Gloria Steinem speaks on accomplishments of women


Gloria Steinem visited the University Monday and spoke to a crowd of 300 at a celebration of the Women’s Equity Action League. She spoke about equality, feminism and the legacy of WEAL.

Campus Editor and Campus Editor

Gloria Steinem is a woman who believes in looking at the world as if everyone matters.

Steinem spoke at the University on Monday about looking at the world in this way and what it could mean. Steinem came to the University to celebrate the accomplishments of the Women’s Equity Action League, founded by an alumna. The group was also celebrating Title IX legislation, which states that institutions receiving federal funding must not discriminate due to gender.

Three hundred people, including community members, WEAL members, faculty, staff and students at the University, attended the WEAL gala dinner Monday night where Steinem spoke about how the world is being transformed through equality.

“In forty years no one has been able to name one thing that wasn’t transformed by looking at the world as if everyone mattered,” Steinem said. “[It’s] that understanding that we are all unique miracles that could never have happened before and could never happen again.”

Steinem, a Toledo native, is an author, journalist, activist and icon of the women’s movement and this was her first visit to the University.

Steinem spoke about the state of feminism locally, nationally and globally and her thoughts about the legacy of WEAL and where feminists go from here.

“I think one of the most dangerous ideas right now is the idea that the movement is already over,” Steinem said. “We all remember the day in which we were all judged to be crazy, going against God, nature, Freud, somebody and we were told you can’t do this and then we did it anyway, then the next wave of opposition is that it used to be necessary but it’s not anymore.”

Feminism is still alive and bigger than ever, Steinem said.

“Feminism just means a belief in equality,” she said. “It’s about democracy and equality.”

She said it is not for her to say what the next step is for the movement.

“The need arises out of real life,” she said. “But there are obvious things that are incomplete, we don’t have equal pay yet, we still average 77 cents on the dollar [compared to men].”

Steinem said the biggest positive change for women in her years as a part of the movement has been “that we know we’re not crazy.”

“If you feel you’re totally alone in your desire to use your talents or your interests you come to feel crazy because human beings are communal creatures,” she said. “If you’re alone, you do come to feel like something’s wrong with you; what a movement does is allow women to tell the truth about their lives’ and discover that it’s happening to others.”

One of the people who attended the WEAL event, Bernice Sandler, had a hand in creating the Title IX legislation.

Sandler, called the “godmother of Title IX,” was excited to see Steinem speak and said she was a good person to speak at the event because of her knowledge of women’s issues.

“She’s extraordinarily bright and funny, she’s a good speaker,” Sandler said. “I’m interested in her ideas about women. I haven’t seen her speak in a number of years so I’m interested to hear what she’s going to say about women, the women’s movement and the rights of women.”

Steinem thinks celebrating accomplishments like WEAL and Title IX are crucial.

“We need to know our history,” she said. “When I was in college, Smith College, a good college, in my American history book there was one sentence, it said women were given the vote in 1920. If you believe that, you don’t know you have to fight for your rights.”

Contrary to what the textbook might have led students to believe, women’s right to vote wasn’t just handed out, it had to be fought for, Steinem said.

Women can vote but there are still aspects of life where they are not equal to men, Steinem said. She talked of the world transforming if everyone is looked at as equal.

“It is transformational in every part of life to look at the world as if everyone mattered,” she said.