Gloria Steinem is a journalist and feminist activist. In the late 1960s, she became nationally recognized as one of the leaders of the Women's Liberation Movement, in part due to her article "After Black Power, Women's Liberation." She also helped to found many political organizations and advocacy groups including the Women's Action Alliance, Voters for Choice, and the National Women's Political Caucus, a group that works to advance the numbers of pro-equality women in office at national and state levels. In 2005 Steinem, together with Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan, co-founded the Women's Media Center, an organization that works to amplify the voices of women in the media.
Steinem also helped to found New York magazine in 1968, where she became a political columnist. Four years later, she founded Ms. magazine, a feminist publication which began as a New York magazine insert. She was an editor of the magazine for 15 years and continues to serve as consulting editor.
Her books include the bestsellers "Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem," "Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions," "Moving Beyond Words," and "Marilyn: Norma Jean," on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Her writing also appears in many anthologies and textbooks, and she was an editor of Houghton Mifflin's "The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History."
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