Inequality and abortion: feminist Gloria Steinem’s ongoing struggles

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Artist, author, renowned speaker and tireless activist for women”s rights around the world, American Gloria Steinem is awarded the Princess of Asturias Award 2021 for Communication and Humanities. Our presenter Tokunbo Salako went to meet her in Oviedo before she received the highest Spanish award for lifetime achievement.

Tokunbo Salako, euronews :

“First I would like to know how it all started for you. When did you become a feminist?”

Gloria Steinem, American feminist and journalist :

“I actually believe that I have always been in some way like all the children of the world when they say, ‘You’re not the one in charge!” [rires] This is something that children say everywhere. Then we go through a long period of trying to fit in the mold, seeking approval, obeying and accepting unfair treatment until, naturally, we say to ourselves, “Wait a minute!”The idea that we are all as important as each other is then remembered to us. In my case, it wasn’t until I was almost 40 that the women’s rights movement really started. So, no matter how I felt personally, before that I was not aware that such a movement could exist.”

“There are still great injustices between men and women”

Tokunbo Salako :

“How would you describe developments in this area? Are you tired of campaigning for so long? Do you feel that things have changed dramatically or not at all?”

Gloria Steinem :

“Non. On such important issues as unequal wages between men and women, inequality in inheritance or even the impossibility of keeping one’s name, I find that these are great injustices as are sexism, racism and prejudice against a group of people. As I was a journalist and never had a real job in the sense that I was not part of a large company, I faced prejudice in other forms, for example in terms of assignments I could get, but not in the same way as if I had belonged to a large company.”

“The need to control the wombs of women has been present since Hitler”

Tokunbo Salako :

“You have written a lot about the abortion you underwent in London. When you see what’s happening in your country right now – I’m thinking Texas – what do you feel?”

Gloria Steinem :

“We see in Texas – as you said – that the vast majority of people agree that a woman can decide what happens to her body, but there are four or five men among the legislators who stand in the way. The fundamental reason for this logic, bias, patriarchy is birth control. Only women have a uterus, so the desire, the political need to control the uterus of women – this is the very nature of patriarchy – has been present since Hitler. The first thing Hitler did – and we must remember that he was elected – was to close the dispensaries for women and declare abortion a crime against the state. In reality, it was not the papacy that imposed this, it was Napoleon III who asked the pope to make abortion illegal because he wanted more men for his armies. So it was a bad, pragmatic, control- not religion-based approach – and because women happen to have wombs, we fought that. It’s like racism from that point of view. It’s a system.”

“These countless examples of people who struggle for themselves and for others”

Tokunbo Salako :

“You describe yourself as an eternal dreamer, a ‘hope addict’. What inspires you in today’s times, but also makes you angry?”

Gloria Steinem :

“These are two such broad questions. What inspires me are all the examples, the countless examples of people who struggle for themselves and for others against immense obstacles such as poverty, prejudice, religious teaching. When you see that, it’s inspiring, and in fact, in every country I’ve been to in my life, there were young children saying, “You’re not in charge.” [rires] And that alone is something we can draw inspiration from.”

The election of Donald Trump? “It was infuriating, just because of its untruths”

Tokunbo Salako :

“It is certainly something that motivates. And what makes you angry today?”

Gloria Steinem :

“Which makes me angry right now… We just got rid of a president who was there by accident, namely Donald Trump.”

Tokunbo Salako :

“He launches own social network now…”

Gloria Steinem :

“I hope no one will follow his statements. [rires] Donald Trump was not elected by a majority vote. It is a peculiarity of our electoral college that allowed his election. And it is clear that it was infuriating, very unnerving, just because of all its untruths [rires] and its visibility in the media. And then there was the invasion of the Capitol by its supporters, but also the injustice of seeing good people suffer and bad people triumph.”

“Countless women in the world do not have access to social networks”

Tokunbo Salako :

“Some say we are in the third or fourth wave of the women’s rights movement. What role do social networks play in this?”

Gloria Steinem :

“This is something that concerns me from the beginning because there are countless women in the world who do not have access to social networks, who do not have electricity or who live in areas where these things do not exist. And this worries me because it seems that the world is polarizing between those who have access to technology and those who are without it. There is the same disparity in access to health care. Access is a prerequisite for everything. I would like there to be a satellite above us that provides internet access to all the inhabitants of the planet so that they can at least, be equal in their ability to communicate.”

“The Glorias” :“It was a little mystical to see this film”

Tokunbo Salako :

“I also wanted to ask you about your life on the road. You’ve traveled so much that you’ve now brought this to the screen in a big Hollywood production called “The Glorias”. Are you satisfied with the result?”

Gloria Steinem :

“Yes, because in reality it is not a big Hollywood production! [rires] This is a very special film, from my book “My life on the road”. I totally trusted the director and I think she did a wonderful job.”

Tokunbo Salako :

“And what did it feel like to see yourself, or at least, to see these incarnations of yourself over the years?”

Gloria Steinem :

“Naturally, it’s impossible to see yourself! [rires] But four actresses play my role at different ages. Some scenes really happened. I don’t know how it’s possible because they weren’t even in my book, but they really happened, like when I was on a train, in a third-class wagon in India with women. That’s exactly how I remember it. So it was kind of mystical to see that in the movie.”

“I tried to make the world a little more just and caring”

Tokunbo Salako :

“It must be magical to see all these things you’ve experienced on the big screen. When you look at everything you have accomplished and everything you have said in your life, how would you like to be remembered?”

Gloria Steinem :

“It’s very difficult to answer… This is a question I usually ask others as a journalist! [rires] So it’s a fair return of the things you asked me. I would like to be remembered as a kind-hearted person who tried to make the world a little fairer and a little more caring than it was at the beginning of his life.”

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