Gloria Steinem and The Better Woman

 We are becoming

the men we wanted to marry.

Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem


Yale Joel—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The poster goddess of feminism, Gloria Steinem, is 80!  She, who popularized Australian Irina Dunn’s quip “Women need men like fish need bicycles,” married for the first time at the age of 66 claiming, “I hope this proves what feminists have always said — that feminism is about the ability to choose what’s right at each time of our lives.”

Other nuggets of wisdom from this icon who has inspired many to expand their world view:

A liberated woman is one who has sex before marriage and a job after.

If women could sleep their way to the top, there’d be a lot more women at the top.

Women are not going to be equal outside the home until men are equal in it.

A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space.

For women… bras, panties, bathing suits, and other stereotypical gear are visual reminders of a commercial, idealized feminine image that our real and diverse female bodies can’t possibly fit. Without these visual references, each individual woman’s body demands to be accepted on its own terms. We stop being comparatives. We begin to be unique.

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself.

Once we give up searching for approval we often find it easier to earn respect.

If the shoe doesn’t fit, must we change the foot?

Whatever you want to do, just do it…Making a damn fool of yourself is absolutely essential.

A new documentary Gloria: In Her Own Words airs this month on HBO, celebrating the life and work of this feminist icon. Click on “Leave a comment” (above left) to share what feminism means to you.


Portrait Of Gloria Steinem

Gloria-Steinem playboy bunny

Undercover research as Playboy bunny


A writer never sits too far from her typewriter

Gloria Steinam in bathtub

Marianne Barcellona—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

That Was the Year That Was

Gloria Steinem, feminist writer

Aging gracefully with none of that botox stuff


Thanks to Getty and Google archive for these images!

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Email me

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Spring Bloom

The earth laughs

in flowers.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Happy first day of Spring, my darlings! And what a thrill to celebrate the day that has just been declared the first International Day of Happiness! For who doesn’t get happy knowing the long slumber of winter is over and flower season is near? This Powerful Goddess does not have to wait for anyone to bring her flowers, she blooms like no other any day of the year!

What took us so long to think of this annual happiness celebration anyway?  Goddess knows!  What did take me most of my life to realize is that happiness has many faces. Many insist on a smile and a happy face as important indicators–we all know they aren’t that dependable. Some people require silence and a solitary existence, others can’t live without constant noise and the next emergency.  There are those who look forward to retirement  heaven, while a few see it as certain death.  Contrary to popular belief, misery and suffering bring some a certain comfort, so it’s wise to bite the tongue and curb our habit of giving advice. Whatever our personal definition, the world’s happiness at large may depend on our letting go of the need to convert others to our chosen “religion,” especially those whom we live with every day.

Since one whole year is a very long time to wait for the next happiness celebration, click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add to this list of little nothings that add joy to your every day.

flowers out my window, birds in the backyard

no snow to shovel

old photographs

funnies and a good belly laugh

a clean kitchen sink

scheming with friends

finding street parking in NYC

kindness, thoughtful gifts, happy surprises

curls, swirls, and beauty in style and design

high ceilings and glorious chandeliers

arches, curves, and unexpected angles

dressing up

yellow, orange, red and sunshiny hues

reading, dancing, and learning something new

a husband who helps around the house on weekends

the smile on my daughter’s face

seeing my sons cook dinner–sometimes cajoled, sometimes nagged, always reassured that no woman can resist a man who cooks and brings her flowers for no occasion, in any season.











© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Email me

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Fearless at Fifty

You don’t stop laughing when you grow old.

You grow old when you stop laughing.

George Bernard Shaw

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Before Fifty Shades of Grey and Sex and the City, there was Fear of Flying (1973) by Erica Jong.  I have yet to read this novel that introduced a notorious phrase to the English language through the heroine’s honest and exuberant retelling of her sexual (mis)adventures.  What I’ve read is Erica’s midlife memoir Fear of Fifty (first released in 1994 when she turned 50) that continued to provoke, inspire, and stand as an icon of self-discovery, liberation, and womanhood.

This classic came to mind because last Saturday was International Women’s Day and I remember reading Erica’s chapter on her writing sabbatical in a Venetian palazzo.  I thought, “Every woman should have such freedom!”  I also recall sharing her impression of Venice as a dead and dying city–but that was obviously before I heard about Carnival!

Fear of Fifty looks back and ahead, assessing the costs, rewards, the meaning of one woman’s journey.  Erica’s memoir “goes right to the jugular of woman who lived wildly and vicariously through Fear of Flying” with entertaining stories and provocative insights on a woman’s identity, love and loss, sex, marriage, aging, feminism, and motherhood.

