As a moved President Obama put the Medal of Freedom award on a clearly thrilled Ms. Steinem, it symbolized the results of four decades of her tireless advocacy.
If it weren’t for Ms. Steinem and the movement she inspired, we wouldn’t have a president who valued women’s equality as Obama does. If it weren’t for Obama’s single mother, he wouldn’t understand some of the unique challenges women face.
Upon learning of the award in August, Ms. Steinem said, “There is no president from whose hand I would be more honored to receive this than President Obama.”
I’m honored and touched to receive the Medal of Freedom, especially in the company of Bayard Rustin, Oprah Winfrey, Sally Ride, and other of my heroes. I know this is a recognition of the countless women and men who have worked for a society in which we are linked, not ranked, and have always understood that the caste systems based on sex and race, class and sexuality, can only be uprooted together. There is no president from whose hand I would be more honored to receive this than President Obama.
If it weren’t for Gloria Steinem, no one would think to equate a medal of freedom with feminism. As Steinem has explained, “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” Feminism is about equality for all, not just women. The values behind feminism are the same values behind other civil rights movements – social and political equality evinced in justice. Ms. Steinem is the person who explained that the egalitarian principles behind feminism are naturally tied to civil rights of all kinds — race, labor, sexual orientation, etc.
Ms. Steinem was one of 16 recipients to be honored by Obama at the White House today, including former President Bill Clinton and media powerhouse Oprah Winfrey. The medal is “presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the U.S., to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
The White House’s announcement noted her staggering accomplishments, “Gloria Steinem is a renowned writer and activist for women’s equality. She was a leader in the women’s liberation movement, co-founded Ms. magazine, and helped launch a wide variety of groups and publications dedicated to advancing civil rights. Ms. Steinem has received dozens of awards over the course of her career, and remains an active voice for women’s rights.”
Change starts with an idea. People scoff at ideas and they scoff at people who can motivate others, but Steinem is an example of the lasting power of ideas and hard work. Her charisma helped, too, because charisma sells change to the public. It matters. On imagining what could be, Ms. Steinem once said, “Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.”
Ms Steinem is also taking us where I envision our future by saying things like: “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”
In other words, women packing guns isn’t the ultimate expression of feminism because feminism isn’t being all that encompasses cultural masculinity. Truly being equal would mean that culturally feminine values were respected on par with masculine values. Culturally feminine paradigms like cooperation would be valued just as much as the power over-under paradigms evinced by the American worship of pseudo machismo. This would mean that more power structures (governments, institutions, etc) would embrace egalitarian values.
The image of this president awarding the Medal of Freedom to Gloria Steinem won’t soon be forgotten by women who are paying attention. We know all about the GOP policy war on women, and we know that while any president could have put on this show, no other president has made history championing women’s rights as Obama has.
This picture says it all:
Politicus extends heartfelt congratulations to Ms. Steinem. You can add your congrats in a card courtesy of the Women’s Media Center here.