span of her life, both public triumphs and personal defeats, which I appreciated. She’s had a lot of experiences in her 77 years and the film didn’t treat the ones that made her most famous in the ’60s as more important than any others. We learned about Gloria’s childhood with an absent father and a mentally ill mother, as well as her late marriage to a fellow activist who died not much later from brain cancer. She talked candidly in the film about her lifelong struggle with self-esteem, especially her early fear that if she was hitting roadblocks it must be because of mistakes she was making, rather than a systemic problem for ambitious women. I saw a lot of myself in the Gloria Steinem of her 20s and it’s a relief to me that she doesn’t try to pretend she’s always been an Amazon warrior without a chink in her armor. She’s just human.

If you have HBO, I highly recommend you watch “Gloria: In Her Own Words” when it airs on Monday night — or at least TiVo it for a day when you need a dose of righteous lady-positivity!

[HBO.com: Gloria: In Her Own Words]
[Women’s Media Center: Gloria Steinem]

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