Steinem talked with Amy Richards, the author of Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself, about Sonia Sotomayor, Sarah Palin, affirmative action, the importance of equal parenting, and the future of feminism. The entire discussion is excellent, and well worth listening to, but for those who don't have the time, here are a few highlights.
On being a feminist icon:
I have problems with the icon part, because it raises images of iconoclast right away. And as they said in the suffragist era, a pedestal is as much a prison as any other small space.
On the media treatment of Sonia Sotomayor:
I think the attention to her qualifications, her words, her decisions, that's all been very appropriate. But to the extent that she's been treated very differently from, say, Clarence Thomas, you can see that her opponents are using affirmative action as if affirmative action lowers standards when in actual fact it raises standards, in a way that they did not with Clarence Thomas because they agreed with Clarence Thomas.
On the folly of ignoring America's second class citizens:
If we ever wanted to see what we had been missing all these years in terms of talent, look at the presidential election. Look at Obama, look at Hillary Clinton, look at the quality of those two individuals. And they are just a small view into the talent we've been missing and are just beginning to tap.
On Sarah Palin's recent resignation speech:
I think her statements were so opaque that anybody can read into them what ever they wish, and it remains to be seen. I don't want to see her written about in a sexist way either, and the Women's Media Center, of which I am a part, has on its website complaints about the specific kinds of sexist things that were said about her…What was interesting to me was the degree to which sexism was used against Hillary Clinton and for Sarah Palin, because Hillary Clinton's appearance was used against her. That her legs weren't good, that's why she was wearing pantsuits whereas Sarah Palin was a babe and had great legs. Again, if you look for the wizard of Oz person behind the curtain, it's about what they stand for, and therefore there is a differential way in which sexism is used, but it's important to look at how it is used.
On her decision not to have children:
In my generation it was perceived as a choice: either you gave birth to someone else or you gave birth to yourself.
On her relationship with her father:
I've only in adult life come to realize how important that was, that I actually saw a nurturing male…Even those of us who intellectualize about it and know how important it is that men become equal parents of children, if you've never experienced it, it's hard to have faith in it. In retrospect, I probably should have thanked my father for this, that he showed me that.
On world peace:
Men raising children, as much as women do, is the key to world peace. The cult of masculinity, which is the major cause of violence on earth if the violence is not in self defense, will only humanize and dissipate and come to value life through nurturing and through fatherhood.
And finally, Gloria Steinem on contemporary feminism:
Ultimately we won't need a word like feminism or women's liberation because it will be, and should be, just life. Because there is still a power difference and a visibility difference, we need to have names that make us see things in a new way.