Stylist is running its first ever feminist advent calendar in 2018, with a remarkable woman revealing who her feminist icon is every day until 25 December. Here, Laura Bates reveals why Gloria Steinem is her ultimate feminist icon.
It is almost impossible to pick any one feminist icon, and ironically Gloria Steinem would, if anything, be cross to be chosen! Humble to a fault, when I interviewed her in Cambridge a few years ago, she repeatedly resisted the title ‘role model’ because she said a new generation of feminists are reinventing and innovating the movement to such an extent that it will be she who learns from them instead of the other way around.
In fact, this is the the reason I admire Steinem so much. Her decades of feminist activism have been built unfailingly around the principle of cooperative organising, intersectional campaigning and sisterhood. From the very earliest days of her career, Steinem famously would often refuse a speaking invitation unless she could bring with her another activist, ensuring that she shared her platform as widely as possible. Her memoir, My Life on the Road, reveals the true extent to which her life has been dedicated to listening to others, travelling thousands of miles to hear women’s stories, and shining a light on their voices and experiences.
Steinem’s tireless work ethic is awe-inspiring. Her career has seen her co-found New York magazine, the feminist Ms. magazine, and countless feminist groups and organisations, including the Women’s Media Center, the Women’s Action Alliance, the National Women’s Political Caucus, Voters for Choice and the Ms. Foundation for Women. Now in her eighties, she remains a trailblazing force at the frontline of protests, from the Women’s March to the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Steinem’s focus on uniting women’s voices to create powerful change has always been enormously inspiring to me, and I have tried to follow this principle in my own work. “When unique voices are united in a common cause,” she has said, “they make history.” But perhaps my favourite of her quotes is this one: “Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.”
Images: Claude Schneider, Getty
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