By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Over 800 Oklahomans gave a standing ovation for CHOICES 2013 guest speaker Gloria Steinem, at what the feminist icon referred to as the National “Cowgirl” & Cowboy Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
Co-chaired by Mari Fagin and Julee Coyle, CHOICES 2013 included an art sale, silent auction, and dinner benefiting Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma.
Steinem, the seemingly ageless (now 79) co-founder of Ms. Magazine gave a rousing presentation of the role of women in history, family, leadership and the fight against sexual violence.
“I’m very clear that the enthusiasm with which you greet me has something to do with the lack of enthusiasm for your legislature,” Steinem said to thunderous applause.
During last year’s legislative session, 33 anti-choice bills were filed including carry-over bills from the previous session.
“I have truly been looking forward to coming to see you for so many reasons. You’ve combined art and revolution and Oklahoma will always mean Wilma Mankiller to me.”
Steinem, a first-time bride at 66, wed the late South African entrepreneur, David Bale in Mankiller’s home. Mankiller was the first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. She died in 2010. Steinem introduced Mankiller’s husband, Charlie Soap, who sat next to her.
“Planned Parenthood is the single most trusted group in this nation because it has been honest always – giving service always,” Steinem said. ”And now, is fighting politically for fundamental human rights in this country.
“It’s hard to celebrate the fact that majority opinion in the United States is with you, because you are under siege all the time.”
Steinem contends it is more accurate to characterize the organization as preventing abortion stating, “abortion is only one percent of what Planned Parenthood does.
“Human sexuality has always been a way that we reach out to each other and express love, caring and bonding. It’s always been a way of communication as well as procreation. It is a lie about humanity to say that sexuality is only okay when it ends in procreation.”
Steinem noted that the Catholic Church approved of and regulated abortion well into the 1840s. She pointed out that in early cultures women controlled their own fertility. “Even in language there is no he and she – there is only a person,” said Steinem.
“In history the paradigm was the circle, not the pyramid or hierarchy, and yet it became even more embedded to control reproduction in order to maintain cast and race differences.”
Steinem recommended the book “Sex and World Peace” (Columbia University Press), which states “the very best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is not its level of wealth, its level of democracy, or its ethno-religious identity; the best predictor is how well its women are treated.”
Steinem added, “There is a son surplus and a daughter deficit because of female infanticide and there is a huge market in sex trafficking where the life expectancy is very, very short.
“If you add up all the women murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country since 9/11 and then took all the people killed in 9/11, all the Americans killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan, there are more women who have been murdered by their husbands and boyfriends than were collectively killed in those situations.
“I believe that the work you are doing in taking back control of our individual bodies, of declaring reproductive freedom to be a fundamental human right, is at least as important as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”
Steinem said she was surprised to learn that Oklahoma incarcerates more women than any other state or nation in the world.
When she asked how much it costs to incarcerate all of these women, several in the crowd, including State Senator Connie Johnson, yelled, “$25,000 per year.”
Steinem said, “This is a drastic misuse of taxpayers funds, because most female prisoners are incarcerated for non violent crimes. We need legislation to get their votes back. No other country on earth takes away their vote.”
Steinem suggested helping women that are in prison. “Making those one to one connections comes first while we try to do something about the system itself.”
Steinem offered the microphone to audience members, starting a parade of doctors, medical students, teachers, activists and others proclaiming causes, heartfelt thanks and rallying cries for women’s power.
Those honored at the PPCO CHOICES 2013 event include Board Service Award recipients PPCO President Dr. Nancy Nagle, and board member Leslie Hudson; the Sally Mock Friend of Planned Parenthood Award was given to S&S Investments – Sam Silver and Lee Segell; and the Outstanding Staff Service Award was bestowed to Jerry Turner.
“The more we exam and dismiss gender, and consider what life would be if we looked at each other as unique humans – the more we understand that each of us, women and men, are the decision makers about our own physical selves.”
For more information, visit www.ppcok.org
Gloria Steinem rallies Planned Parenthood supporters in Oklahoma City
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