The women’s fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar is one of several periodicals rushing to re-purpose interviews by HBO star Lena Dunham with her feminist favorites from her “Lenny” newsletter. They just posted Dunham’s interview with the radical heroine Gloria Steinem, who’s plugging her new book, complete with a dedication to her abortionist in the 1950s as a “hero.” That’s the word both Dunham and Steinem employed.
DUNHAM: The dedication in your book, to the doctor who gave you an abortion, gave me full-body chills. How long had you been thinking about the concept of revealing his identity?
STEINEM: I often thought about him, but because he asked me not to reveal his name, it always stuck with me as a prohibition. And then it dawned on me that he is long dead, and this is a different day, and it’s time to thank him.
DUNHAM: And he’s a hero now, not a criminal.
STEINEM: He’s a hero.
This is the thrill-up-my-leg dedication, in full:
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO:
Dr. John Sharpe of London, who in 1957, a decade before physicians in England could legally perform an abortion for any reason other than the health of the woman, took the considerable risk of referring for an abortion a twenty-two-year-old American on her way to India.
Knowing only that she had broken an engagement at home to seek an unknown fate, he said, “You must promise me two things. First, you will not tell anyone my name. Second, you will do what you want to do with your life.”
Dear Dr. Sharpe, I believe you, who knew the law was unjust, would not mind if I say this so long after your death:
I’ve done the best I could with my life.
This book is for you.
Steinem lacked irony when asked about whether she ever lost her energy for the fight against the patriarchy: “If you have a movement that has time for jokes and poetry and love, you’ll have that in the end. So you have to build it in along the way. You can’t kill people to save the village.”
That doesn’t sound like a Planned Parenthood slogan. Dunham was repeating herself as a questioner about the feminist movement and her role in it:
DUNHAM: How have you dealt with the inevitable attacks that come from being a face of such a complex movement? Did it ever make you want to take a nap for a week?
STEINEM: It’s not as bad as it used to be. At first it was really quite painful, and there have been some pretty bad times. But now I’ve developed guidelines to deal with it. I try with varying degrees of success to say, “Please do not call me an icon.” I try to use my first name and not my whole name, because somehow it sounds friendlier. I don’t show up for photographs or television shows or panels if they’re all white. Sometimes people say women are our own worst enemies, but I always say, “No, we’re not.” Even if we wanted to be, we don’t have the power to be. Things are better now, I think, because there’s much more understanding that we’re addressing a group problem, not an individual problem. With advancing age, I’ve had people saying to me, “Who are you passing the torch to?” And I knew it made me mad, but I didn’t quite know what to say. And so finally I figured out that, wait a minute, I’m not giving up my torch.
PS: Elle magazine is also lapping up Dunham interviews, like one with socialist/feminist comic Sarah Silverman, which included this nugget:
DUNHAM: What is a moment of overcoming the patriarchy that you have witnessed or taken part in this week?
SILVERMAN: Lizz Winstead, who started Lady Parts Justice (and the Lady Parts Justice League), made an app called Hinder that looks like Tinder but presents/exposes politicians who are anti-choice. It’s satirical and informative and brilliant. She is an unsung hero of feminism who works tirelessly, and I love her.
What’s ironic about all this feminist bleating is the pop-up ads, which seem very “retrogressive” in tone. This one popped up at Harper’s Bazaar: “Gain access to our exclusive list of the 12 SHOES EVERY WOMAN SHOULD OWN.”
At Elle, it was “32 SURPRISING THINGS THAT ARE DESTROYING YOUR SKIN.”
LifeNews.com Note: Tim Graham is the director of media analysis for the Media Research Center, a media watchdog group. He was a White House correspondent for World magazine in 2001 and 2002. This originally appeared on the NewsBusters web site.