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ThoughtsfromGloriaSteinem:HaveWeMadeAnyProgressTowardGenderEquality?

Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem World-renowned feminist activist, organizer, writer and lecturer
Thoughts from Gloria Steinem: Have We Made Any Progress Toward Gender Equality?

From Gloria Steinem, as told to Marianne Schnall.

Renowned feminist organizer and activist Gloria Steinem has been moving women’s equality forward for over 50 years. Currently on book tour for her New York Times bestselling memoir, My Life on the Road, Gloria took a moment to share some powerful insights on where she thinks we are in the pursuit of gender equality, how feminism has changed since she first began in the movement, and how all of us – including men – can get involved in making a difference.


A Look at Women’s Progress

I think we've just begun [making significant progress for women]. We've accomplished some very important tasks. First, we know we're not crazy, the system is crazy. And this is very important. Second, we've built a majority support in this country and women's movements in many other countries, so instead of being a novelty, we are now a majority. And we have achieved new laws, new phrases, new definitions, new consciousness in very important and life-saving ways.

However, there is still so much violence against females in the world, whether it is son surplus and daughter deficit in Asia or sexualized violence in war zones or domestic violence here or child marriage in many other countries--all added up it means there are fewer females on earth than males. That hasn't happened before, as far as we know. So violence against women is clearly not solved, not at all solved, and the reasons for it, which are controlling women's bodies in order to control reproduction, are definitely not solved. The belief that women should control our own bodies may be a majority belief, but the minority that believes otherwise is against not only safe and legal abortions but contraception and even sex education. Or in other countries the ability for women to even leave the house without male written permission or a male companion, those restrictions and dangers are still with us.


A Woman in the White House

[In terms of electing a woman as president of this country], I think we're more ready [than we were in 2008], but it's going to be hell. There's going to be a demand for perfectionism on the part of Hillary Clinton, or any other pro-equality woman candidate, that would not be made of men. There are going to be attacks based on different standards of morality and different standards of dress and physical attractiveness. There are going to be men in the media, and perhaps some women too, who perhaps unconsciously associate female authority with childhood, because that's the last time they saw a powerful woman, and so they feel threatened and regressed to childhood by the sight of a powerful woman outside of the home.

And it's not just [about electing] a biological woman, it's a woman who stands for the majority issues of women. It would be a disaster to have Sarah Palin or Carly Fiorina in the White House, so it's not just a woman, but a woman who stands for the majority needs of women. It's not just getting a job for one woman, it's making life better for all women.


How Feminism Has Changed in the Last 50 Years

I think [feminism] has changed because we now better understand the links between equality for women and every other issue. For instance, now we understand that equal pay would be the best economic stimulus this country could have. We understand that violence against women is the biggest normalizer of all other violence, because it tends to be what people see first in their families or neighborhoods and it normalizes the idea that one group is born to dominate another. So I think we understand the connections much better. Not well enough, incidentally, because if we did, we would be screening our police for domestic violence, which is the biggest indicator of other violence and is a supremacy crime; both supremacy by sex and race is a parallel motivation. It's not getting you more money necessarily or benefiting you in any real way, it's just a question of having a superior identity. If [George] Zimmerman had been arrested for domestic violence, Trayvon Martin might still be alive. If we did something about the fact that cops have four times the rate of domestic violence that exists in the population at large, we would be screening out racist and sexist cops.

So we do understand the connections better, but I think the fundamental principles were clear--the first big issue was legalizing and making abortions safe, so we were understanding that women's existence as the means for reproduction was the fundamental reason for our inferior status; the desire to control reproduction was the fundamental reason.


Men as Allies in the Movement toward Gender Equality

Men who see their enlightened self-interests in getting rid of gender categories and race categories are allies in a very reliable way because they see it as beneficial to themselves, as well as females as a group. The racial parallel is true here: the white allies were only sometimes helpful if they saw themselves as helping African Americans or other people of color; they were way more reliable if they thought of themselves as “I don't want to live in a segregated society, it is depriving me, as well as them.” And I think the same is true of men, men who really want to have a relationship with their children and raise their kids and have job patterns that allow them to do that. Men who don't want to die early of violence and tension-related causes understand that this cause is mutual.

For a man to say, “I have to leave work now because I need to do something with my kids,” it's sometimes viewed as a career killer. He doesn't have the right drive. So when they depart from their gender roles, they face some of the same restrictions. And more and more men are raising children or want to be close to their kids. They don't want to just lead work-obsessed lives and end up 50 years later with an engraved watch.

