Questions Only the NYT Is Asking: "Where Is the Next Gloria Steinem?"

A tribute to veteran feminist Gloria Steinem by contributor Sarah Hepola that compared her to Martin Luther King Jr. led the New York Times' Sunday Styles section: "A Woman Like No Other." Famous (now infamous) Obama portraitist and hagiographer Shepard Fairey contributed the large likeness of Steinem that dominates the page.

After some background on Steinem pushing the Equal Rights Amendment in 1970, Hepola asked the question nobody but the New York Times is asking:

...Where is the next Gloria Steinem, and why -- decades after the media spotlight first focused on her -- has no one emerged to take her place?

The question resonated last month, when the organization Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced plans to pull financing from Planned Parenthood, and when Rush Limbaugh’s tirade against a Georgetown law student and her congressional testimony over contraceptive rights became national news.

"Contraceptive rights" would be more accurately described as "mandated contraceptive funding." Hepola didn't betray any concerns about Steinem's stand against Rush Limbaugh's right to free speech.

People like Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida; Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards; and Arianna Huffington made the television rounds. Facebook and Twitter percolated with links and commentary; bloggers weighed in. It was a roar heard on all platforms, from many individuals.

But none was seen as a singular voice of opposition on an issue -- women’s reproductive rights -- that was debated so intensely it felt like a throwback to the 1970s. (In fact, Ms. Steinem, who turns 78 this month, again entered the fray when she, along with Jane Fonda, wrote an online column for CNN, asking the Federal Communications Commission to look into whether stations that were carrying Mr. Limbaugh’s radio show were fulfilling their obligation regarding “the public interest.”)

Hepola even compared Steinem to civil rights martyr Martin Luther King Jr., while portraying radical feminist Susan Faludi as the one person who could have been Steinem's heir:

History’s most formidable figures have always been a tough act to follow, of course. There will never be another Martin Luther King Jr., but Jesse Jackson was certainly waiting in the wings to give it a go.

Reflecting recently on Ms. Steinem’s pivotal role in the women’s rights movement, the author Susan Faludi said, “We’ve not seen another Gloria Steinem because there is only one Gloria, and someone with her combination of conviction, wit, smarts and grace under fire doesn’t come along every day.”

Ms. Faludi may actually be the closest thing the world did see to an heir apparent. Her 1991 book, “Backlash,” was a barnburner, a bold depiction of how the Reagan decade had rolled back feminist gains. Along with Naomi Wolf, whose best-selling “Beauty Myth” took aim at an image-obsessed culture, she seemed poised to become a voice of change. In March 1992, Ms. Faludi and Ms. Steinem even appeared on the cover of Time, both of them deglamorized and steely in their gaze.

Faludi had a particularly ridiculous feminist take on 9-11 in her 2007 book "The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America," swallowed whole at the time by Times Arts editor Patricia Cohen. Here's some of Faludi's delusion, as breathlessly relayed by Cohen. (Seriously, John Wayne?)

Ms. Faludi, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the author of two previous books, was perplexed by the cultural fallout from that day. What she found, she says, was a powerful resurgence in traditional sex roles and a glorification of he-man virility as embodied by [John] Wayne, the ur-savior of virtuous but helpless damsels in distress. The prefeminist thinking was everywhere, Ms. Faludi said: in the media, where female commentators were suddenly scarce after 9/11 and specious trend reports appeared about women nesting and baking...It's some bizarre, weirdly out-of-proportion fixation,' Ms. Faludi said, 'an exaltation of American masculinity in an intergalactic crisis.' Those who did not conform to this story line, she added - like female rescuers on 9/11 and widows who refused to remain piously grief-stricken or who scrutinized intelligence failures - were treated with contempt."

Yet Faludi is the Times' idea of someone with "conviction, wit, smarts and grace under fire."