The Gloria Steinham Rule

© Mike Windle

My dad gave me a copy of Ms. Magazine during my early tweens somewhere around 10 to 12 years old, during 5th or 6th grade circa 1980-82.  Gloria Steinham became someone I read and eventually admired for her understanding of all women’s issues not just the ones the media highlighted or opponents bitterly opposed her on..

The title Ms. (sounds like Miz) denotes all women either single or married—the term is a general catch all—just like Mister (Mr.) is a title for men single or married.

So when does a woman become a Ms.? It’s easy. Use the Gloria Rule. All girls are Miss until they are old enough to vote (18 in the U.S.) and then they are a Ms. with the exception being, you are automatically a Ms. when you become someone’s mother.

When I hit 30, it seemed like I went from Miss to Ma’am at an alarming rate. Sometimes, I still get called Miss by older gentleman, and always get Ma’am from younger ladies, especially store clerks, etc.  And because I think it’s not polite to verbally correct anyone in public not even a stranger, I don’t say anything but smile without teeth.

Recently, I opened my Lands’ End catalog and read an interview featuring Gloria Steinham and their new female CEO, formerly of Dolce and Gabbana, as part of their Icon Series — thought how progressive and cool. Gloria was promoting her new book, which I had just read. And that all lasted for about a day.

Jezebel online broke the story. Gloria wasn’t family-friendly, and they were scrubbing the interview from the catalogs, online, etc. Really? Childcare and equal pay do not constitute family friendly? Emails from feminists like me—yes I’ll wear the f-word—didn’t help much. In a day or so later Lands’ End apologized, and did not just scrub the interview but revoked their donations to the Equal Rights Amendment Fund, which I thought was a bit dodgy as the Brits say—buy an embroidered tote bag and we’ll make a partial donation—not exactly over-reach. Apparently it was and in fear they would lose a chunk of their school uniform business they caved on Gloria being an icon.

Now I have to replace my Lands’ End extra large zip tote bag—which I’ve used for schlepping over 10 years—with something else. Plus, I won’t be ordering any more yoga pants.  Which won’t hit them as hard as I would like, but if corporations are people too then I am as my mum says: “… very disappointed in you.”

And I’d like to hit them where it hurts most — right in the wallet.

To coda this, I received the standard form E-mail from Lands’ End apologizing if they had offended me. Pretty sure many ladies  were outraged by Gloria’s interview and vowed not to buy school uniforms received the very same message — a long way from the Gloria rule.


Dena Baris

Dena Barisano (pen name Baris) was born in Boston. She has a B.A. in English from Hofstra University and an M.A. in Communications from Suffolk University. After training to be a journalist and nonprofit work, she took a position toiling in public service, while writing fiction and poetry. She lives across the harbor from Logan Airport's infamous Runway 22L.

3 thoughts on “The Gloria Steinham Rule

  1. sybil sermos

    Women like you do make a difference in the world we live in now!

    Keep writing and remain confident, we will win!


  2. Mary Rowen

    Thanks for making me aware of this, Dena! I hadn’t heard about Gloria and Land’s End, but I won’t be buying from them any more either. Probably won’t make much of a dent in them, but every little bit helps, right?

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