And how far have women really come since the golden age of petticoats?  We gave up the corset and dutifully bind ourselves to the gym and diets.  We join the workforce to make our own money and the right to be eternally exhausted, never quite sure where the end of the rainbow is in doing and having it all.  After all, we must look forever young and fabulous while still running the home and feeling guilty about our (neglected) relationships.  We boldly proclaim women can do what men do while our daughters are lulled by the same fairytales of the one ideal man, the notion of that elusive union of money, sex, love, romance and fidelity leaving many in a state of dubious singlehood or perpetual marital discontent.  Will the day ever come when we’d drop the farce of calling unpaid housework “mother’s love”?  Will we live to see the pegs of hierarchy buried  and affirm the disparate choices every woman makes to be the best for herself?

As fifty beckons in my own horizon, I am honored to witness tired and wilted women transform into radiant blooms when they decide to give themselves the appreciation and sense of purpose they’ve been waiting to be given.  To see the great power in surrendering the fight of “I’m every woman” and letting the chips fall where they may.  To perceive our wrinkles as trophies of a life full of laughs and tame serious adult business with more fun, play, and dress up.  To allow disappointments to clarify who matters and the possibilities that lie beyond the pain.   To see the beauty aging offers with the wisdom and courage to say “To hell with it!”  If the Social Indicators Research (2010) is right about women being happiest at age 74, how different would the rest of our lives be if we laughed in the face of fear much, much sooner?

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share old fears that make you chuckle today.
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© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Email me

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother


Best of Venice

Venice is like eating

an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.

Truman Capote


As a passionate night owl, I was pleasantly surprised by the pleasures of catching the sun rise over Venice, soft blue making way to gray or sunny skies.

The one thing to know aside from timing your visit with Carnival is that there are no porters nor cars past its train station.   Walking is how everyone stays fit.  As a tourist dragging heavy luggage, your back will thank you if you choose a hotel with direct canal access.   Skip the queue for the bus, the vaporetto and the schlep over a few bridges by hiring a private taxi from the airport (110 Euros or share a ride for 30 Euros per person.)  To buy a private taxi ticket at the Marco Polo airport, keep left when you walk out of baggage claim.  Their booth sits like an island in the middle of the hall.

Money matters:  get the best exchange rates using your ATM or credit card.   If you want to watch your dollars magically halve, cash exchange counters charge about 30 Euros per transaction.   Tipping is generally not expected but with wages that have not caught up with the Lira’s conversion to the Euro, why not?   Service and/or cover charge are automatically added to your bill at restaurants.

San Marco Square

Join the early birds in owning the town before the street lamps go off at 6:30 am. Be the first in line to see the Basilica interiors and climb the second level to better admire the artwork on its golden domes.  But as soon as you notice puddles of water spreading on the pavement, get yourself out of San Marco quickly before the tide floods the square.

Doge’s Palace

A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the Doge’s Palace (aka Palazzo Ducale in Italian) is a landmark of building elements and ornamentation.  The public entrance is through the Porta del Frumento, under the colonnade of its 14th century waterfront façade.


Cafe Florian

On San Marco square, the place to see and be seen especially during Carnival is Cafe Florian.  The crowd that gathers here adore elegant period costume that transport you back in time amidst authentic 18th century decor.

Terrace with a View

Because I love rich velvet on everything, I had to dine where the seats are upholstered in it!  Hotel Danieli faces the water next to the Doge’s Palace. Service at fancy hotels has its share of critics because of the expectations that are as high as the price they command.  Know that you are coming here for its unrivaled view of the city.   (Photo from


Rialto Bridge

For almost 300 years since it opened in 1591, the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) was the only way to cross the Grand Canal on foot between the districts of San Polo and San Marco.   Probably the most visited structure among tourists today, it is best photographed when you’re on the water from a gondola, water taxi or the vaporetto (public water bus.)   Three walkways cross the bridge:  two along the outer balustrades and a wider one in the center with shops on both sides.  (Photo by National Geographic.)

Bridge of Sighs

This bridge behind the Doge’s Palace has a bleak history.  A more romantic version comes from local legend that promises lovers eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St. Mark’s Cathedral toll.  This legend is the plot line of the movie A Little Romance starring Laurence Olivier and Diane Lane.


San Giorgio Island

To get to the island with the brick church steeple that beckons across the water, take the #2 Vaporetto in front of Hotel Danieli.  Twilight is the best time to photograph the city lights and panorama.


Murano and Burano Islands

Murano Island is the home of hand blown glass and the famed Venetian chandeliers.  It is the first stop of the same ferry that takes you to Burano Island known for its lace and colorful house facades.



Even without a charming gondolier, Venice has no better known icon.
Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add your Venetian favorites.


© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Email me

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

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