A panel discussion with editors, activists, and bloggers was complied to pay tribute to Ms. magazine. Ms. was co-founded by the feminist icon and activist Gloria Steinem and founding editor Letty Cottin Pogrebin, and together they, along with editors Patricia Carbine, Joanne Edgar, Nina Finkelstein, and Mary Peacock, brought together the first truly liberal feminist magazine, which first appeared in 1971 as an insert in New York magazine. They were standing alone by 1972, and even in this day and age of self publishing and blogs, that’s hard to do. They most definitely earned a panel discussion.
With 40 years of journalism, Ms. has had many historic moments in it’s history: in 1972 it published the names of women admitting to having had abortions when the procedure was still illegal in most of the United States. It was practically unheard of, and you didn’t speak about such things, but Ms. did. They were the first fearless females. A 1976 cover story on battered women made Ms. the first national magazine to address the issue of domestic violence. The issue’s cover photo featured a woman with a bruised face, proving that Ms. would not shy away from any story. However, it wasn’t all good and forward moving – in the 1980′s and 1990′s, Ms. magazine’s credibility was called into question and was subsequently damaged when it became swept up in the day care sexual abuse frenzy and moral panic about Satanic ritual abuse.
But after all this time, what has changed, really? The feminist movement is a slow-moving battle. As I mentioned, in 1972 Ms. magazine broke ground by publishing the names of women who had abortions, but the subject was still taboo and garnered even more attention on the topic again in 2006 when they printed the “We Had Abortions” petition. The petition was part of a cover story that contained signatures of over 5,000 women declaring that they had an abortion and were “unashamed of (the) decision”, including actresses Amy Brenneman and Kathy Najimy, comedienne Carol Leifer, and Steinem herself.
While it’s easy to become overwhelmed, or better yet underwhelmed, with the slow moving change, Ms. has done a lot: ”I always say Ms. changed my life, I would have been a more ordinary person without it.” That quote comes from Suzanne Braun Levine who was the first editor of Ms. The fight must continue and its continuity is pretty inspiring to see and hear, as the people who lit the torch are still apparently running with it. While all those women sat on the panel, the ones who “birthed” this magazine, sitting next to them were bloggers, like myself. They lit the fire, and they continue to fan the flames and it’s spreading. It spread to me, and it spread to Miriam Zoila Perez who writes for feministing.com and is a frequent speaker on reproductive rights. It’s also our jobs to carry the torch and light up the next group. Hopefully, some day soon it’ll go like wildfire.