Category Archives: Gloria Steinem

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Old But Good

Wait a minute — Gloria Steinem is 80 today?

Eighty freaking years old?


Steinem, Seasoned

And just imagine — a legal, political issue she was associated with, the Equal Rights Amendment, is such a relic of the past that it makes the octogenarian look downright coltish.

Yep. The ERA died its official, ignominious death some 32 years ago. But it was on a respirator for several years before that.

The meat of the ERA, Section 1, was precisely 24 words long. Ignoring the two sections of the proposed amendment dealing with enforcement and date of effect (each of which contained less verbiage than the first section), the ERA said, simply:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

That’s it, babies. The Right spent tens of millions of dollars and created an environment of fear, mistrust, and hysteria to defeat it. It was a simple, declarative sentence that was not approved by enough state legislatures to become a part of this holy land’s Constitution.


Phyllis Schlafly Rants Against The ERA

BTW: the US Senate bill passing the Amendment on to the states was sponsored by Indiana’s Birch Bayh. The Amendment itself was endorsed by none other than President Richard Nixon. Oh, and Indiana was the final state to ratify, number 35, in 1977. Still, the thing was seen as too radical, to dangerous, too liberal.

Thanks anyway, Gloria.


The Pencil Today:

HotAirLogoFinal Thursday


“Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.” — Pat Robertson



I figure my first brush with sophistication came on a summer night in, oh, 1966, when I was ten.

The windows would be open throughout my family’s Natchez Avenue bungalow. If the wind were blowing just right, I’d be able to hear the clatter of a distant el train on the Lake Street line.

My father would be comatose in his recliner, his toes covered by his half rolled-off socks, an occasional snort emanating from his open mouth. Ma was already in bed. It’d be about 12:45am or so, and I’d be laying on the living room floor on my belly, craning my neck to see the TV screen, free as a bird.

In those summer vacation days, no matter how late I’d get to bed, I’d be sure to be able to wake up the next morning before the sun even climbed over the trees on Nagle Avenue, a block to the east. But I still had more TV watching to do. “Night Beat,” the WGN-TV late news show sandwiched between the 10:30 movie and the Late Show would be on.

Nightbeat, WGN-TV

The old anchor, Carl Greyson, would sign off and then the strains of the most adult music I ever was happy to hear would come on, the intro to that late, late movie. See, WGN would run a fairly recent movie at 10:30, something not too moth-eaten, like “Marty.” Then, after Night Beat’s house fires, shootings, and obligatory clips of Mayor Daley (the first) butchering the English language, there’d be a really old movie, often a hard-boiled detective feature from the ’40s.

For some odd reason, “The Dark Corner” sticks in my mind. Made in 1946, it starred Lucille Ball as a private eye’s hot tomato secretary who insists on helping her boss with his cases because, natch, she’s in love with him. It opens with shots of the big city, probably New York, but at that age I didn’t know the difference between The Loop and Broadway; so I dreamed of growing up and having my own office in some downtown Wabash Avenue building, where I could smoke, banter with pretty dames, and occasionally pull out my shoulder-holstered pistol just to see if it was still loaded.

Scene from "The Dark Corner"

Lucille Ball’s Got It For The Boss In “The Dark Corner”

That image gets mixed up with the intro strains of the Late Show, a jazzy thing, very subtle and smooth. A sax and a piano, mainly. In my dream it’d be playing repeatedly throughout my day in that office after I’d grown up.

It was Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.”

That was sophistication. That’s what I had to look forward to as I reached manhood.



For a while there, nobody screamed hard-boiled Chicago like David Mamet. The author of many plays including “Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” “American Buffalo,” “The Water Engine,” “Speed-the-Plow,” and “Oleanna,” he copped a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1984 for “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

Mamet’s dialogue was the thing. Loud, profane, often (too often, some have groused) obscene, it was the dialogue of men without the company of women, men who say the word fuck again and again simply because it sounds as good as it feels to blurt out. His characters are known to converse (or, more accurately, orate past each other) in something that has come to be known as “Mamet-speak.”

