“Change really comes from the bottom, not the top.” —Gloria Steinem
The MAKERS Conference hit the ground running with Jennifer Aniston interviewing groundbreaking writer, lecturer, editor, activist, and self-proclaimed “hopeaholic,” Gloria Steinem, the popular face of the women’s movement for over four decades.
The conversation started off about Gloria's love for India, where she spent two years right after college, years she called “truly defining.” “I realized there that change really comes from the bottom, not the top.” She also learned that if you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them. She’s been going back ever since. “Indians read more newspapers, novels and poetry than anyone else,” she said. “That country has everything; it adds, but it never subtracts. It just keeps accumulating.”
Reflecting on her involvement in the women’s movement, Gloria recalled that the most hurtful thing she’s had to deal with is not the backlash from her adversaries but actually backlash from friends. “Being misunderstood by people whose opinion you value is the most painful.” When it comes to adversaries, she remembered being laughed at, patted on the head and treated as if women’s issues weren’t a large global problem.
Jennifer asked about one of her favorite Gloria quotes: “Boys are told that their bodies are instruments, but women are made to feel that they are ornaments, not instruments.” Gloria responded that we value how we look on the outside too much. Sports for women are so important because they help women learn what their bodies can do. Interestingly, Gloria also remarked that if you ask men, they think they look better than they do, whereas women will think they look worse than they do. Both sexes “need to come to some point of reality.”
Jennifer remarked that even today, marital status and whether or not a woman has procreated define her value and worth. Gloria remembered that until the women’s movement, she always assumed she’d get married and have kids. Eventually, however, she realized that she was actually happy to be alone.
On the subject of equal pay, Gloria explained that achieving equal pay for women isn’t up to the government, it is up to us—we have to demand it. “We have to understand [that] equal pay for women is not just for women. It would be the greatest economic stimulus that the country could possibly have. If you just paid women equally to men for the work we are already doing, it would be $200 billion more a year into the economy. Women are not going to put it into a Swiss bank account; they are going to spend it and create jobs.”
Born in different generations, it was amazing to see how much Gloria's leadership and impact within the women's movement has actually influenced Jennifer, and yet still, how much there is still left to work for.