Gloria Steinem Brings Her 2nd Wave Feminism To Millennials In Viceland’s ‘WOMAN’ Series

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She is well know for her activism, feminism, and her literary prowess spanning multiple decades, but Gloria Steinem is no icon reserved for just the back pages of American history. In a move that solidifies her impact on today’s generation of feminist voices, she has launched an awesome new series for millennial cable channel Viceland, part of the Vice media empire.

Vice is well known around the globe as an authoritarian voice on current news and world issues, but from a distinctly millennial perspective in a way that no other media brand on earth can match right now. And although there has been accusations of the company skewing very male (and even misogynistic) with some of its online content, the launch of Viceland is slowly changing that. The addition of a personality like Gloria Steinem, who has the ability to cut through social barriers and present her powerful message with ease and clarity, all of a sudden gives the network a lot of clout with modern feminism.

Vice already launched a feminist online platform called Broadly in 2015, but this TV series is a a huge step up showing just how aware of the importance of representing feminist voices within a millennial brand. Gloria’s ‘Woman’ sees her traveling the world and across America exposing the different types of violence toward women and shedding light on how elevating the status of women (especially in countries where they are not considered equal) can actually be the key to alleviating poverty and increasing a nation’s economic status.

“More than poverty, natural resources, religion, or degree of democracy, violence against females is the most reliable predictor of whether a nation will be violent within itself or will use violence against another country — and gender violence has become so great that for the first time, there are now fewer females on Earth than males,” she said.

The 8 episodes cover topics such as child marriage in Zambia to sexual attacks in the United States military. Gloria presents each episode, and a female Vice correspondent is seen conducting interviews throughout. One of the episodes is hosted by Oscar-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy who won the Best Documentary Short category this year for her powerful film about acid attacks in her home country Pakistan.

It is the first time the 82 year old activist is producing and hosting her own TV series, and she told the NY Times that the intent is not just to raise awareness, but to engage a new generation of men and women to step up and become activists themselves. Each episode presents an opportunity for viewers to become involved and help change the status quo of women who are victims of violence.

“What I hope is, seeing it will be the closest thing to being on the ground yourself. It is being a witness. And people in hard times need a witness, and somebody who can help,” she said.

The series came about in a much more organic way than most shows today. Vice founder Shane Smith watched Gloria speak at a conference in 2014 about the global increase in violence toward women and he was moved to tears, and explains why he wanted to invest in a show about the ongoing struggle of women worldwide.

“I’m lucky to be working with her. I found lots of it difficult to watch. I believe the universe gave me daughters to help me understand the world better,” he said.

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In an interview with Refinery29, Gloria says unlike many of Vice’s other shows or online videos, each of the ‘Woman’ episodes are not designed to be a documentary with a beginning, middle and end, but an entry point to creating “witnesses” out of viewers (via the host as a conduit) so they too become personally investing in the issues.

“These are women correspondents who are asking questions and being surrogates for the viewer. It is the closest I’ve seen to being a witness, to being on the ground. There’s a balance between objectivity, as [the female reporter] is not influencing the answer, but she’s not pretending to be unaffected,” she said, referencing the signature style of Vice to show on-camera hosts as they are affected by a subject matter or interaction with an interview subject.

Many of the stories might be unfamiliar to women who live in the developed world, but Gloria says there are also episodes which show the Western world has plenty of its own gender violence it needs to grapple with.

“One of our episodes is in the first world nation of Canada, where thousands of indigenous women have gone missing or murdered in the last 30 years. Canada is somewhat more advanced than we are in terms of equal treatment of original nations — and yet this is still happening in Canada…Our purpose was to point to the commonalities and linkages,” she said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly declared he would launch an investigation into the missing indigenous women and make it a priority when he took office, something the previous Conservative government ignored much to the anger of many Canadian activists.

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Gloria also put the issue of violence toward women in language that any developed-nation woman can understand.

“Every time I hear reports of fear of terrorism I wish we would also point out that if you count [the deaths] from 9/11 through Afghanistan and two wars in Iraq, and then count all the women who have been murdered in the United States by their husbands or boyfriends in that same period of time, many more women have been murdered by their husbands or boyfriends than have been killed by war or terrorism,” she said.

The Ms. Magazine founder says there is a growing level of awareness around gender violence, and cites the epidemic of college campus sexual assaults and rapes as a prime example of how to leverage that into activism.

“I do think there’s a heightened consciousness. Perhaps when we see a sexual assault or something bad that’s happened to another woman, or another human being, we try to say ‘What did she do that caused that? Because if I don’t do that then it won’t happen to me.’ That may be a human protective impulse. But once we’ve realized that the action came from another person and not from her, then we understand that we have to identify with her and unite against what the problem is,” she said.

Each episode contains subject matter that can seem daunting to those who are unfamiliar with the struggle of women worldwide, but Gloria is not worried about the series feeling too heavy.

“The challenge is to know, and not despair, and figure out how to make it better a little bit at a time…There’s nothing better than empathy.”

You can watch the full first episode of ‘Woman’ on Viceland below, or visit the network’s website to find out how you can watch the entire series from your location.


 

 

 

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