The only consideration of morality in Mamet’s plays is his obvious assurance that no one is moral, merely exigent. The whole gang of office brutes in Glengarry is as likable as a pack of stray dogs.


The Original Broadway Cast

In recent years, Mamet’s stage output has fallen off and he’s turned his attention to TV commercials and cop shows. He also has decided that this holy land needs straightening out because it’s become immoral — remember, he would know immorality or the lack of it. He released a book in 2011 entitled “The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture.”

The book documents the handbasket-to-hell America has become, mainly because liberal Hollywood stars are actually press agents for some nefarious cabal, or something.

I tried to read “The Secret Knowledge” but I couldn’t get past the first three pages. It’s as hysterical as a Glenn Beck book without any of the charm. When your prose is less seductive than that of a borderline lunatic, your worldview is grim indeed. This comes as no surprise from a man for whom the effort of smiling appears agonizing.



Mamet this year got back on Broadway with a new play called “The Anarchist.” He lined up Patti Lupone and Debra Winger to play a radical leftist convict and a nebulous corrections department nabob, respectively. The two parry for a little more than an hour over right and wrong and those who managed to stay awake through the closing curtain reported it to be less than riveting. One reviewer called it “a short, brittle, stripped-down debate-club exercise on a stopwatch.”

And that was among the less crushing pans of the production. Accordingly, “The Anarchist” is closing after a little more than a month of performances, including 17 previews.

"The Anarchist" Marquee

And how soon will Mamet begin blaming the critics for the show’s demise (which would be like blaming a restaurant patron for suffering food poisoning)?

But isn’t that the way with the Right? Radicalized Republicans, Me Party-ists, Libertarians, and other such creatures crow about self-reliance and responsibility every chance they get but the moment they screw up they point fingers in 360º sweeps.

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Mamet asks for a federal bailout now.


Mamet, like so many in the Nouveau Droit is made itchy by feminists. For instance, he battered Gloria Steinem for applying feminist criticisms to the idolatry of Marilyn Monroe. Steinem wrote that Monroe was essentially forced to play the infant and Mamet responded that Marilyn was the second coming of Madame Curie.

Mary Elizabeth Williams writes in Salon that female celebs from Katy Perry and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy to Marissa Meyer and Melissa Leo are climbing all over each other trying to proclaim to the world that they’re not feminists.

I suppose it makes sense that Perry, for one, a woman who relies upon the size of her breasts for much of her fortune, would be less than Susan B.-ish about things. But why are so many other accomplished women willing to eschew the tag, feminist?


A Different Kind of “Firework”

Is it merely ego? As in, I did it all on my own and I never needed Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem to fight any battles for me. It reminds me of the righteous indignation of newly-muscled baseball players after they’re accused of using performance-enhancing drugs; hey, I’m good — I don’t need no stinkin’ drugs.

Yes, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were good. That didn’t mean they didn’t think they needed a pick-me-up now and again. Same with the female CEO of Yahoo!. Marissa Meyer is talented, sure, but she is standing on the shoulders of giants.


And wouldn’t it be the coup de grace for Ashley Judd to oust jowly, humorless, and philosophically flatulent Mitch McConnell from Washington?


Out With The Old, In With The New?

Not only would the Republicans have to rethink their stance toward Latinos, but toward women as well.

According to a number of sources, the former actress is doing her due diligence in preparing for a possible US Senate run from Kentucky.

Fingers crossed.

The Pencil Today:


“Sex is like bridge; if you don’t have a good partner, you’d better have a good hand.” — Mae West


Perhaps the best story I’ve ever read in the Indiana Daily Student appeared Friday. The story, I tell you, makes living in a college town all the more worthwhile.

It’s here, after all, that people actually investigate things like the origin of the universe, the inner workings of the cell, the psychological underpinnings of economics, and — even more intellectually compelling than those topics — the human orgasm.

Debra Herbenick — who, I’ve since learned, is a semi-regular visitor to Soma Coffee — is a research scientist and a director of IU’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion. She has released a study indicating that a significant percentage of women who work out at your local gym actually experience orgasm while they’re panting.


