I’m SO late to the table on this one (as usual these days) but hey, I’m still a mama with a pen.  And I couldn’t refrain from weighing in.

Every few years, the question—“who’s the next Gloria Steinem?”—seems to recycle itself in the mainstream media.  But it’s media, and not the women’s movement, that abhors a vacuum.

In “Gloria Steinem, a Woman Like No Other” (New York Times, March 18), Sarah Hepola is at it again.  The piece, while thoughtful in many regards, has a logic problem. Feminism is a living, breathing movement, always in evolution.  To name a sole leader now is like trying to push a tree back into a seed.  I’m pretty sure Gloria–a reluctant spokesperson herself, famously anointed by a media hungry for stars–would agree.

Hepola is right to note a lack of a singular voice, or face, today.  But there has never been unity in the women’s movement, and look what feminists have accomplished.  To be sure,  “two feminists, three opinions” might not be the most effective formula for a movement intended, among other things, to effect legislative change.  Still, feminism has since become, for many, as much culture as cause.  That signifies progress, you could say.

Yet progress, more generally, seems to be what’s really at issue.  Perhaps more compelling than the question of the movement’s public face is one more fundamental: Have we come a long way, baby, or just maybe?  It’s a question I find myself pondering daily.

As the Times article rightly points out, the Komen kerfuffle and Limbaugh’s most recent slur are simply the latest in a steady stream of events demonstrating the need for continued vigilance and response on the part of those who care about women’s health and well being, not to mention advancement.  For better or worse, the questions our feminist foremothers asked are ones younger women are asking still.

In my opinion, we need more focus on the unfinished work of feminism–for there is so much left undone–and less on the question of the movement’s brightest star.