Gloria Steinem: "Today it is as important to attend to the division by gender as it is to poverty"
Gloria Steinem in Park City, Utah, in January 2020.Phillip Faraone / Getty Images for New York Magazi

He wasn’t on the road when he got the news, but he could have been. At 87, Gloria Steinem (Toledo, Ohio), the iconic feminist, Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities, continues to travel as much as possible, convinced that something is pulling her onto the road. He does not believe that he is the only one. He says that something compels us to travel even as a species. “I think it is part of the nomadic spirit of humanity, of that time in which the seasons forced us to move to survive, and in which, fortunately,” he attacks, “there was no nationalism.”

He is in New York, in front of an office computer that takes care of his affairs, the Gloria Steinem Office, more noisy than usual since it opened. Mrs. America, the series that recalls the beginning of the fight for equal rights in the United States – and incidentally, the second wave of feminism – and that, as she has already said, she did not like “anything”; an autobiographical play and film The Glories. Wear black and smile all the time. The first thing he says when picking up the video call is that “it has been worth it” to live “almost 100 years” to receive the Princess of Asturias Award.

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“No, seriously, it’s an incredible honor to join a roster of Nelson Mandela, Jane Goodall and Margaret Atwood. I do not know of another award that has this importance for those of us who have been, in many ways, outside the system. That is to say, for fighters, each in his own way, for something of his own, which at the same time has become universal ”, he says. The woman who founded the essential Ms., a magazine dedicated, in the words of Florynce Kennedy, “to preparing the revolution, and not just dinner,” believes that journalism today has broken all borders but has regressed in “verisimilitude.”

In other words, “the democratization of the media has meant a huge step in terms of access to creation and also its reception, we are no longer limited by the sources of information that we can access, but the way in which we are not controlling what is published is making them lose part of their power, and that can be dangerous, “he says. And he concludes: “Today it is as important to attend to the division by gender as to poverty.” “We should guarantee access to technology, and education in it, because there are parts of the world where they still have nothing,” he says.

Regarding what remains to be done in the feminist struggle, she assures: “The salary gap is still there, and it is not small, let’s say, and there is also the issue of care; As long as that is not solved, there will not be equal opportunities, boys and girls have to feel that the same is expected of them and for that they must grow up in a world in which what they see is exactly that ”. He insists that we will not have a valid model of democracy until that happens. Any advice for the future of that fight? “No, I fully trust the criteria of the young women, they will know exactly what to do,” he replies.

His intention has been, from the beginning, to share stories, as he tells in the prologue that precedes My life on the road (Alpha Decay), a kind of manifesto about that nomadism in which he grew up and that he considers synonymous with freedom, especially for women. For a long time he had a phobia of public speaking, but one day he realized the “magic” that occurs when someone tells something to a group of strangers, and he did not stop doing it. His story was never his story, but all the stories he had heard along the way.

“One of the simplest paths to profound change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen and the most powerful to listen as much as they speak,” he says. She dedicates the award, her Princess of Asturias, “to any girl who is being born at this time in a country where there is still no equal access to education or health, and in which no one is going to encourage her to be the same that she has no way of knowing what she will want to be. That girl is something unique, a miracle, as is any human being on this planet. I dedicate it to her, and to her future ”.

Gloria Steinem, Freada Klein and Karen Savigne, photographed in the offices of Ms. magazine in 1977.
Gloria Steinem, Freada Klein and Karen Savigne, photographed in the offices of Ms. magazine in 1977.Getty

And before hanging up – his time is limited, he says – he assures that if something gives him hope for today’s world, it is what the pandemic has done to us. “There has been a kind of mental globalization. In other words, during the worst moments of the pandemic, all barriers have been knocked down. We have stopped thinking about differences of gender, race and class to think only about our survival as a species. I believe that we are going towards a future in which we will be seen and conceive of others as something of value in itself. Each one of us, ”he says.

He also explains that a sense of humor is essential to lead any type of movement. That it has worked for her. Why? “If you think about it,” he says, “laughter is the only completely free human emotion. No one can coerce a laugh. They can force you to feel fear and even need can force you to love someone. But no one can make you laugh if you don’t want to. Laughter is an expression of freedom. It is also a good way to discover how free you are ”.

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