Women still must push goals, Ms. editor says

January 06, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Robin Morgan turns out to be a pussycat.

A reporter recently had approached this ardent feminist, the editor of Ms. magazine, with trepidation.

"You were expecting a woman with a double hunchback or maybe a towering Amazon?" she says, laughing, during an interview in San Francisco.

"Men don't seem to know how to behave to women as human beings," Ms. Morgan says. "There are old entrenched attitudes."

She has been editor of Ms. since March 1990. The magazine had folded in 1989, but returned sans advertising as a $5-an-issue bimonthly. The move was considered unpromising then, but the new subscription list has topped 250,000 with another 70,000 sold on the stands.

Although she complains that almost every feminist is described as "shrill and strident," Ms. Morgan, in person, is warm and gracious. Maybe it's because, for a feminist, these are days of some pleasure.

For example, President-elect Bill Clinton announced four major appointments to his Cabinet and staff. Three of them were women. The Year of the Woman is becoming something of a political watershed for feminists.

"That's fine," Ms. Morgan says, "but I worry about people dying of terminal gratitude.

"We have not achieved equality. We have not achieved gender parity. Those are the goals, and we have not attained them."

The politics that Ms. Morgan talks about at the moment revolve around U.S. Sen. Robert Packwood, R-Ore. Mr. Packwood, whose record on women's issues once placed him high in the feminist popularity poll. But he is now on the hit list for alleged incidents of harassment involving female staffers.

But doesn't Ms. Morgan feel some compassion for Senator Packwood, who claims to have a drinking problem?

"Compassion?" she says. "What if he chased guys around his office? We wouldn't feel compassion. Homophobia would kick into the equation.

" . . . We are finally chipping away at the wall between the public person and the private person and that is good.

"The issue is sexual harassment. Wherever it comes from. It doesn't have to be a boss," she says. "It can come from a peer or even a subordinate. Even the law says that."

Of her own life, Ms. Morgan says less. She was married to Kenneth Pitchford for 20 years, then divorced, though she says Mr. Pitchford was supportive on feminist issues. They have a son, Blake Morgan, 23.

Quickly, though, Ms. Morgan is back to dealing with the victimization and oppression of women.

"Most men still don't get it," she says. "They do not understand the depth of the rage, the depth of the pain, the need for change."

For Ms. Morgan, that's the message and she's the messenger.

"Are women's issues the only issues you think about?" she is asked.

She looks surprised for a moment. Then smiles warmly again.

"All issues are women's issues," she says.

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