One of the Boys of Soma, Real Estate John, works part-time at the Monroe County YMCA. He usually pulls the Friday night shift. I pointed out the story to him. He read it with great interest. He turned to another Soma Boy who regularly works out at the Y on Friday nights and who also read the piece. Real Estate John said, “I have the perfect candidate.” he mentioned the name of a woman they both were acquainted with.

“Oh yeah!” the other guy said. “No wonder she always has an ecstatic look on her face.”

The woman, the fellows explained, is generally attached to the spinning bike.

That device, according to Herbenick, is one of the exercise machines that lends itself nicely to stimulating certain locales of the female anatomy. “[W]omen,” Herbenick told the IDS, “are moving their genitals in the bike seat.”

Spinning classes are awfully popular with women. Now I may know why. It occurs to me I’ve not met many men who take spinning classes. I wonder if this study will inspire more men to get into that regimen.

“Phew. I Need A Cigarette.”

Anyway, Herbenick said her study, which indicated that a shade more than one third of women canvassed have experienced the Big O while working out, “reminds people how interesting orgasm is.”

Can’t argue with that.


Most of what I learned early on about sex came from a fellow named Dr. David Reuben.

He wrote a gigantic bestseller in 1969 entitled “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask).” It’s estimated some 150 million inquiring minds have read it.

At the age of 14, mine was the most inquiring of minds. Especially about sex.

The book had somehow found its way into our house. I know I didn’t buy it; if I had, it would have been safely stashed in my room somewhere. Under the bed, next to the old liver sausage sandwich, probably — it’s true, for several months there was a liver sausage sandwich under my bed. I recall having made it late one night and, after bringing it back to my room, had promptly fallen asleep without eating it. It wound up under the bed.

Hey, I was 14 — leaving sandwiches under the bed and devouring all printed material pertaining to sex were defining characteristics of the age.

I know Dad didn’t bring the book into the house. My sisters had flown the coop ten years before and my brother was away at college so it couldn’t have been them. Process of elimination left Ma as the likely culprit.

Makes sense.

The women’s liberation movement and the sexual revolution were in full swing. Now, Ma wasn’t a practicing libber, nor did she sample the pleasures afforded by the newly relaxed attitudes toward sex. She was Ma, after all.

She was, though, eager to be seen as “up on things.” If either Gloria Steinem or Xaviera Hollander, for instance, was to appear on, say, Dick Cavett’s show on a given night, you can bet Ma’d be parked on the sofa, watching. She bought bestsellers like “Love Story,” “Portnoy’s Complaint,” and, I assume, Dr. Reuben’s book.

Gloria Steinem

Man, as soon as she finished that thing, I snapped it up and started memorizing it.

Reuben described female topography in terms I’d never heard before. He revealed techniques and practices I could only dream of trying out. My time wouldn’t come for another five or six years, though.

Until then, I considered myself the sexual theoretician of my circle. “It says in David Reuben’s book that a man should…,” I’d begin whenever some sexual topic had arisen.

My pals listened raptly. None of them had the slightest patience to read a book — even one about sex — but they still were curious about the purported expertise Reuben offered.

One day I told Tough Marc about Reuben’s assertion that women know secret methods of masturbation in public. Reuben reported that many women liked to cross their legs and squeeze their inner thigh muscles repeatedly, often bringing themselves to orgasm.

“Oh My God, Is She? Do You Think?”

Now, Tough Marc was a gearhead and he packed a punch that could have been confused with the blow from a sledgehammer, but he was smarter than the rest of my neighborhood pals. He’d confessed he was almost tempted to forgo his long-lasting embargo on books and buy Reuben’s.

Such a concession made him, among my peers, an intellectual. Still, he was able to resist the urge. Last I heard, Tough Marc owned a car wash on the northwest side of Chicago.

Anyway, Tough Marc was fascinated by the revelation that women had ways to stimulate themselves under the table, as it were.

