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: Why do some women vote for Republicans even though the party wants to take away their reproductive freedoms?
Gloria Steinem: It’s very difficult. I mean, of course any group of people that has been subordinate absorbs the idea of our own subordination, and that it is natural, and comes to think that the only way to survive is to identify with the powerful. And I think that is not surprising, and it is what happens to a lot of right-wing women. I mean they think they better do what the powerful tell them do otherwise they’ll be in even more trouble. So, I understand that, but anyone with any faith in the future, self respect, hope for themselves... you can’t vote for people who don’t vote for you and that is... There is a whole wonderful book called "The Republican War Against Women" that documents this from the '60s forward. It wasn’t always true. The Republican Party was the first to support the Equal Rights Amendment for instance, but it is true now.
Question: What happened to the Republican Party?
Gloria Steinem: The problem is that the old party of Goldwater, of Rockefeller—who were for instance, pro-choice, who supported the Equal Rights Amendment, who you know...—has been taken over by very ultra rightwing groups, some of whom are real totalitarians and so it looks like and the media treats it as if the country is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. Actually I believe there are more independents than either Republicans or Democrats, and yet those are the... that is the choice we have on the party ballot. So frequently people just vote for the party out of power because they’re disappointed or angry at what is happening at the moment. It makes it very volatile, very, very difficult to know. But I still hope that voters will look at the extreme positions of the Republican Party and know how bad they are for all of us.
For instance, the party platform includes a constitutional amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would make a direct relationship between the law and a fertilized egg, which is when they say life begins; every fertilized egg. What that would do in real life is nationalize women’s bodies. You could legally search a women’s womb to see if she was pregnant. You could forcibly restrain her for all nine months of her pregnancy. Really we would be nationalized. This is insane. This is a party that used to be conservative, but now they... you know conservatives might want to get government off the backs of corporations, but not into the wombs of women, not deciding who can marry whom.
So it’s important that we recognize how extreme the Republicans are in almost every case and how against our self-interest it is to vote for them whether or not we are disappointed with the current crew. At least they believe in the Constitution. At least they have an idea of economic justice. The Republicans are devoted to creating more rich folks. In this country the salary of the average CEO in 1970 was I think 70 times the average worker. Now it is 1,000 times the average worker. And this is bad for all of us because when you give more money to the very rich they don’t spend that much of it as consumers, but when you give it to the middle class they spend most of it, all of it, as consumers and it’s what drives… it’s why this economy is 70% driven by consumer purchases. So it’s good for everybody to diminish this huge social division and restore ideas of individual rights, which are in our constitution and which many of the republican candidates just don’t represent. It’s... I hope that real Republicans take back the Republican Party soon because the problem now is that a real centrist conservative Republican can’t get through the primaries to get to the general election.
Recorded on October 28, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Directed & Produced by Jonathan Fowler