[To make it work, we need to] raise our sons more like our daughters, which means raising sons with the qualities you need to raise children, whether or not those sons have children. They're all qualities wrongly called feminine: attention to detail, patience, empathy. I don't have children, but I was raised as a female to have those qualities because they're perceived as feminine. Until men are raised with those qualities, too, they won't have the full circle of human qualities. Women tend to become whole people by venturing outside of the home, learning to aspire, to achieve, to deal with conflict--all these qualities that are wrongly called masculine. Men tend to gain wholeness by acquiring the qualities that are wrongly called feminine.


A Shift in Consciousness

Because I've been traveling much more than usual--my usual travel was already there and then the book tour got put on top of it--I've had an intense dose of just listening to the general public, so I got an explosion of consciousness. It comes out of both anger and despair and hope and accomplishment, but it's there. It's consciousness. It's incredible. I'm quite stunned by it. The consciousness is incredibly high because of Black Lives Matter and the cops and anger about election financing and global warming--and none of these problems can be solved without the female half of the population, and obviously seeing it that way creates new solutions.

I don't exactly know how to explain [this shift that’s happening]. It is partly the Web, because people can discover supportive information out of time, so people who are sixteen who might not know about me or you, know about me and you. I think there's more ability to realize there are shared concerns and shared values without the traditional media. And at the same time, people want to be together, physically. Especially in this age of the Web, as miraculous as it is, we still need to be in the same room with all five senses if we are to empathize with each other. So perhaps the highest use of the Web is getting the information and identifying the places and the possibility of being together physically.


Getting Involved

Progress is not automatic--that's what movements are for. It depends on what we do every day. So any statement of ownership of our own bodies, however that occurs in our individual lives or our community or our collective lives, is crucial. And any insistence on equal pay is crucial and any redefinition of work to include caregiving work so that it also has an economic value, at least at replacement level, that's crucial. 

The forces [people] want to rebel against have put a lot of effort into making them feel powerless. But the fact is that every single issue that we care about is now a majority issue. In most cases where we have lost or are losing, it’s because we haven't paid attention. For instance, state legislatures. Most Americans don't know who their state legislators are, so most state legislators are run by the interests they regulate. The Right to Life, the so-called anti-abortion movement, did not get what it wanted fully in Washington, so now it has moved to the state legislatures. It's up to us to know who our state legislators are, pay attention, at least as much attention in states as we do in Washington.

Change does come from the bottom up, and it will come from girls and women and men who understand that for us all to be human beings instead of being grouped by gender is good for them, too. I would say don't worry about what you should do, do whatever you can. And seek companions with shared values. If we're isolated, we come to feel powerless when we're not.

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17 comments

  • Tiffany Pham
    Tiffany Pham Founder & CEO, Mogul
    1y ago

    These are such wonderful insights. I concur across the board.

    These are such wonderful insights. I concur across the board.

  • Lucy Chen
    Lucy Chen Community member
    1y ago

    Thank you for your work, Gloria. You are a hero to me!

    Thank you for your work, Gloria. You are a hero to me!

  • Lucía Carrillo
    Lucía Carrillo Community member
    1y ago

    Thank you, Gloria! What an amazing piece! This is great!

    Thank you, Gloria! What an amazing piece! This is great!

  • Kelly Hudson
    Kelly Hudson Community member
    1y ago

    You are a hero, Gloria!

    You are a hero, Gloria!

  • OG Mack Drama
    OG Mack Drama Community member
    1y ago

    This article is well said! I agree with it on all points! Thank you Gloria!

    This article is well said! I agree with it on all points! Thank you Gloria!

  • Jacky Chessler
    Jacky Chessler Community member
    1y ago

    A fantastic piece that is insightful and inspiring. Actually, most of all it is hopeful. :) So exciting for Mogul !!!

    A fantastic piece that is insightful and inspiring. Actually, most of all it is hopeful. :) So exciting for Mogul !!!

  • Bethany Heinrich
    Bethany Heinrich Mogul Influencer
    1y ago

    I am so inspired by these thoughts. Especially about raising our sons as we would our daughters, and instilling them with values of respect thus ensuring that they have strong character, and will treat men and women as equals.

    I am so inspired by these thoughts. Especially about raising our sons as we would our daughters, and instilling them with values of respect thus ensuring that they have strong character, and will treat men and women as equals.

    • Ruth Banda
      Ruth Banda Global Ambassador
      1y ago

      I agree Bethany. I keep telling my 14 year old son that I am raising him to be someone's fantastic husband someday. So I tell him, he needs to learn how to stack and unload the dishwasher, as a basic start......