They’d do this on the bus, in the office, in the movie theater, and even standing in line waiting for the next bank teller. The impartial observer, Reuben revealed, could tell when a woman was hard at work in this manner by the swinging of her leg (if she were sitting) and the dreamy look on her face. Tough Marc and I pledged to monitor the legs and face of every woman we might encounter.

In the summer of 1971 both Tough Marc and I found ourselves in summer school taking a make-up course in algebra.

One of our classmates was a girl named Kathy Masterton. We noticed on the first day of class that Kathy Masterton was a champion leg swinger. You couldn’t walk down her aisle for fear of getting kicked in the shin or knee.

Kathy Masterton, too, often stared off into space, her eyes glazed.

Tough Marc and I looked at each other and nodded. After class on that first day we compared notes.

Leg kicks — check. Dreamy look on her face — yup.

Yeah, we concluded, Kathy Masterton confirmed Dr. Reuben’s assertion.

A couple of days later, Tough Marc said he’d come up with a new name for our leg-swinging classmate. “Kathy Masturbant,” he proclaimed, triumphantly. I congratulated him profusely.

As the summer school semester passed, we became transfixed by Kathy Masturbant. We maintained surveillance of her from the bell that signaled the start of class to the one that ended it. She kept up a rhythm with her swinging leg that can only be described as heroic.

Miss Fritz, the algebra teacher, wrote formulas from one end of the blackboard to another but we took no notice of them. Pythagoras, balanced equations, polynomials — none of them meant anything to us. Our focus was on Kathy Masturbant.

“Huh? What? I Dunno.”

Kathy noticed us staring at her. I became concerned she might suspect we were on to her. Nevertheless, she kept swinging her leg.

Kathy smiled at me one day and I smiled back. Tough Marc and I conferred about this development immediately after class. It was decided I should chat her up and, if I was lucky, get the inside dope on this leg-swinging business. “Good luck,” Tough Marc said, solemnly.

It’s important to note that we didn’t hatch this plan just to embarrass her. Nor was our aim to somehow get sex from her. We were still too far away from that Holy Grail to consider it a reasonable possibility.

No, our goal was knowledge. We wanted to know if Dr. Reuben’s leg-swinging theory could be proved. Ours was a scientific quest.

Oh, on second thought, the idea of having sex with Kathy Masturbant must have crossed my mind. I can’t imagine being 15 and certain a girl I knew was masturbating in public and not think it conceivable she might have sex with me.

Then again, Kathy Masturbant was an exceedingly plain-looking girl, which is a nice way of saying she was a gargoyle. In fact, Tough Marc and I cursed our luck that the most likely public masturbator we’d yet found was so homely.

So, we gamely carried out our scientific pursuit.

The next day during class break, I approached Kathy Masturbant in the school parking lot. She was busy lighting one cigarette off another. We exchanged greetings and engaged in a bit of small talk. She seemed easy enough to talk to, although it must be admitted I was scared to ask her about her swinging leg.

“Go On, Man. Talk To Her.”

I glanced over at Tough Marc, who was eying us from several cars away. He could sense my resolve was fading. He mouthed the words “Ask her!” at me.

I screwed up my courage and spoke up. “So, uh, y’know, I see you’re always, like, swingin’ your leg. Know what I mean?”

“I do?” she said.

“Um, yeah. You do.”

“Oh,” she said.

“So, uh, what’s that all about?”

Kathy shrugged. “I dunno. I’m nervous I guess. What’s the big deal about it?”

“No big deal,” I said. “I’m just interested.”

Oops. Wrong choice of words. Kathy interpreted that to mean I was interested in her.

Which I wasn’t. I still had a teenaged boy’s arrogance that made me think she was not attractive enough for me.

Kathy became giddy. She started telling me all about her family and friends. She suggested we go to see the movie “Patton” someday soon. I let it slip that I was a Cubs fan and she jumped on that, saying we had to go to a game that weekend. Next thing I knew, she’d invited me over for dinner that coming Friday.

“Y’mean, Like A Date?”

I hadn’t the heart to turn her down. Plus, there was that little part of me that hoped she, the public masturbator, might let me have sex with her.

That Friday I showed up at her family’s apartment at dinner time. She and her mother had laid out a fancy spread. Clearly, my presence made the affair a special occasion.

