by Christy Yao, Rehumanize Int’l Intern
I was immediately intrigued when I heard Netflix was releasing a documentary about a feminist lawyer. Although I couldn’t put a face to the name Gloria Allred, I was interested to hear her take on feminism. With a mix of nervousness and excitement, I started the film. I was glad to find the documentary largely focused on Allred’s work for victims of sexual harassment and assault.
The film gave an overview of Allred’s life interspersed with the storyline of her challenge to a statute of limitations law with the help of a woman who was assaulted by comedian, Bill Cosby, many years ago. The idea of challenging the statute of limitations showed Allred’s creativity. But I was first and foremost touched by Allred’s sensitivity and passion for her clients. Allred even went so far as to protest outside one of Bill Cosby’s comedy shows.
Allred had to overcome many challenges to get where she is today. Growing up in a working class family, Allred knew she wanted to go to college but had no idea how to afford it. Her father revealed he had been saving so she could pursue her dream of higher education. During college, however, Allred also married and had a daughter. After entering the Vietnam War, her husband’s mental health declined and Allred felt she had to leave him for her daughter’s safety. She moved back home but felt like she couldn’t tell anyone why she left her husband. This resulted in much criticism. Allred ended up teaching in an inner-city
While in California, Allred attended law school. She gained attention for outspoken feminism school before she and Lisa moved to California. She challenged prejudices and stereotypes, making allies of many like-minded feminists, as well as enemies of those who disagreed with her point of view, along the way. Allred became a hero to women such as Gloria Steinem, but a menace to those in favor of traditional gender roles. One of the more interesting enemies Allred made in her career was the toy industry, because she criticized their gender-specific marketing of toys.
Before anyone was thinking of women’s rights, Allred was a women’s rights lawyer. When Allred started her career, not many people were talking about topics such as sexual harassment or sexist stereotypes of women. This kind of abuse was just considered facts of life. Allred challenged this thinking.
While Allred has done a great deal for victims of sexual harassment and assault, we must call her to more. Allred is an avid supporter of abortion on demand, including federally-funded abortions. Allred relates this passion to a valid need for justice: she was raped while on vacation in her 20’s. She became pregnant, and had (what she described as) a back-alley abortion. The abortion resulted in an infection. She reportedly had a 106 degree fever. At the hospital she had to be packed in ice. In all of this, Allred revealed what truly hurt most of all was not the rape. It was the abortion. Particularly when a nurse said to Allred, “This will teach you a lesson.”
The nurse failed Allred and women, as did the society which made Allred feel ashamed for being raped, and demanded that she choose abortion to “fix” it. The battle for abortion rights that Allred fought for was a byproduct of her mistreatment; and of sexism. I wonder with optimistic sorrow what Allred could have done for the pro-life movement. Allred is such a strong voice; she has an aura confidence you can feel. I fervently wish she had not bought the lie that violence begets freedom for women.
Gloria Allred has done many good things in her esteemed career. She gave women a voice where before we were silent. She brought to light issues women face but are taught not to speak of. In many ways, Allred has truly made the world a better place. My hope for Gloria Allred is that she will someday stand up for all women, both born and preborn. We cannot truly exercise our freedom as equal members of the human race while we accept violence against the most defenseless: preborn women.