It’s difficult to imagine feminism without Gloria Steinem — her name is practically synonymous with the word. The achievements that brought her from being an unknown Smith grad to a household name are forever ingrained in the annals of feminist history. Today’s feminists owe a lot to this visionary activist, writer, and humanizing force for change.
Steinem began her career as a journalist. In 1963, she wrote a piece for Show magazine about her experience working undercover as Playboy bunny. The resulting piece, “A Bunny’s Tale,” exposed the exploitative conditions suffered by women working in Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club. However, it wasn’t until 1969, after covering an abortion speak-out in Greenwich Village for New York magazine, that Steinem realized that feminist activism was her calling. Steinem’s 1969 New York magazine essay “After Black Power, Women's Liberation” brought her into the public eye as a feminist writer. The piece describes the galvanizing influence that the anti-racist activism of the early 1960s had on what we know today as the second-wave feminist movement. In 1971, she founded Ms. magazine with Dorothy Pitman Hughes. Ms. proved to the world that women are capable of writing about more than the fluff pieces they were generally assigned at the male-run ladymags of the day — that they were smart, politically aware, and demanding more from society. Her political activism includes co-founding the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971, founding URGE (Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equality), an organization committed to reducing social stigma around sexuality and reproductive rights, as well as Voters for Choice, an organization which merged with the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in 2004. For these and other efforts, Steinem has been given countless awards, including the Presidential Medal of Honor in 2013.
Though Steinem has achieved international celebrity as an icon, she has never wavered in her commitment to reform society into a place that is more equitable for women. The following quotes reflect the depth of that commitment. We hope you find plenty here to inspire you in your own feminist quest!
“Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself.”
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
“Empathy is the most radical of human emotions.”
"If the shoe doesn't fit, must we change the foot?"
"I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career."
"So whatever you want to do, just do it...Making a damn fool of yourself is absolutely essential."
"The art of life is not controlling what happens to us, but using what happens to us."
"It is more rewarding to watch money change the world than watch it accumulate."
"Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning."
"Self-esteem isn't everything; it's just that there's nothing without it."
"Women have always been an equal part of the past. We just haven't been a part of history."
"I believe that change comes from the bottom, not the top."
"The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn."
"The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day; a movement is only people moving."
"Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That's their natural and first weapon. She will need her sisterhood."
"If you say, I'm for equal pay, that's a reform. But if you say, I'm a feminist, that's a transformation of society."
"For much of the female half of the world, food is the first signal of our inferiority. It lets us know that our own families may consider female bodies to be less deserving, less needy, less valuable."
"No man can call himself liberal, or radical, or even a conservative advocate of fair play, if his work depends in any way on the unpaid or underpaid labor of women at home, or in the office."
"We've begun to raise daughters more like sons ... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters."
"Like art, revolutions come from combining what exists into what has never existed before."
"We'll never solve the feminization of power until we solve the masculinity of wealth."
"Law and justice are not always the same. When they aren't, destroying the law may be the first step toward changing it."
"Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else."
"Unless we include a job as part of every citizen's right to autonomy and personal fulfillment, women will continue to be vulnerable to someone else's idea of what need is."
"However sugarcoated and ambiguous, every form of authoritarianism must start with a belief in some group's greater power, whether that right is justified by sex, race, class, religion, or all four. However far it may expand, the progression inevitably rests on unequal power and airtight roles within the family."
"Once we give up searching for approval we often find it easier to earn respect."
"The predominant response to the women's movement was ridicule. It took us a long time to be taken seriously enough to be opposed."
"A movement is only composed of people moving. To feel its warmth and motion around us is the end as well as the means."
"Don't worry about what you should do, worry about what you can do."
"If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament."
"The authority of any institution must stop at its citizen's skin."
"The family is the basic cell of the government: it is where we are trained to believe that we are human beings or that we are chattel, it is where we are trained to see the sex and race divisions and become callous to injustice even if it is done to ourselves, to accept as biological a full system of authoritarian government."
"We are still identified by our looks instead of our hearts or heads. That's why it's so much better to break the rules. If the rules worked, we'd be able to see it. If women were able to sleep to the top, there would be many more women at the top."
"Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry."
"We are the women our parents warned us against, and we are proud."
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