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Gloria Steinem on why she's not the leader of the feminist movement

Before there was Beyonce or Lena Dunham, there was feminist icon Gloria Steinem – one of the key players in the Women’s Movement. For decades, the founder of Ms. Magazine has been one of the strongest voices in feminism.

During Tina Brown’s Women in the World forum, Steinem, who recently had a cameo on the CBS show “The Good Wife,” sat down with Alicia Menendez to discuss how feminism has gone mainstream, as well as her thoughts on who could possibly be the feminist leader of our generation.

On feminism going mainstream

Menendez: “Feminism seems to be very ‘in’ right now. We have Beyonce, Lena Dunham, even Taylor Swift getting on board with feminism – is that good for the movement?”

Steinem: “Of course it is, absolutely. We need to have lots of choices before us and that Beyonce puts feminism there and gets the wonderful Nigerian novelist to speak about feminism is great. But unfortunately, to indicate that we believe that women are full human beings, we still need a word.”

On misconceptions

Menendez: “What is the greatest misconception about you?”

Steinem: “The first most wrong thing is that I’m the leader of the women’s movement. That’s ridiculous. You know, the whole movement is about women becoming our own leaders, and I hope I have helped to do that, but a movement is just people moving, it’s not one person.”

On her greatest success

Menendez: “When you look back on the movement, what do you believe have been its greatest successes?”

Steinem: “I think just literally knowing that we’re not crazy because each individual woman who saw that everybody was supposed to get married and supposed to have children and feel okay about being paid less and say how clever of you to know what time it is and all those things that we were supposed to do felt like there was something wrong with her. But the secret to any movement is to tell the truth about your life and about what your experiences are because you will discover that other people will say you feel like that? I thought only I felt like that. and then, you have support, and we are communal creatures and you could move forward and understand that there are many different ways to live and each person is not more important than the next but not less important either.”

On the NFL’s handling of domestic violence

Menendez: “Another issue recently the media has been giving a lot of attention to the question of domestic violence because of the incidents coming out of the NFL and the way the NFL has handled those are we having the right national conversation on domestic violence?”

Steinem: “That we’re having any kind of conversation is a good thing. I’ve seen big strong football players that are part of the NFL at press conferences about domestic violence in the past sobbing because of what they saw their mothers go through being beaten. So it’s a problem in both directions but I think what we haven’t done yet is understand that violence against women females of any age happens to be what we experience most and first in our families and in our cultures in the world wherever we are and it normalizes all the other forms of violence based on class and caste and hierarchy and so on. Actually, violence against females is the biggest indicator of violence in general and military violence so if we say that we would be addressing the cause of most or even all other violence.”

On including women in politics

Menendez: “You recently made an appearance on ‘The Good Wife’ in which you encouraged Alicia, the main character, to run for office. What do we need to do in order to get women running?”

Steinem: “We’re not accustomed to women in political power, even women who would be good candidates don’t necessarily think of themselves that way. They don’t necessarily get up in the morning and look at themselves in the mirror and say to themselves, I see a member of the Senate. So we may have to say to some women in our community, you would make a really good candidate, and I’ll help you, I’ll work with you, so they begin to have that conception and we need to make sure that we contribute money to make this possible. Because those women are not going to have the Koch brothers and their millions and millions of dollars, at least not unless they vote for themselves and their own equality. But we can help with that, and we can also, when we’re in a political meeting or corporate meeting, if it’s not half-women, ask why. If it’s all white, say, where is everybody? Because it’s partly about consciousness.”

On who will be the Gloria Steinem of our generation

Menendez: “So who will be the Gloria Steinem of my generation?”

Steinem: “Nobody, I hope. That would be a huge mistake; I mean it was a function of beginning and impoverishment that there were so few of us. So there should never, ever, ever, be one person or even a few people to symbolize a huge global diverse movement it just doesn’t make sense. And even when it happens, say with the Civil Rights movement, then when Martin Luther King is gone they forget about Rosa Parks, they forget about the people who came before Martin Luther King, so it’s a big mistake to have just one or a few people symbolize a movement.”

