“An Illustrated Guide to Topping the Patriarchy”
Review by Anna Holmes of the non-fiction book 50 YEARS OF MS.: The Best of the Pathfinding Magazine That Ignited a Revolution, edited by Katherine Spillar and the editors of Ms.“
New York Times Book Review
September 17, 2023
“…Ms. was famously co-founded by the writer and activist Gloria Steinem, who contributes a foreword. The question, of course, is how all this reads in 2023. Ms.was often prescient, anticipating and exploring topics that feel just as relevant today as they did at the time of writing, including misinformation about menopause (1993), the harmful effects of pornography (2004) and the controversies and tensions surrounding the evolution of personal pronouns (1985). Under the headline ‘The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Twenty-First Century’ in 1990, a wry Jane Wagner predicts that the feminist movement ‘for the umpteenth time will be pronounced dead,’ the only three types of remaining government will be ‘neo-fascism, regular fascism and fascism lite’ and that the ‘flesh-colored Band-Aid will come in many colors.’
“As for what Ms. didn’t get quite so right? That’s harder to determine — understandably, 50 Years of Ms. has been edited and curated so that the magazine is painted in the best possible light. As such, any of its missteps appear few and far between, though that was hardly the case in reality. In 1986, after the publication of a cover showing two pregnant white women, the author Alice Walker resigned from the masthead, citing the magazine’s lack of diversity…”
Unpublished letter to the editor of the New York Times Book Review by Alan Blum, MD
September 17, 2023
“In her review of 80 Years of Ms. (September 17), Anna Holmes asks what Ms. magazine didn’t get quite so right. I can cite a glaring example.
“The collage of nine images of issues of Ms. that accompanied the review showed only front covers. Had it also included the back covers of many issues, readers would have seen that Ms. was no different than Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Mademoiselle, Ladies’ Home Journal, Essence, or other magazines aimed at women in its acceptance of cigarette advertising.
“In 1986, Ms. publisher Gloria Steinem caught heat from Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and other public health organizations both for its lack of coverage of smoking as a women’s health issue as well as for her claim that the magazine depended on cigarette advertising revenue for its survival.
“A year after publication of Ms.’s issue on “The Beauty of Health” in May 1986, which contained four pages of cigarette advertising and no mention of cigarette smoking, the Connecticut Tumor Registry reported that lung cancer had surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths in women. Over the past two decades, the incidence of lung cancer has declined in men but has risen in women.”