Columnist Rita Zekas recently turned her “Store Gazing” column in the Toronto Star into a consciousness-raising space.

First, she brings her readers along on a morning trip to get a mammogram. She is part of the “Ontario Breast Screening program, in a test group of menopausal women “who aren’t taking any meds (except for the occasional dose of therapeutic red wine).”

Her attention to detail — both about the confusion in finding the right hospital and about the sisterhood that develops among her fellow examinees — is moving in its mundaneness. Ultimately, it’s a discussion of local shopping options that brings the women closer.

The last two-thirds of her column is an intriguing interview with Gloria Steinem — who was in town attending a benefit for Interim Place, a local shelter for
abused women. Steinem is as articulate, thoughtful and provocative as ever. For the most part, she stayed on the topic of the evening:

“Battered women started out as invisible,”
Steinem recalls. “There were no terms like ‘battered women;’ they were
called ‘wife.’ It was inevitable that on Saturday night, women were
beaten up. Then they named it and changed the laws.

“Police used to complain that they had to answer such frivolous calls. It was
just a ‘domestic.’

“The reason the Virginia Tech campus was not shut down was because the police
thought the first shootings were just ‘a domestic.’ If only George Bush
understood that violence is not an acceptable way of handling conflict.”

She suggests a grassroots movement on parenting: “Raise our daughters like
our sons. Fewer of us have the courage to raise sons like daughters. It is much
more subversive for the powerful to emulate the less powerful.”

Steinem, in any case, remains a source of power for us all — including those who don’t even know it yet:

the luncheon with her 50-year-old mother, one 22-year-old woman
confessed that she didn’t really know anything about Steinem.

says that reaction doesn’t bother her. “She knows who she is. She picks
up Bitch magazine, which is wonderful. She knows Ani DiFranco.”

Besides, by the time women get to their 30s, she adds, they will know who she is.

“Young women are more conservative than they will be when they are older. Women get more radical when they get older.”


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