Gloria Steinem came to Philadelphia on April 16 to deliver one message: Whether you’re a proponent for women’s rights, LGBT rights or all of the above, unification is key.
While the longtime feminist icon is most associated with the women’s-rights movement, these days she’s also trying to unite that lifelong cause with that of the LGBT community, as the ultimate goal is the same: equality.
“The same organizations who are against birth control and women’s rights are also the same against the love between two women or two men, which stands for non-procreation sex symbolically,” Steinem told a crowd at the National Constitution Center, where she was the keynote speaker for Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s 17th annual Spring Gathering. “It is the same groups and I worry about this. Our adversaries understand the connections between the groups — we are not seeing the kind of linkage we have and we are not necessarily allied to each other in the ways we should be.”
She elaborated on this point in an interview with PGN after her speech. “We’re all a part of the same movement. We’re questioning gender, birth assignments — we’re all seeking the ability to be our unique selves and to be a part of the human community.”
Steinem, who is actively involved in the Women’s Media Center, said it was time for the media to take hold of the language they use — specifically those terms involving rape and domestic-abuse cases.
“The Women’s Media Center is trying to critique and offer alternatives for the language that is used. For example, in a rape case, sometimes they will say the accuser instead of the alleged victim, and that is quite different. I think we can ask the media and give examples in the media on how to use less unbiased language and not to put the victim on trial.”
Steinem, who worked as a freelance writer before she founded Ms. Magazine, acknowledged journalists like Rachel Maddow, who she says have made media more accessible to a wide variety of people.
“I think she is such a good journalist and good reporter—she has a point of view and her facts are accurate and she’s respectful of guests who disagree with her, so I am sure she has brought and inspired many more women, many more lesbians and probably men and gay men — a wide variety of people — to consider a career in the media when they didn’t see themselves there before,” she said.
Steinem said she considered Planned Parenthood’s work to not only be important in the United States, but throughout the globe.
“They are important all over the world because reproduction freedom is a basic freedom, like freedom of speech, and Planned Parenthood is making that a reality by offering both the philosophy and services — and they are leading to a day when, worldwide, we will see reproductive freedom as basic as freedom of speech.”
Meanwhile, Steinem said, the feminist movement isn’t off the hook. The fight for gender equality continues.
“The movement is barely halfway through its stage, and there may be stages in the future, because there is a great effort by the opposition to say it is over. It is important to see that in every movement — that all the movements are linked,” she said.