May/June 1999 | Volume 50, Issue 3
Gloria Steinem. The media dropped the real feminist foremother, the ferociously haggard Betty Friedan, like a hot potato when the flirty blonde-tressed Steinern waltzed in after a glitzy career as a socialite journalist sporting see-through plastic dresses. Steinem deserves credit for stabilizing the popular image of feminists, who were getting tarred as bra-burning lesbo witches. However, her knee-jerk male bashing damaged feminism, and her coterie-style urban liberal politics sank it into a self-congratulatory swamp. Steinem’s glib anti-intellectualism ruined Ms. magazine, which should have been a forum for diverse feminist voices but instead silenced and ostracized all opposition (such as my own 1960s pro-sex wing, which returned with a vengeance in the 1990s). Steinem is a party animal and first-class schmoozer. She’s chief deb of her own little sorority, which awards honorary memberships to pampered men of power, such as glad-handing presidential adulterers.
Faye Wattleton, founder of the Center for Gender Equality. In 1990, as president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Wattleton made a brilliant appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee at its hearings on the nomination of David Souter to the Supreme Court. The assembled presidents of the National Organization for Women and their strident female claque made whining asses of themselves by insulting the senators for the terrible crime of being men. But Wattleton, the daughter of a pro-life fundamentalist woman minister, presented the pro-choice argument with moral gravity and passionate eloquence. Her performance that day was a historical highwater mark for American women in public life. With her academic degree in nursing and her elegant style and refinement, Have Wattleton is a classic combination of brains and beauty and is therefore an ideal role model for young women today.