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My Encounter with Gloria Steinem

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October 11, 2012

Gloria Steinem is my hero. She is a journalist, author, political activist, speaker, and philosopher extraordinaire. Her name is revered in the field of Women’s Studies. Steinem is to Feminism what MLK was to the Civil Rights Movement, or Gandhi was to India’s fight for Independence. She’s contributed a lot to the world around us- and has this glow of warmth that encompasses her radiant personality. She’s tall, slender, and has the most beautiful hands. She’s been in this movement for over forty years- and still as cool and hip as could be.

I went to see Steinem this past Sunday at UCLA with the Justice and Gender Education Magazine and Choice USA Club from CSULB. The theater was completely packed. Audience members were given the 40th anniversary edition of Ms. Magazine. This is the first Ms. Magazine I’ve ever had. Flipping through the pages I thought to myself, “Could there be a magazine on a cooler topic?” I plan to subscribe ASAP. There were Feminist butterflies fluttering deep in my core.

At about 6:58 someone in a row in front of us gasped, “There she is!” I looked back and there she was- just as she looked on the front of The Education of a Woman.

“The Education of a Woman” by Carolyn C. Heilbrun is Gloria Steinem’s biography. It took the last half of my summer to read- it’s over 400 pages mind you. Heilbrun was a pioneer in the field of Feminist biographies. She writes of the female experience outside the lines of normative societal standards. It makes sense Heilbrun chose to write on one of the coolest, most controversial, and iconic Feminists of our time. And damn, what a job she did! The Education of a Woman is a pretty intensely detailed- yet intoxicatingly entertaining- story of Steinem’s life from birth to the founding of Ms. Stories of Steinem’s education at Smith, trip to India, numerous romances, friendships, and life traveling around the country as the face of Feminism all kept me hanging at the edge of my seat. It was as if Heilbrun was sitting with me- telling me the tale of a great woman warrior. I felt inspired at the life Steinem has lived.

So when she walked into that theater at UCLA… I was star struck. A professor from UCLA introduced Steinem with a pleasant little speech. Then Gloria took the stage. She is an Aries with her moon in Leo so her demeanor is fire, fire, fire. She’s full of confidence and pride.

She spoke for 45 minutes to an hour- or maybe it was a few seconds or a century. I can’t really remember… her words were too juicy and rich to even notice the tick tock of time go by. She began by noting that the audience/speaker theater arrangement is quite patriarchal and how she wishes we were sitting in a circle. She went on to discuss the upcoming election, some interesting books she’s reading, what Feminism means to her, and her recent trip to Idaho. She informed us on the concept of being, “Twin Spirited” the Indigenous Americans had. She congratulated Portland Oregon for (as my notes say), “doing extremely good RJ work”. She said the F word exactly twice.

Her best quotes of the evening are as follow,

“Feminism is a living tradition.”
“The most revolutionary of all qualities is kindness.”
“Abstinence-Only Ed is the only course in school that rewards students for ignorance.”
“Is voting the most we can do? Absolutely not. Is it the least? Yes.”
“Power depends on what you do with it.”
“We are communal people.”

All are totally Facebook status worthy quotes… agreed?

The evening ended with a Q and A section. I got to ask her a question- it was seriously cool.

Me: (shakily holding the microphone) Hi I’m from Choice USA club at CSULB
Steinem: Oh Choice USA! Choice USA is the only pro-choice organization that’s members are of reproductive age!
The crowd cheered.
Me: I’d like to ask you, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Steinem: Sometimes after I complain about all the bad things happening in the world my friend says, “How interesting that you feel that way.”

I scratched her answer into my notebook as quickly as I could.
The night ended pleasantly.
The members of JaGed, Choice, and I left with satisfied grins.

Learning about your life has been wonderful. It’s because of your great work that the Feminist tradition lives on. Your life is laced with courage and justice. You’re a beautiful human being inside and out. You did a fantastic job this past Sunday. Thank you for visiting UCLA- this is an event I’ll never forget.


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