To the editors:
After reading David Futrelle's review of Gloria Steinem's Revolution From Within [February 14], I came to the conclusion that the only mistake made was by you for printing his drivel.
Futrelle just doesn't get Steinem's thesis. Her point is not to deny that challenges must be made to the institutional injustices of our society, but that many people, both women and men, lack self-esteem. Although many find society's unjust forces enervating, each must establish the causes of his or her self-doubt. Fate aside, Steinem further explains, reasons exist for those tiny dragons we wage war with in our minds.
Her book helps to frame questions about our lives we might not otherwise have been able to ask. Once we identify the roots of our self-doubt, it is easier to break the hold these thoughts have over our actions.
What puzzles me the most about the piece is why he believed he could speak empathetically on the issue of feminism. Worse yet, he feels empowered by some divine source to make prescriptions for her behavior: "Steinem, who really should know better, slips easily into rhetoric that blames the victim, making casual reference to self-destructive behavior as the root cause of poverty and crime."
I can envision him index finger extended, scolding her from the podium. Did he even read the book? If he did, I'll subsidize Evelyn Wood's home study class.
The fact that he cannot relate to Steinem's expansive emotional repertoire does not surprise me either. He takes a one-dimensional approach to the subject of feminism: " . . . her indiscriminate combination of many themes merely adds to the confusion." You'd think he was assisting Mr. Blackwell in composing his best/worst dressed for 1991 rather than a critical review of an important book.
He alludes to having been a follower of hers for years, yet, with comments like the above, I wonder. Frankly, it makes me ponder if he's read any feminist theory or criticism at all?
In the future, I hope a more thoughtful approach will be employed in filling your pages. Steinem is a woman who helped shape the feminist movement in the United States. Her actions as well as others changed the way we all live today. This contribution is significant.
It is a cause for celebration when an abundant number of people are mobilized by a social explanation of how their lives have unfolded. Steinem's latest endeavor does not refute this, but further clarifies the similarity between us all. For Futrelle to state otherwise is not only blasphemous, but also criminal.
I lament the fact the Reader is a free publication, because I cannot put my money where my mouth is and refuse to purchase it in the future.
Tracey Wik W. Charleston
David Futrelle replies:
We all have our own version of politics I suppose--Wik's seems to come straight from the Spanish Inquisition--but it's hard for me to see Steinem's book as anything but depoliticizing. Yes, Steinem is aware of what she calls (in her more lucid moments) "the external barriers to women's liberation." But she also tells us that "humans create inequality by simply believing in it," quotes Vince Lombardi on the power of positive thinking, and holds up Winston Churchill as a role model for internally oppressed peoples everywhere. Hardly a step in the right direction, unless you consider Churchill a feminist. When I said that "Steinem should know better," it was because, in the past, she did.