Gloria Steinem on the patriarchy’s endless last gasp
At the beginning of Gloria Steinem’s career, she filed all her stories in person. There was no email, no internet, no Google Drive. She delivered her work face-to-face.
Once, she dropped off her piece at a prominent New York-based magazine, and her editor gave her a choice: “Either I could mail his letters on the way out, or I could go to a hotel room with him in the afternoon.”
Steinem bolted. And then she warned every woman she knew. It was the late 1960s, and it was a kind of induction ritual: a woman writer would move to New York, and her new female peers in the business would tell her which editors were “good.” That is, which ones didn’t ask you to drop off their mail or demand sexual favors or, as one editor at another magazine had when Steinem was still new, glance up from his papers after she’d come in to pitch a piece and tell her, “We don’t want a pretty girl. We want a writer. Go home.”
Women make sure “the word gets out,” Steinem says. And when we meet on Tuesday afternoon her claim has indeed been substantiated. It’s just hours after women have gotten the word out (for the third time this week) about Harvey Weinstein.
Steinem has a deep reverence for the power of public testimonies, especially as she first encountered them as a salve for trauma in talking circles in India; “those groups,” she wrote in My Life on the Road, “in which anyone may speak in turn, everyone must listen, and consensus is more important than time.” Stories, she tells me, give consciousness and power to all social justice movements, not only in America, but around the world.
Next month, Steinem will co-host the Festival Albertine, the annual French-American cultural event, with Robin Morgan, the feminist activist who founded the Sisterhood Is Global Institute with the writer Simone de Beauvoir in 1984 and the Women’s Media Center with Steinem and Jane Fonda in 2005. The theme is “Feminism Has No Boundaries,” more mission statement at this point than statement of fact.
Our interview has been scheduled for weeks, but in the meantime, both the New York Times (twice) and the New Yorker have reported on over a dozen allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Weinstein. (In a statement released through his spokesperson to the New Yorker, Weinstein denies the allegations, including all allegations of non-consensual sex.) When I arrive at the Payne Whitney Mansion on the Upper East Side, where the festival will be held in November, a plate of mini madeleines is proffered, but never mind those. I came for a deeper nourishment, an assurance that despite all the bad news and the bad men, Steinem still believes in redemption. “Are you kidding!” Of course, she does. The events of the past several months and the birth of a renewed progressive movement in particular have just bolstered her convictions — that there’s a kind of divine spark in all men, women, and nature, that the world is worth the trouble. (Even in her youth, when politicians would end their speeches with “God bless America,” she liked to respond, with fervor, “She will!”)
Read more at Elle.