For reasons not entirely knowable, I recently watched HBO’s shallow documentary Steinem. Probably unsurprisingly, I learned that Gloria Steinem has been recklessly lifting from and latching onto Black struggle since her earliest activist days, to an extent I don’t think I fully realized. I knew about many of her foibles; but maybe because I started reading Ms. magazine as a teenager (my sister subscribed), I’ve long had a distant respect for Steinem’s accomplishments and outspokenness. Now that she’s in her mid-70s, I also must admit to having a harder time mustering the kind of polemical bile I’ve spent years distilling for maximum acidic slam per word.
But still: above left, the very first cover of Ms. in Spring 1972, using Hindu iconography with total cultural disregard to score points about juggling domestic duties. And above right: Steinem posing for Life magazine in 1965 holding a “We Shall Overcome” placard. Some of her earliest media activism aimed to de-segregate smokey wood-panelled men-only backroom bars by likening them to whites-only lunch counters in the Jim Crow South (it’s exactly the same as lynching!) and claiming that her efforts were the new Civil Rights movement. So this recent trend of all manner of media campaigns claiming to be the New Black or the New Slavery or New Civil Rights Movement are really nothing new. Turns out the New Black is the Old White.
Why are you surprised? Have you seen mainstream White feminism? Had to come from somewhere.