      I agree Bethany. I keep telling my 14 year old son that I am raising him to be someone's fantastic husband someday. So I tell him, he needs to learn how to stack and unload the dishwasher, as a basic start......

  • AllisonLindaCurrier
    1y ago

    I loved that you connected how Trayvon Martin would be alive if George Zimmerman was locked up for domestic violence. I was disappointed in your lack of discussion around women on color and their journey for not only gender and sexual freedom, but racial freedom as well. As a (famous) white feminist, you are a role model for many women, and by not addressing issues of race, I believe you are activity hurting our collective feminist movement.

    I loved that you connected how Trayvon Martin would be alive if George Zimmerman was locked up for domestic violence. I was disappointed in your lack of discussion around women on color and their journey for not only gender and sexual freedom, but racial freedom as well. As a (famous) white feminist, you are a role model for many women, and by not addressing issues of race, I believe you are activity hurting our collective feminist movement.

    • PorterlHana
      [deleted]
      1y ago

      [deleted]

      [deleted]

      • PorterlHana
        PorterlHana Community member
        1y ago

        Hm I do see where you are coming from AllisonLindaCurrier. From my perspective, Steinem vaguely addressed race in her introduction referencing " the daughter deficit in Asia or sexualized violence in war zones or domestic violence here or child marriage in many other countries" as recognition of women of the world. Continuing, the article addresses issues supporting/affecting women’s rights, i.e. political differentiation of women, women's history, equal pay as a start to equality and the effects of gender socialization. I guess I just didn't see a need to differentiate women of color in this article regarding its general premise being women's rights, not the individual history or experiences of women's rights and their struggles according to race or culture. To me it was not that specific. I understand that race could have been mentioned, but probably would lend itself to a whole other article! One sentence would not have done it justice! Though this article didn't directly touch on race, I don't think it necessary hurt it either due to the brevity of the piece and stance of all women being a whole in each of the addressed categories. What do you think, what am I missing?

        Hm I do see where you are coming from AllisonLindaCurrier. From my perspective, Steinem vaguely addressed race in her introduction referencing " the daughter deficit in Asia or sexualized violence in war zones or domestic violence here or child marriage in many other countries" as recognition of women of the world. Continuing, the article addresses issues supporting/affecting women’s rights, i.e. political differentiation of women, women's history, equal pay as a start to equality and the effects of gender socialization. I guess I just didn't see a need to differentiate women of color in this article regarding its general premise being women's rights, not the individual history or experiences of women's rights and their struggles according to race or culture. To me it was not that specific. I understand that race could have been mentioned, but probably would lend itself to a whole other article! One sentence would not have done it justice! Though this article didn't directly touch on race, I don't think it necessary hurt it either due to the brevity of the piece and stance of all women being a whole in each of the addressed categories. What do you think, what am I missing?

        • mschnall
          mschnall Community member
          1y ago

          Hi - I am the writer who interviewed Gloria for this piece - I just wanted to clarify that this is only an excerpt from the full interview which I will be posting online sometime next week. In that interview (and in so much of Gloria's other work and writings generally) she does speak a lot about racism. I will share here the link to the full interview when it goes online.

          Hi - I am the writer who interviewed Gloria for this piece - I just wanted to clarify that this is only an excerpt from the full interview which I will be posting online sometime next week. In that interview (and in so much of Gloria's other work and writings generally) she does speak a lot about racism. I will share here the link to the full interview when it goes online.

          • Bethany Heinrich
            Bethany Heinrich Mogul Influencer
            1y ago

            This is such a great piece, Marianne. Thank you so much again! Gloria sounds like an amazing person and I hope to have the opportunity to meet her someday! What an inspiration for all women.

            This is such a great piece, Marianne. Thank you so much again! Gloria sounds like an amazing person and I hope to have the opportunity to meet her someday! What an inspiration for all women.

        • AllisonLindaCurrier
          1y ago

          I think a true feminst approach is intersectional at its core, so having a whole other article dedicated to women of color somewhat allows us, as a united movement, to stay separated. Mschnall who interviewed Gloria said below that she did speak more about race (which is awesome to hear) - although that part did not make it into this sample of the interview. I would have liked to see that part prioritized for this piece, ya know?

          I think a true feminst approach is intersectional at its core, so having a whole other article dedicated to women of color somewhat allows us, as a united movement, to stay separated. Mschnall who interviewed Gloria said below that she did speak more about race (which is awesome to hear) - although that part did not make it into this sample of the interview. I would have liked to see that part prioritized for this piece, ya know?

