On October 26, 1971, Claire Booth Luce — former member of Congress, Ambassador to Italy, advisor to Presidents, author of several books and the successful play, The Women, as well as being a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Honor — found herself on a platform with Gloria Steinem. During their lively exchange on women’s issues, which lasted until 1 in the morning, Steinem attacked Luce about her drama, saying it was a “parody of women that should have been played in drag.” (“Claire, in Love and War,” excerpted from volume two of her biography written by Sylvia Jukes Morris and printed in the July issue of Vanity Fair, pg. 112) Booth, many years Steinem’s senior, already a pioneer of women’s rights and the only female member of Congress from 1942-47, responded. Her script, she said, “was really about heterosexual men, because women of her era saw fulfillment in looking after them.” (Ibid 112.)
Luce knew well the era she was depicting and far better than Steinem who was 37 and unmarried, at the time. Luce had spent years coddling a philandering husband who excused his behavior by saying that he needed to “dominate someone.” (Ibid pg. 110.) What’s more, from Eisenhower to Ronald Regan, the Presidents Luce advised weren’t always grateful. After calling her to the Whitehouse for a conference on the Cuban missile crisis, J. F. Kennedy admitted privately to someone that he didn’t much care to have Luce tell him “how to run the world.” (Ibid 112.)
In many cultures, a wall exists between men and women. We see it clearly in the Middle East but it also exists where we might we least expect it. Recently Ayaka Shiomura, a member of Tokyo’s city government, rose to speak in support of services for pregnant women. To her surprise, she was met with jeers from her mostly male colleagues and one man shouted, “Go home and have babies.” (“Sexism on display in politics,” by Mainichi Shimbum, The Week, July 4, 2014 pg. 12.)
In our own country, the Supreme Court recently added another stone to the wall that bars American women from true equality. Their verdict in the Hobby Lobby suit gave corporations the right to intrude upon a woman’s privacy and decisions best left between her and her doctor.
Robert Frost once wrote a poem called, Mending Wall. In it he raised an important consideration: “Before I built a wall, I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out and to whom I was like to give offense.”
When I see women hobbled and deprived of basic human rights around the globe, I am offended. I am very much offended. “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.”