When Sarah Palin branded herself as a “mama grizzly,” she was unaware of the supreme irony: grizzly bears are the animals that most embody reproductive freedoms, even reabsorbing their own fetuses if conditions are not ideal.
Question: Why are mama grizzlies an inappropriate mascot for Sarah Palin?
Gloria Steinem: Well first of all, if Hilary Clinton hadn’t come within very close to the White House we would not see the Republicans recruiting obedient women. So it’s not really Sarah Palin's fault that she got named to be Vice President when obviously she was not prepared for this kind of position. In her current incarnation she has frequently talked about "mama grizzlies" as being kind of representing right-wing women and that is such a libel on mama grizzlies, who are so different. I actually researched them, inspired by her, and discovered that they are famous for their exertion of reproductive control in their lives. That even compared to other bears, brown bears say, they mate later; they have only one or two cubs instead of four; they wait four years instead of two between having cubs; and even once they’re pregnant if they see that it’s going to be a really hard winter, they themselves are not in good health or the food supply is low they reabsorb, their bodies reabsorb the fetus.
So, I mean, they are kind of the prophets. If you wanted to have a totem for reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right the mama grizzlies would be up there.
Question: What’s wrong with the political discourse about abortion?
Gloria Steinem: Well the democrats, many democrats in tight races have suddenly started talking about abortion when before even sympathetic ones who voted for that as a right to privacy and a woman and her doctor make the decision, even they didn’t want to talk about it. They sort of hoped it would go away. So as a result they really don’t know how to talk about it and they confine it to being a "social issue" and this is an "economic year."
Now it happens that first of all it’s not a social issue. It’s a fundamental human right to decide to have children or not to have children. But also it’s the biggest economic influence in a woman’s life whether she can decide when and whether to have children or not. They just are not phrasing it in the proper way, so it makes even voters think "Oh well, one in three women needs an abortion at some time in her lifetime and that is only once and even if it’s criminal and even if it’s dangerous, the fact is the economy affects us every day." But whether you have children or not is the biggest factor of a lifetime in your economic status... or whether you can decide when to have children.
So they’re just not… they just don’t understand how to talk about it even though we’ve been trying to say this for 40 years, so I wrote that op-ed in order to try to say to voters we have do it. We have to know how these folks stand. For instance, there is a candidate for governor of Illinois named Brady who not only loves assault weapons, not only thinks that guns should not be registered and all past registrations should be destroyed, but is also against equal pay—against any enforcement of equal pay—and is for the Human Life Amendment, which would nationalize women’s bodies, so I mean this is the perfect recipe for barefoot and pregnant. Women become what these authoritarian groups have in mind, which is cheap labor ourselves, as workers, and sources of ever-more-cheap labor.
Recorded on October 28, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Directed & Produced by Jonathan Fowler