Renowned feminist leader Gloria Steinem gave a lecture discussing the accomplishments of modern-day feminism and the road that lies ahead in the ongoing fight for gender equality at Arlington Theater Thursday night.
Gloria Steinem got her start as a young journalist who hoped to call attention to issues facing women in America, from the exploitative treatment of Playboy bunnies to rights regarding women’s reproductive autonomy. From there, Steinem entered the world of political activism and the Women’s Liberation movement, becoming a prominent spokesperson and icon and even receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom just last year.
Steinem’s lecture focused on the evolution of the feminist movement. She discussed the roots of patriarchy, the advances women have made in the past 40 years, the problems still facing women and society and the necessity of ‘intersectionality’ and interdependence. She then engaged in a question and answer session with audience members.
Near the beginning of the lecture, Steinem addressed the idea that the feminist movement is “over” or “unnecessary” — which are concepts commonly perpetuated by those who feel women have achieved equality in society. Steinem rejected the idea, citing salary discrepancies between men and women and the pervasiveness of violence against women among other current issues.
“Declaring the movement over is the current form of polite opposition,” Steinem said.
According to Steinem, true equality will not be achieved in society until men participate in childcare as much as women. She stressed that the devaluation of traditionally feminine roles, such as domesticity and childcare, is not only restrictive for women but detrimental to men as well.
“For men to raise children, to be at home, to be nurturing and thoughtful, pay attention to detail — all those qualities that are wrongly called feminine but are just human,” Steinem said. “It is a huge, huge order … [people] say that it’s impossible, but that makes me know that it’s necessary.”
Steinem also spent time distinguishing the differences between types of erotica, characterizing the delineation between pleasure and pornography, which she stated was rooted in violence.
“Sexuality is about cooperation and mutual pleasure … When we point out the danger of pornography, we are called anti-sex. I don’t know any feminists, actually, who are anti-sex,” Steinem said. “We are talking about sexual violence … We have not convinced this country that pornography is not sex — erotica is sex. Pornography is violence and domination.”
Another topic Steinem stressed was the necessity of ‘intersectionality’ in feminism and of the interdependence between all social justice movements.
“It’s really not possible to be a feminist and not be anti-racist,” Steinem said.
During the question and answer portion of the evening, Steinem encouraged audience members to take the opportunity to organize and announce events that would further the “revolution”. She addressed questions ranging from how to feel comfortable speaking in public to how one can counteract the negative associations people have with the word “feminism,” as well as the role of women in politics.
When asked whether she thought having a woman president such as Hillary Clinton would really aid the progress of women in America, Steinem said while she did believe it would help, the real change must come from grassroots efforts.
“Change doesn’t come from the top; it comes from the bottom,” Steinem said.