Additional reporting by Zachary Mason.
Students and community members were treated to the views of arguably the most influential feminist of the last 50 years, as activist, author and journalist Gloria Steinem spoke at Haverford on November 2.
Steinem, who came to campus as the first-semester choice of the Haverford Speakers’ Committee, delivered a speech entitled “The Progression of Feminism: Where are we going?”
She emphasized that the feminist movement, like many other social movements, is far from completing its mission, and society still has much to accomplish before equality is a reality.
“I think it’s interesting to see how far we’ve come, and then turn it around and see how much more we have yet to do…to make us free,” Steinem said.
Steinem has loomed large as a figure in the feminist movement for decades. Born in 1934, she attributes her perspective on social justice and feminism to her mother’s anxiety and psychological instability, which Steinem said contributed to societal prejudices preventing her mother from attaining steady employment. Following her graduation from Smith College, Steinem expressed her often-controversial views as she climbed the ranks in the journalistic world. She worked for publications such as Esquire, Show, and New York, and eventually co-founded Ms., a prominent feminist magazine where she served as a writer for 15 years.
Steinem has also worked actively in politics, frequently campaigning for projects like the Equal Rights Amendment, the Coalition for Labor Union Women, and the Women’s Action Alliance. Steinem has made her voice heard in national politics as well, vocalizing support for candidates from George McGovern in 1968 to President Barack Obama this year.
In the presentation, which occurred in the week before the November 6 election, Steinem frequently touched on the subject of the presidential race.
Steinem denounced the Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s refusal to support equal pay for women, and branded them as extremists, citing their positions on abortion and contraceptives. Romney and Ryan promote a patriarchal vision of sexuality, Steinem continued, which only serves to impede feminist progress in the U.S.
She also commented on the blurry line between social and economic issues in this race.
“Equal pay for comparable work for women would be the greatest economic stimulus this country could ever have,” said Steinem, quoted in Mainline Media News. “It would put $200 billion more into the economy every year.”
More generally, Steinem spoke about various societal misperceptions that are hampering equality in modern times. She asserted that she does not believe women are more inherently valuable than men, or vice versa—misconceptions that can limit both genders.
“It [may] take another century and there may be other movements in the future before we finally realize that we are unique, not groups, and we are all part of the human family,” Steinem said.