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Question: What would have to happen for feminism to be no longer necessary?

Gloria Steinem:  You know I don’t think we know.  I never quite trust futurists, either, because I think they’re kind of telling us what they think our future should be. So what I think we need to do is infuse everyday and every action with the kind of values we hope will be in the future, with kindness, with nurturing, with dreams, ambition, using your talents, not resorting to violence, other forms of conflict resolution, with humor, with poetry, with music.

And if we do that one day at a time we don’t exactly know what is going to happen because we don’t know all the circumstances, but since Marx was right about a lot things, but not about one big thing, which is the ends don’t justify the means.  The means are the ends, so I would not try to predict.  I mean people ask me and I say kind of semi-serious things like: "Well I want to go out of my house and walk in the park and see white men wheeling babies of color and I want those guys to be well paid because…" And to love children, but right now I see women of color wheeling white babies all the time, so I know there is something wrong or I want to pass a newsstand and see erotica, real erotica, which has to do with love and free choice, not pornography, porno means female slavery.  It’s all about passive dominance and pain half the time, so you know I can think of signs of success, but I think only those who live in the future will really, really see success, will really be freed and realize more human capabilities. 

Question: Is the younger generation of women apathetic about feminism?

Gloria Steinem:  No, I mean just even if you look at the public opinion polls as a kind of gross measure feminism is much bigger and stronger than it was in the 70s.  The reason you know me is because there were like you know 500 crazy women who were... I mean so we got to be well known. But the fact is that now it’s the issues of… raised by feminism have majority support in all the public opinion polls.  The word feminism even though the opposition has tried very hard to demonize it and to call us Femi-Nazis and terrible stuff still it’s there are about a third of American women who self-identify as feminists with no definition and with the definition it’s more than 60%.  Actually more women self-identify, even without a definition, than identify as Republicans or Democrats.

So the idea that feminism has not succeeded or that this generation has rejected it is just a new form of the backlash.  I mean when I started they would say... or when all of us started that feminism isn’t necessary.  Women don’t want these things, you know? And now the form the backlash takes is to say well it used to be necessary, but it’s not anymore.  It is the narrative with pretty much all social justice movements.  People start to talk about post-racist, post-feminist.  What does that mean?  We’re clearly not post either.  Would you say post-democracy?  Clearly we haven’t reached true democracy yet. 

Recorded on October 28, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller

Directed & Produced by Jonathan Fowler

More from the Big Idea for Tuesday, December 21 2010

 

Feminism in the Modern World

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