After we ate, Kathy’s mother said, “You and your boyfriend go in the living room and watch TV. I’ll do the dishes.”

Boyfriend. My hair stood on end (yes, I had hair.)

We watched “The Brady Bunch” (which I loathed), “Nanny and the Professor” (not only bad, but boring), and “The Partridge Family” (now, that was a good show; Susan Dey inhabited every heterosexual boy’s nocturnal fantasies). For her part, Kathy loved “The Brady Bunch” and was in heaven when “Nanny” came on. “The Partridge Family,” she could take or leave.


Throughout the hour and a half, Kathy’s leg never stopped swinging. At eight-thirty, her Mom came into the living room and said we’d better call it a night. By that time, Kathy had scootched so close to me that I was squeezed into the corner of the sofa.

Kathy put her arm in mine and walked me to the door. I thanked her Mom for the delicious dinner and was about to say goodbye to Kathy when she ushered me onto the front porch and closed the door behind us. She launched into an itinerary that included “Patton” and the Cubs game and four or five other engagements for the two of us over the next couple of weeks. She held my hand as I leaned toward the front steps — swear to god, had she let go, I’d have fallen down the stairs.

Again, I didn’t have the heart to turn her down (nor did I wish to pass up the chance, however negligible, that she’d let me have sex with her.)

Funny thing was, we had a lot of fun over the next couple of weeks. The next Friday night when we walked home from the Tivoli Theater, we took our shoes off because we fancied ourselves sorta-but-not-quite hippies. When we went to the Cubs game, we sat in the very top row of the upper deck and looked out over the city and Lake Michigan and pointed out landmarks to each other. We went to hear Styx at the high school gym and danced until we were soaked in sweat.

C’mon, Go Easy On Me — I Was A Teenager, Okay?

One day in class, Kathy stopped swinging her leg long enough to inform me that her mother would be out that evening. I should come over, she suggested, so we could listen to her new “Shaft” album.

When I told Tough Marc about this, it was his turn to congratulate me profusely. And again, he said solemnly, “Good luck.”

“Shaft” was a double album — total running time, 68:50. Oh, the things we could do in that time frame!

I was beginning to like Kathy. And, truth be told, she wasn’t that bad looking really, as long as I ignored her horn-rimmed glasses and slight case of acne. Only now am I strong enough to admit she had to ignore the same things on me.

We were laying on the living room floor, kissing deeply, by the time Track 4, Side 1 came on. “Ellie’s Love Theme.” Kathy’d said, “I’ll show you how to French kiss.” I thought I might pass out.

John Shaft

By the time Side 2 fell onto the turntable, Kathy pushed me away. “Look here, buster,” she said. “We can do this all night long if you want.”

I nodded enthusiastically; unfortunately there was more.

“But I want to tell you something. I’m a virgin and I’m gonna stay that way! Capeesh?”

I’d never been so relieved in my life. I’d only just learned how to French kiss moments before. Despite reading Dr. David Reuben’s book from cover to cover several times over, I still had no idea what was expected of me had she said tonight’s the night.

Kathy’s Mom came home around 10:30. She looked at us suspiciously. Kathy said, “Mom, we didn’t do anything. We just listened to albums.”

Her Mom looked skeptical. “I don’t want anything going on around here,” she warned.

“Oh no!” I said quickly. “No, no, no, no. Nothing.”

With that I said good night to Kathy and told her Mom how very nice it was to see her again. She nodded but her eyes were narrowed.

Kathy and I lasted about another two weeks, which constituted a committed, long-term relationship at our age. A cosuin had introduced her to a boy who, Kathy told me apologetically, had bedroom eyes. The unspoken question being How could she not start dating him.

I began walking home certain I’d kill myself that night. By the time I’d hit the back door, though, I was over Kathy.

I never did find out if Kathy Masturbant was, well, masturbating when she swung her leg so heroically. In retrospect, I realize I was never cut out to be as accomplished a sex researcher as Debra Herbenick.


Any song off this double album still makes my legs weak.

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