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: Has feminism succeeded?
Gloria Steinem: It’s hard to measure success when we’re dealing with between 500 and 5,000 years of patriarchy depending on which continent we sit, so I would say feminism has been successful and we have a huge distance to go, huge. For instance, we’ve demonstrated in this and other modern countries or industrialized countries that women can do what men can do, but we have not demonstrated that men can do what women can do therefore children are still mostly raised, hugely mostly raised by women and women in industrialized modern countries end up having two jobs one outside the home and one inside the home. And more seriously than that children grow up believing that only women can be loving and nurturing, which is a libel on men, and that only men can be powerful in the world outside the home, which is a libel on women. So that's huge step we haven’t taken yet.
Question: Will same-sex parenting couples help to challenge these notions?
Gloria Steinem: Both single males who are parents and same-sex couples of men who are raising children that is certainly a great help because those children will grow up knowing that men can be as loving and nurturing as women. They will be much less likely to falsely divide the world into masculine qualities and feminine qualities, but there is a bigger and deeper connection between the women’s movement and gay and lesbian movements, which has always been true. I mean they always come together, and our adversaries are always the same because the male supremacist, patriarchal, ultra-right-wing, whatever you want to... religious fundamentalists, whatever you want to call it is devoted to saying that sex is only moral and okay when it is directed towards having children and occurs in patriarchal marriage, so the children are owned.
So what the means is that both for women, all women, whatever our sexuality, it’s crucial to our health that we are able to separate sexuality from reproduction. I mean whether or not we can control when we give birth is the biggest element in our health, our education, our economic welfare, our life expectancy, everything. So it’s crucial that we are able to separate sexuality and reproduction. And of course same sex couples stand for, in a way, the separation of sexuality from reproduction, so our adversaries are really all the same people.
On campus, sometimes kids ask me, “Well why is the... why are religious fundamentalists against both lesbians and birth control?” You know this seems inconsistent to them. But it’s not. It’s consistent because they are against any form of sexuality, of sexual expression that can’t end in conception, which happens to be a huge lie about human sexuality. Humans can experience the same sexual pleasure whether we can conceive or not. Sexuality has always been for humans a form of communication, a way we express love and caring and bonding, not only a way we have children if we choose to.
Recorded on October 28, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Directed & Produced by Jonathan Fowler