National Press Club

Steinem Urges Audience to 'Get Mad,' Vote, Read, and Have Fun

November 18, 2013 | By Lorna Aldrich | lorna2@verizon.net

Feminist activist and founder of Ms. Magazine Gloria Steinem speaks at a National Press Club luncheon, November 18, 2013.  Ms. Steinem accepted the traditional coffee mug from NPC President Angela Greiling Keane.

Feminist activist and founder of Ms. Magazine Gloria Steinem speaks at a National Press Club luncheon, November 18, 2013. Ms. Steinem accepted the traditional coffee mug from NPC President Angela Greiling Keane.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Feminist Gloria Steinem, co-founder of New York and MS. magazines urged the audience at a Nov. 18 National Press Club Luncheon to "get mad" about continuing social inequities, vote -- particularly for state legislators, educate themselves by reading feminist books and have fun while they're doing all of it.

If at the "end of the revolution" the women's movement wants to have "dancing, laughter and friendship and work that we love" those things have to come along the way, she said.

Steinem, the first woman Luncheon speaker after women were admitted to the Club in 1971 does not "have the faintest idea" what she did with the man's tie she received as a gift afterward and "doesn't care," but said it made her feel "free to say outrageous things."

In D.C. to receive the presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, Steinem believes the award really honors the entire women's movement, citing former Reps. Shirley Chisholm and Bella Abzug and a number of women in the audience.

She lamented President Lyndon Johnson's refusal to give the presidential award to pioneer birth control advocate Margaret Sanger, saying that reproductive rights are as important as freedom of speech.

"For men and women the power of the state must stop at our skins," she said.

She noted that the same people who were saying 40 years ago that the women's movement was unnecessary are now saying it is no longer necessary. She refuted that position by citing "a few examples of adventures before us."

Steinem started by saying women's issues are not separate from economic issues. Equal pay for women would be an economic stimulus to the economy of $200 billion, she said.

The country needs to value care-giving work, which she said is a third of the work performed in the country and should be tax-deductible or tax refundable.

The United States is the only modern democracy not providing child care, she said.

She added that intertwined were sexism and racism, violence against women, a smaller percentage of the population favoring marriage equality than in other countries and the digital divide -- lower computer usage among minorities as unresolved issues.

Women's issues are moving backward, not in public opinion, but in laws passed by state legislatures that make it impossible for clinics providing reproductive services to function, she said. She urged the audience to pay attention to state legislators and to vote in state elections.

She responded to a question asking her to name a significant moment for her during the women's movement by saying it was when she told the truth about her own abortion at 22.

Steinem quipped when asked about a "seminal moment" in the women's movement that it would have to be an "ovarian moment."

She said it was better to "get mad" about the present than to know about feminist history, but she encouraged the audience to read some of her favorite books. Members of the audience participated by calling out their own favorite titles.

The audience gave Steinem standing ovations at both the beginning and ending of the Luncheon