Where is Gloria Steinem? The ongoing Hulu drama, “Mrs. America,” prominently features the work and love life of feminist crusader, Gloria Steinem. But, Steinem has been absent from any discussion of the series that often depicts her as shallow and disloyal. She has made a career as a writer and social justice warrior. She is even co-founder of the Women’s Media Center, so why isn’t she commenting on the show’s portrayal of her part in history?
“Mrs. America” incorrectly portrays my mother, Phyllis Schlafly, as power-mad and condescending to women, but the show uses a broad-brush on Gloria Steinem too. She is depicted as superficial and self-centered. She seemingly thinks that most debates are too lowly for her to participate, so she often sends someone else in her place.
I have never met Gloria Steinem, but I believe that women seem to objectify each other far too much on the public stage. Think about how much energy was spent debating why Hillary Clinton always wore pant suits instead of skirts or dresses during the 2016 presidential election. She was running for the highest office in the land and many people, often females, had to dish about what she was wearing.
“Mrs. America” is more concerned with the hair, long nails, and eyeglasses of Gloria Steinem. She was clearly beautiful, but did that mean she was also vain? These attributes are not necessarily a package deal.
The series creator, Dahvi Waller, admitted in a recent interview that she had her people reach out to Steinem about the show, so maybe she had some influence in her own portrayal. Meanwhile, Phyllis’s family, myself included, was not given any kind of information on the show and Waller has bragged that she did not want to be influenced by the children of Phyllis and Fred Schlafly.
Fictionalizing Phyllis and Gloria may make for interesting television, but it will fail to inspire the next generation of female leaders, which was the real mission these two women shared for decades – even if from different sides of the aisle. Here’s why: “Mrs. America” misses the mission these women had in their lives. While they aligned with different political parties, they were both motivated to lead in a political arena which was then, and still is today, made up predominantly of men. Both had guts and drive.
My mother was driven by her deep faith, which is not depicted at all in the series. She believed in something greater than self. She believed her life was meant to serve God, so she devoted herself to her country and her cause. Phyllis Schlafly found self-fulfillment through the compromises needed to build a successful marriage and family. I am sure Gloria has a similar drive to change the world and leave behind a better place for others. I would love to hear more about what inspires her. Sadly, we don’t see any of that heart in “Mrs. America.”
The legacy of Gloria Steinem and Phyllis Schlafly will be all of the women they inspired to put on their boxing gloves and get into the political fray. Will we see more heart in these final episodes or hear more from Gloria Steinem about what inspired her role in history? I hope so. I know how they have twisted the truth on Phyllis Schlafly, so Gloria should respond. Otherwise, the legacy of the “Mrs. America” series may just be beautiful actors in great clothes but missing the true inner strength of women.
Anne Schlafly Cori is Chairman of the Eagle Forum and daughter of Phyllis Schlafly, the leader of the 1970s movement to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.