Kim K. showing more than baby bumps

Kim Kardashian has done something really noteworthy: She gained weight during pregnancy.
Kim Kardashian has done something really noteworthy: She gained weight during pregnancy.
Posted: April 12, 2013

I SURE WAS surprised to see that feminist icon Gloria Steinem had spoken out against critics who have been fat-shaming Kim Kardashian and making negative comments about the reality TV star's pregnancy-fueled weight gain.

Reports that the co-founder of Ms. magazine had addressed the subject of Kardashian's increasing girth were all over the Internet Thursday. Since I already had an interview scheduled with Steinem because of Tuesday's Planned Parenthood event at the National Constitution Center, I asked Steinem what that was about. No, I'm not proud about it. But I did it.

"My overwhelming response is this is not newsworthy," Steinem said before adding, "It's certainly true that women's bodies are not public property for comment."

But this is Kardashian, I pointed out. Hadn't she brought all the hyperscrutiny upon herself by flaunting her body around the way she's made a career of doing?

"That's probably true," Steinem agreed, then pointed out, "If men were rewarded in the same way for flaunting their bodies, they'd be flaunting them, too."

She pointed out how the Miss America Pageant has long been a leading source for college scholarships for women in America. "That's ridiculous," Steinem said.

If the same were true for men, people would say, "No wonder China is winning."

Yeah, I'm a fan.

Steinem can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. I had her on the phone for about 20 minutes Thursday and we chatted about everything from ongoing efforts to restrict abortion rights to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Here's a smattering of what else Steinem had to say.

* On President Obama's eyebrow-raising comment about California Attorney General Kamala Harris' good looks during a fund-raiser last week, Steinem said, "I would say it was an extremely minor error of good will."

She understands, though, why some women are super sensitive about those kinds of comments. Steinem recalled how people often said she became the face of the women's movement in part because of her appearance. "I found it very painful because it's like saying you didn't work hard," Steinem noted.

* I also asked her about Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg's somewhat controversial new book, "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" which says that women need to be more aggressive to get ahead.

"I think her book is very good," Steinem said. "She's pointing out that we need to change internally and externally. She's saying both. I think the reason she got some criticism is because she's successful. In order to be loved and appreciated, women have to fail."

As an example, she pointed out how Clinton's likability ratings improved after she failed to get the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. "In the classic sense of masculinity and feminity, women are not supposed to be successful," Steinem said.

* We chatted about Yahoo! president and chief executive Marissa Mayer's controversial decision not to allow employees to work from home. Steinem said she'd heard Mayers say on the PBS documentary "Makers: Women Who Make America" that she wasn't a feminist.

"I guess she really isn't. She's making changes for herself but not for women as a group," Steinem observed.

* We also talked about reproductive freedom in light of abortion restrictions that states such as North Dakota and Arkansas have adopted.

"The anti-reproduction freedom groups have lost at a national level, so now they are trying at a state legislative level. But when abortion was illegal before the Supreme Court ruling, about one in three women had an abortion and since it has been legal, one in three have had an abortion. Women have always needed to have abortions. That's not going to change," Steinem said. "It's all about controlling reproduction. This is the root of women's second-class status, the effort to control reproduction."

* About pop icon Beyonce's apparent decision to name her world tour The Mrs. Carter Show, Steinem said, "There's nothing wrong with being Mrs. Carter, but in the end, there may be five Mrs. Carters."

* I wished Steinem a belated happy belated since she turned 79 last month. And while we were on the topic of aging, I asked Steinem how she would like to be remembered. She told me she hopes future generations will think of her "as someone who tried to make the world a little more fair and kinder than it was when I arrived."

I'm sure that's a done deal.

Steinem is the keynote speaker at Planned Parenthood's 17th Annual Spring Gathering at the National Constitution Center Tuesday at 6 p.m. Tickets are $100. For more information, log onto plannedparenthoodpa.org.


On Twitter: @JeniceArmstrong

Blog: philly.com/HeyJen

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