Feminist Gloria Steinem Finds Herself Free Of The ‘Demands Of Gender’

GROSS: If I asked you to make a list of the five most important issues for women today, what would be on that list?

STEINEM: Well, I can do it. But I would like to say that the most important issues are those to the women who are listening. I mean, it’s not about dictating to each other what’s important but supporting each other and solving the ones that are in our daily lives.

GROSS: I like that point that you just made (laughter).

STEINEM: However, if you add up, you know, in terms of the numbers of people, I would say that competing for No. 1 would be violence against females worldwide. If you add up all the forms of violence, whether it’s domestic violence in this country, which is at an enormously high rate – I mean, the most dangerous place for a woman in this country is her own home. And she’s most likely to be beaten or killed by some – by a man she knows. Or it is FGM – female genital mutilation – or it is female infanticide or honor killings or child marriage and too-early childbirth, which is a major cause of death among adolescent girls worldwide. So, you know, violence has reached an emergency – well, it’s – I mean, any violence is an emergency. But, you know, collectively…

GROSS: What – well, the sense of emergency has certainly increased with groups like the Taliban and ISIS…

STEINEM: Yes, yes.

GROSS: Truly attacking women and denying them any form of rights.

STEINEM: Yes. No, it’s the extreme forms of patriarchy, often religious – so-called religious – and the violence against females in warzones – sexualized violence in the Congo and, you know, many in the former Yugoslavia. You know, and all of these have mounted up to a real emergency. But tied, I would say, for first place is the ability of women to decide when and whether to have children because that is a major cause of death. The lack of that ability is a major cause of death. And it is also a major cause of inability to be educated or to be free outside the home or to be healthy. You know, so I would say those two concerns, violence – sexualized violence against women and reproductive freedom or reproductive justice are right up there in our focus in every country.