Gloria Steinem on why she's not the leader of the feminist movement

Before there was Beyonce or Lena Dunham, there was feminist icon Gloria Steinem – one of the key players in the Women’s Movement. For decades, the founder of Ms. Magazine has been one of the strongest voices in feminism.

During Tina Brown’s Women in the World forum, Steinem, who recently had a cameo on the CBS show “The Good Wife,” sat down with Alicia Menendez to discuss how feminism has gone mainstream, as well as her thoughts on who could possibly be the feminist leader of our generation.

On feminism going mainstream

Menendez: “Feminism seems to be very ‘in’ right now. We have Beyonce, Lena Dunham, even Taylor Swift getting on board with feminism – is that good for the movement?”

Steinem: “Of course it is, absolutely. We need to have lots of choices before us and that Beyonce puts feminism there and gets the wonderful Nigerian novelist to speak about feminism is great. But unfortunately, to indicate that we believe that women are full human beings, we still need a word.”

On misconceptions

Menendez: “What is the greatest misconception about you?”

Steinem: “The first most wrong thing is that I’m the leader of the women’s movement. That’s ridiculous. You know, the whole movement is about women becoming our own leaders, and I hope I have helped to do that, but a movement is just people moving, it’s not one person.”

On her greatest success

Menendez: “When you look back on the movement, what do you believe have been its greatest successes?”

Steinem: “I think just literally knowing that we’re not crazy because each individual woman who saw that everybody was supposed to get married and supposed to have children and feel okay about being paid less and say how clever of you to know what time it is and all those things that we were supposed to do felt like there was something wrong with her. But the secret to any movement is to tell the truth about your life and about what your experiences are because you will discover that other people will say you feel like that? I thought only I felt like that. and then, you have support, and we are communal creatures and you could move forward and understand that there are many different ways to live and each person is not more important than the next but not less important either.”

On the NFL’s handling of domestic violence

Menendez: “Another issue recently the media has been giving a lot of attention to the question of domestic violence because of the incidents coming out of the NFL and the way the NFL has handled those are we having the right national conversation on domestic violence?”

Steinem: “That we’re having any kind of conversation is a good thing. I’ve seen big strong football players that are part of the NFL at press conferences about domestic violence in the past sobbing because of what they saw their mothers go through being beaten. So it’s a problem in both directions but I think what we haven’t done yet is understand that violence against women females of any age happens to be what we experience most and first in our families and in our cultures in the world wherever we are and it normalizes all the other forms of violence based on class and caste and hierarchy and so on. Actually, violence against females is the biggest indicator of violence in general and military violence so if we say that we would be addressing the cause of most or even all other violence.”

On including women in politics

Menendez: “You recently made an appearance on ‘The Good Wife’ in which you encouraged Alicia, the main character, to run for office. What do we need to do in order to get women running?”

Steinem: “We’re not accustomed to women in political power, even women who would be good candidates don’t necessarily think of themselves that way. They don’t necessarily get up in the morning and look at themselves in the mirror and say to themselves, I see a member of the Senate. So we may have to say to some women in our community, you would make a really good candidate, and I’ll help you, I’ll work with you, so they begin to have that conception and we need to make sure that we contribute money to make this possible. Because those women are not going to have the Koch brothers and their millions and millions of dollars, at least not unless they vote for themselves and their own equality. But we can help with that, and we can also, when we’re in a political meeting or corporate meeting, if it’s not half-women, ask why. If it’s all white, say, where is everybody? Because it’s partly about consciousness.”

On who will be the Gloria Steinem of our generation

Menendez: “So who will be the Gloria Steinem of my generation?”

Steinem: “Nobody, I hope. That would be a huge mistake; I mean it was a function of beginning and impoverishment that there were so few of us. So there should never, ever, ever, be one person or even a few people to symbolize a huge global diverse movement it just doesn’t make sense. And even when it happens, say with the Civil Rights movement, then when Martin Luther King is gone they forget about Rosa Parks, they forget about the people who came before Martin Luther King, so it’s a big mistake to have just one or a few people symbolize a movement.”

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