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A Second Wind for the Second Wave

By Garance Franke-Ruta
Of the many changes wrought within the Democratic Party by primary contest 2008, perhaps one of the least remarked upon, amid the Clinton supporter chatter about media sexism, is the resurrection of the giants of Second Wave feminism as media personalities and public intellectuals whose words are taken seriously.

In contest 2000, candidate Al Gore was roundly mocked, including by other Democrats, for taking advice from Third Wave feminist Naomi Wolf and bringing her aboard as an image consultant. This cycle, alongside the intra-party controversies that attended their vigorous advocacy for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, professional feminists have found their words and advice listened to more attentively.

At the National Building Museum this morning, Gloria Steinem, 74 -- dressed all in black, with a silver link belt slung low around her hips, two large silver bracelets on her left arm and hip rimless glasses -- was treated like the aging rock star she vaguely resembled by Clinton's supporters.

"I don't know any single human being who's crazy enough to vote for John McCain," Steinem said, taking a break from signing autographs and posing for pictures with excited young women who proclaimed her "my hero."

"The important thing is that we come together with enthusiasm. That's within Obama's power."

Steinem clutched a paperback copy of 19th century ethnologist Lewis Henry Morgan's 1851 "League of the Iroquois" under one arm, which she brought along because, she said, the Iroquois confederation served as a model for both the early United States and as "a model for women's suffrage."

Her advice for Obama? "He needs to speak up about women's issues as human rights. He needs to understand that the face of poverty in this country is female," and of all races, and also address violence against women and sex trafficking, Steinem said. "I have confidence that he will do that."

"I think he should include it in every speech. He should look at the world as if women mattered."

Asked if that meant she thought he was not doing that at present, she replied: "It isn't that he's against them, it's just that he hasn't emphasized them."

Still, she said, "women are angry at the media, not at Obama."

Her brief media session over, she was quickly mobbed again by fans.

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 7, 2008; 3:53 PM ET
Categories:  Hillary Rodham Clinton  
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