After fifty years, Gloria Steinem is still at the forefront of the feminist cause

Jane Kramer in The New Yorker:

GloriaSteinem has a mantra that she says she lives by. She calls it “Ask the Turtle,” because it involves a turtle she rescued—or thought she had—on a geology-class field trip to the Connecticut River Valley in the spring of her freshman year at Smith. “I found a mud turtle on the riverbank, up by the asphalt road,” she told me. “A big snapping turtle, more than a foot long, but I picked it up—carefully—and lugged it down to the river and slipped it in. The professor saw me just as the turtle disappeared in the water. He said that the turtle had been making its way to dry land for a reason—in order to lay its eggs—and that now it was going to take that turtle months more to lay them. It was a lesson I learned to apply to people a few years later, in India—though I didn’t realize it then—when I was going from village to village with Gandhian women organizers, listening to them ask, ‘Tell us your stories. You’ve lived them, you’re the experts.’ ”

…Steinem married for the first time in her mid-sixties, inherited three stepchildren (among them the actor Christian Bale), and was widowed three years later, when her husband, David Bale, died of brain cancer, at the age of sixty-two. Bale was a South African-born British businessman and environmentalist. They met when he walked up to her at a Los Angeles Voters for Choice benefit. It was a happy marriage, “a green-card marriage, because we would have been together anyway,” Steinem told me. She says that caring for him that last year, when he was ill and “needed someone to help him out of life, and I needed someone to force me to live in the present,” had actually helped her “expiate the pain of my old terrors”—the terrors of caring for her mother when she was too young to understand or cope. Steinem has compared marriage to slavery law in this country. As a young woman, she fled one brief, ill-advised engagement. And, in her early forties, she amiably dissolved a second, to Robert Benton, who went on to write and direct “Kramer vs. Kramer.” “Neither of us was really sure we wanted to marry, so we took it in steps. The first was to do the blood tests and get the license. We did. The second was for him to buy the new suit. He did. The third was for me to buy the dress. I never got to the dress, I just couldn’t do it, and the marriage license expired.”

Four years after David Bale died, a reporter from Pakistan asked Steinem why she had changed her mind about marriage. “I didn’t change,” she told him. “Marriage changed. We spent thirty years in the United States changing the marriage laws. If I had married when I was supposed to get married, I would have lost my name, my legal residence, my credit rating, many of my civil rights. That’s not true anymore. It’s possible to make an equal marriage.”

More here. (Note: Thanks to dear friend Sindy Kohuth)