Steinem said the only female writer she knew of as a little girl was Louisa May Alcott, admitting, "That was my only idea that a female human being could be a writer." Things have changed, but not enough. Pointing to both Malala and the kidnapped girls in Nigeria, Steinem cautions, "The reason it's hard for young women to have a voice and to speak is because it's dangerous. It's dangerous for female human beings to be able to have a voice and to tell their own stories." Tell your stories.
When asked what she would tell girls today about feminism, Steinem broke it down like this: "Either we are human beings or we're not. If we're human beings, we're feminists. If we're less than human beings, we may not be so feminist."
Unwilling to classify boys as a subgroup of humans independent of girls, Steinem instead encourages us to "think of Irving, or of Jonathan, or whoever..." to focus our discussion on the individual rather than the group. "We're linked, we're not ranked."
What would Steinem tell girls about the history of feminism? In general, she says, "I don't want to tell girls anything except to listen to themselves." She explained, "I would much rather… listen to them and let them know that they are really worth listening to."
To prove her point, Steinem steered us to her guest for the evening, Kai Williams, 16, from the Bronx. An actress, writer and overall smart young woman, Williams gave us her POV on everything from selfies to siblings. Kai explained that role models can defy hierarchies of age, class or experience. Role models can be "people in our age group who are just advanced, mature people. Anyone who is passionate about a cause... going after justice."
"Sometimes our adversaries know it better than we do." Referring to the individual responsible for the mass shooting in California on May 24, which left six dead, as simply "the guy in Santa Barbara," nameless, Steinem pointed to his actions to highlight the power of reproduction, explaining, "The guy in SB said it... he just said feminism is evil because it allows women to control reproduction." Similarly, referencing recent events in Nigeria, Steinem said, "Those terrorists in Nigeria could have quite logically kidnapped very important people. People in the government... decision-making people... and demanded ransoms. But who did they kidnap? They kidnapped young women."
Steinem introduced herself as "a completely happy person, an 80-year-old woman in a motorcycle belt." Laughing, she said, "I just bought this... I'm not kidding — it was motorcycle belt on Lexington Avenue. I absolutely couldn't resist it." It looked awesome. This incredible woman is still living her life on her terms. You can too.
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