Addressing a packed house of about 250 people, Gloria Steinem spoke about social justice and citizen involvement at Columbia College Chicago's Conversation in the Arts lecture series Feb. 7.
Steinem is a feminist activist, award-winning writer, editor, organizer and lecturer on issues of equality and was a co-founder of Ms. Magazine in 1972.
She continues to serve as the magazine's consulting editor and is currently working with her alma mater, Smith College, to create a school for organizers.
ABC-7 Chicago news anchor Kathy Brock introduced Steinem by highlighting her career and accomplishments and noted that everyone in the room has benefited from Steinem's actions in some way.
Speaking about the women's movement, Steinem said people asked her about where the women's movement has been and where it's going before her talk that evening. She said discussing that was like asking to describe the universe and giving two examples.
Of the current state of the women's movement Steinem said, "If it took more than 100 years for the abolitionist and suffragist movement's to gain for women of all races and Black men a legal and social identity as human beings ... it shouldn't surprise us that it will take another century for legal and social equality. I figure that we are 50-60 years into it right now so it will take another 40-50 years for equality to be absorbed into the culture."
"The reason you may know me and Shirley Chisholm and Bella Abzug as individuals is there were so few of us. We were like 12 crazy women," said Steinem. "There are so many now in every field and that is one of the reasons that people think inequality has disappeared but that is not the case.
"We've proven to most of the country that women can do what men can do but now we need to prove that men can do what women can do. The solution is everywhere. Some are systemic, like the need for a national childcare system, and some of them are up to us. We have raised our daughters to be more like our sons but we also need to raise our sons to be more like our daughters."
Steinem noted that we've taken a step forward with African-American studies, women's studies, LGBTQ studies and Native American studies, however these studies haven't really been integrated into general history courses to a large extent.
"In culture it's OK now that we can name racism, sexism and other forms of bias including homophobia and so on," said Steinem. "But it's still the case that the dominant group gets the noun and everybody else requires an adjective so there are doctors and there are African-American doctors; there are Hispanic leaders but not Anglo leaders; there are LGBTQ cultures but not heterosexual cultures; [and] there are women novelists but not men novelists, which perpetuates bias throughout our culture."
Steinem said that linkage is important because we still think in silos and labels are the enemy of connections between people so it's important to take the next step and see where our connections are. Each rights movement is linked to each of the others and should not be thought of as separate entities, Steinem stressed.
"Each of us is contributing to changing from a pyramid paradigm where we are today to a circle paradigm which is where we need to be [so no one group dominates the other]," said Steinem.
To close the evening, Steinem took questions from the audience, with Brock serving as the moderator. During the Q&A, Steinem was asked why some women like Maggie Gallagher fight against LGBTQ equality when they themselves have been discriminated against. Steinem said that biology isn't a factor when women discriminate against others and used Margaret Thatcher as an example of someone who didn't advocate for women's rights while she was prime minister of the United Kingdom.
For more information about the Conversation in the Arts lecture series, visit www.colum.edu/conversations. To find out more about Steinem, visit www.gloriasteinem.com .