Five Thespians I Would Be Happy to See Play Gloria Steinem

It was announced Tuesday morning that Demi Moore will play an anti-pornography Gloria Steinem in the kinda-hyped, formerly-starring Lindsay Lohan biopic of tragic 70s porn star Linda Lovelace.

Gloria Steinem is an icon, not just for the feminist movement but for the 70s themselves. She is the closest thing feminism ever had to a mainstream mouthpiece, and she rocked it. Her long hair, her wit, her charm made feminism accessible. Because she was conventionally feminine, Steinem made feminism seem “safer” to the mainstream, but she didn’t water down her message. We’ve cited this work before, but its one of The Radical Idea’s favorites: click HERE to read ‘If Men Could Menstrate.’

Which brings us to the woman chosen to play her: Demi Moore. Nothing wrong with her per se, though her Twitter handle is MsKutcher, the name of her soon-to-be-ex-husband (a very un-Steinem move, who didn’t get married until she was 66, and even then would never define herself by her wifedom.) Demi Moore may do us proud, but I can’t help but get wistful at what could have been: any one of the five actresses would have made me happier than the woman best known for making pottery with Patrick Swayze’s ghost:

Reese Witherspoon

She’s been Elle Woods and Tracy Flick, so we know that she can do spunky and self-assured. In fact Steinem was the inspiration for Witherspoon’s break-through role in Legally Blonde: “I heard [Steinem] say we should be able to wear anything we damn well please and still be considered human beings.” She certainly gets that everything one does with their bodies is a political statement. Witherspoon would have been an excellent choice.

Mary-Louise Parker

She has a tendency to play head-strong women, from the West Wing to Weeds. Between those character choices and Fried Green Tomatoes, one suspects Parker herself might have practiced raising the feminist fist in her day. Plus, at 5’8 she’s only one inch shorter than Steinem. She would probably embody the second-wave feminist’s coolness the best. Because Steinem was cool: she was articulate and beautiful, but she wasn’t radical (at least, not for her time). She made the Everywoman seem like they could be best friends, because she didn’t directly attack marriage or motherhood, saying “a woman did not need to be a mother any more than every person with vocal chords needs to be an opera singer.” Parker seems approachable with a dash of hyperintelligence, much like Steinem.


Amy Poehler

 Oh my Steinem, Amy Poehler! How awesome would it be to see this incredibly funny woman put on the sunglasses and become Gloria Steinem? I support more Poehler in general, and Amy is one of my favorite feminist icons of today.

Michelle Pfeiffer

She’s preternaturally attractive, just like Steinem, and she’s aged spectacularly. Shealso subscribes to Steinem’s motto “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” adopting a daughter before meeting her now-husband. And one thing we cannot forget about Steinem: she was sexy. She lived a duality: she was a feminist against objectification yet she was objectified by the media. She had an amazing opportunity to be a mouthpiece for the movement, but the movement didn’t want a mouthpiece and it was especially disconcerting that the mouthpiece was chosen by the media because of her sex appeal. Pfeiffer, I believe, could execute that perfectly.

Laura Linney

Doesn’t Laura Linnet just seem so smart? She’s already played Abigal Adams, another feminist icon. Give her a bicentennial and she could easily slip into Steinem’s boots. I think the reason I instinctively dissent the casting director’s choice of Moore is because I’ve never really considered the woman an actress, but rather a beautiful person who is a celebrity and sometimes makes movies. Linney, however, is tremendously talented.

Despite our reservations about Demi Moore, we here at the Radical Idea will be monitoring the Linda Lovelace movie closely, as we hope it will be able to bring the discussion of pornography into the mainstream. I personally am fascinated by sex work, but my views on porn change from day to day. On one hand, it is one of the few industries where women are actually paid more than their male counterparts and it can be empowering to individual women on the microlevel. But what about pornography as a general category? Well, I let Steinem leave you with her views (from a 1978 Ms. Magazine Article):

“Blatant or subtle, pornography involves no equal power or mutuality. In fact, much of the tension and drama comes from the clear idea that one person is dominating the other…all pornography is an imitation of the male-female, conqueror-victim paradigm, and almost all of it actually portrays or implies enslaved women and master.”


~ by Hayley Cavataro on January 4, 2012.

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