          • PorterlHana
            PorterlHana Community member
            1y ago

            I didn't mean writing another article as separating the issues, I meant it in regards to the substance and length of the issue within the topic of feminism in relation to this piece and your comment. I think our intensions are similarly based in a united movement, but we have different approaches. While I still think Steinem briefly mentioned race through addressing oppression in different countries and cultures, I see your point and agree that a substantial, maybe more specific acknowledgement about race within feminism is important. However, your heavy handed statement that Steinem is “actively hurting our collective feminist movement” stuck me as too broad a statement over a specific piece, where you gave little room for dialogue. I respect your priority for the subject, but I also see your response as problematic. I found it critical instead of engaging over a mutual goal of gender equality. Ya know :) Just something to think about- I do mean this with good constructive intentions.

            I didn't mean writing another article as separating the issues, I meant it in regards to the substance and length of the issue within the topic of feminism in relation to this piece and your comment. I think our intensions are similarly based in a united movement, but we have different approaches. While I still think Steinem briefly mentioned race through addressing oppression in different countries and cultures, I see your point and agree that a substantial, maybe more specific acknowledgement about race within feminism is important. However, your heavy handed statement that Steinem is “actively hurting our collective feminist movement” stuck me as too broad a statement over a specific piece, where you gave little room for dialogue. I respect your priority for the subject, but I also see your response as problematic. I found it critical instead of engaging over a mutual goal of gender equality. Ya know :) Just something to think about- I do mean this with good constructive intentions.

  • Paula Kramer 82
    Paula Kramer 82 Community member
    1y ago

    Have you, Gloria Steinem, stopped silencing women and inviting men to silence women? Below is a comment I keep posting online: Gloria Steinem silences women and gives men permission to silence women. Steinem silenced millions of women when she participated in a discussion with bell hooks, Urvashi Vaid, and Naomi Wolf for the September/October 1993 issue of Ms. Magazine. Those four feminists discussed why women choose not to call themselves feminists instead of asking women who make that choice to speak for themselves. Would Steinem, hooks, Vaid, or Wolf have agreed that a group of nonfeminist women could speak for them to explain why they choose to call themselves feminist? Steinem also gives men permission to silence women. On a New York stage in 1992, Steinem said, "We don't give a shit what she thinks" about Camille Paglia. Steinem’s statement was broadcast on 60 Minutes. On national television, Steinem gave permission to every man listening to silence any woman by saying, "I don't give a shit what she thinks". Steinem continues to silence women any time she announces that the alternative to feminism is masochism. I called myself a feminist for about 20 years. By the time of the above Ms. article, three local feminist leaders had verbally and emotionally abused me. I talked to other women and discovered the local feminist leaders had abused them as well. I decided I would be a masochist to continue associating with verbally and emotionally abusive women. I stopped calling myself a feminist. Gloria Steinem creates inequality between women and for women.

    Have you, Gloria Steinem, stopped silencing women and inviting men to silence women? Below is a comment I keep posting online: Gloria Steinem silences women and gives men permission to silence women. Steinem silenced millions of women when she participated in a discussion with bell hooks, Urvashi Vaid, and Naomi Wolf for the September/October 1993 issue of Ms. Magazine. Those four feminists discussed why women choose not to call themselves feminists instead of asking women who make that choice to speak for themselves. Would Steinem, hooks, Vaid, or Wolf have agreed that a group of nonfeminist women could speak for them to explain why they choose to call themselves feminist? Steinem also gives men permission to silence women. On a New York stage in 1992, Steinem said, "We don't give a shit what she thinks" about Camille Paglia. Steinem’s statement was broadcast on 60 Minutes. On national television, Steinem gave permission to every man listening to silence any woman by saying, "I don't give a shit what she thinks". Steinem continues to silence women any time she announces that the alternative to feminism is masochism. I called myself a feminist for about 20 years. By the time of the above Ms. article, three local feminist leaders had verbally and emotionally abused me. I talked to other women and discovered the local feminist leaders had abused them as well. I decided I would be a masochist to continue associating with verbally and emotionally abusive women. I stopped calling myself a feminist. Gloria Steinem creates inequality between women and for women.


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Gloria Steinem
World-renowned feminist activist, organizer, writer and lecturer

Gloria Steinem is a writer, lecturer, editor and feminist activist. In 1972, she co-founded Ms. Magazine, and she remained one of its editors for fifteen years. In 1968, she helped found New York magazine, where she was a political columnist and wrote feature articles. Her books include the [...]

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