• Scout Streit

Gloria Steinem: Journalist and Activist Leading the Way for Women’s Rights

How One Journalist became the Story to Support her Cause

By: Scout Streit

When I was 11 years old, my Girl Scout troop went to our local art museum to view the new feminist exhibit and watch the film Miss Representation. As we giggled at the partially nude paintings and took turns doing our best Rosie the Riveter impressions, I was blissfully unaware of how much my mind was about to expand. As we were watching the film, footage from the 1970s of a woman named Gloria Steinem came on the screen. Standing in front of a huge crowd, her words cut like glass as she spoke, rallying her audience to take a stand for women’s rights. As I got older, I became more aware of Steinem and her work both as a journalist and feminist. Using her intellect and skill, she took the women’s rights movement and put it on the forefront of American news, demanding action for her cause.

Finding a Niche

Gloria Steinem poses for a portrait in 1975.  Photograph by Jack Mitchell
Gloria Steinem poses for a portrait in 1975. Photograph by Jack Mitchell

Before becoming the trailblazing feminist we recognize her as today, Steinem started her career as a writer and reporter. While battling the sexist world that was journalism in the 1960s, Steinem got hired by Show magazine to go undercover and report on the working conditions of the infamous Playboy Club. She went undercover as a Playboy bunny waitress, exposing the sexist and harsh working conditions these glamorized women endured, documenting it in the article I was a Playboy Bunny. Despite her strong reporting, Steinem still struggled to be taken seriously and it took years before she was able to find her place in the journalism world.

In defiance of all her setbacks, Steinem managed to create a place for herself in journalism where she could write about the political issues important to her. Through doing so, she paved the road for future female writers during a time when most women were stuck behind a desk fact-checking and proof-reading articles for their male counterparts.

Becoming the Story

Seeing the growing potential in the women’s rights movement, Steinem first spoke out for the cause at a rally to legalize abortion in 1969. That day marked Steinem taking a

different approach to her feminist cause. No longer just a reporter covering the movement, she firmly put herself inside the story, setting the foundation for her future as a leader in the feminist movement. She recounted her own experience with having an abortion and in doing so lit a fire within herself and others to advocate for women’s rights. From there, she became a spokesperson for the movement, speaking out and publishing articles for her cause. Despite her growing fame, Steinem stayed true to her journalistic roots, writing articles in support of the movement and helping publish feminist magazines.

Lighting a Path for Others

To this day, Steinem continues her work as a journalist and feminist, writing about the current political issues at hand and advocating for women’s rights. She has grown to become a notable figure in the feminist movement, inspiring people every day with her outspoken bravery and moxie.

“Change is slow. Like a tree, it grows from the bottom up, and we still have a long way to go. But we just need to keep going and to celebrate how far we’ve come,” Steinem wrote in a 2021 article for Variety.

Her defiance in the face of adversity has opened the door for countless other minorities to come in and demand fair and equal treatment. From uncovering sexist work conditions, to using her personal trials as a woman to inspire others to join the feminist movement, Steinem has proven herself a powerful journalist, activist and feminist.

Gloria Steinem’s career is just one example of the difficult path it has been for women to be taken seriously, not just in the journalism field, but in all professions. She led the women’s right movement into the spotlight and became part of the story to fight for her cause. Her work has inspired countless people, like a certain awestruck Girl Scout, to fight for women’s rights. Steinem took control of her narrative and utilized her platform to give women a voice, and the female journalists of today all owe her a big thanks for it.

About the Author

Scout Streit is a journalism student with plans to enter the public relations field. She is interested in political and environmental issues. She attends the University of North Texas and plans to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a focus in public relation and minor in social sciences in May of 2022.