It’s not helpful to talk about men and women as if they were fixed and binary entities, says the celebrated feminist. “The purpose of feminism is … to understand that inside each of us is a unique human being who is a combination of heredity and environment”
Question: Are men and women equal or do they have their own strengths and weaknesses?
Gloria Steinem: But there aren’t two sides. I mean I think what we… We don’t actually know because we’ve been so deeply propagandized with the idea of masculine and feminine we probably don’t know what differences may be in a group sense, but what we do know is that the individual differences are much greater, so the differences between two women are quite likely to be bigger than the differences, generalized differences between males and females as groups for every purpose except reproduction, just as the individual differences between two members of the same race or ethnicity are probably greater than the differences between two races which might just have to do with resistance to certain diseases or you know.
So the purpose of feminism is to free the uniqueness of the individual and to understand that inside each of us is a unique human being who is a combination of heredity and environment. I mean that is a binary too—I never understand why it’s heredity or environment; it’s both—that have for millennia upon millennia combined and resulted in this human being who could never happen before in quite the same way, could never happen again in quite the same way, so the purpose really is to free that in everyone and not look at labels. Obviously there is no such thing as race and in many ways sex is a continuum, not a binary. So it doesn’t make sense to label people in that way. Even when we do that we discover there is a huge overlap. There are perhaps poles of what seem to be masculine and feminine. Then there are 30% of each that are overlapped. That is a lot of people.
So I think if we could just lift up the labels and look at two things one, our uniqueness as individuals and what talents we bring to the world and what... You know there is a person inside every baby, right? And anybody who has ever met a baby knows there is already a person in there. That is one thing and the other thing is community. That human beings are communal beings and that we can’t exist or prosper by ourselves. We need each other’s support.
Recorded on October 28, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Directed & Produced by Jonathan Fowler