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Gloria Steinem Quotes

(1934 - )

By

Picture of Gloria Steinem on November 9, 2008 in New York City

Picture of Gloria Steinem at private screening of 'Pray The Devil Back To Hell' at The Museum of Modern Art on November 9, 2008 in New York City.

Neilson Barnard / Getty Images
Feminist Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem in a picture published in January of 1972.

Courtesy Library of Congress

Feminist and journalist, Gloria Steinem has been a key figure in the women's movement since 1969. She founded Ms. magazine, starting in 1972. Her good looks and quick, humorous responses made her the media's favorite spokesperson for feminism, but she was often attacked by the radical elements in the women's movement for being too middle-class-oriented. She was an outspoken advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment and helped found the National Women's Political Caucus. Learn more: Gloria Steinem Biography

Selected Gloria Steinem Quotations

• This is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race because they are easy and visible differences have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labour in which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.

• I have met brave women who are exploring the outer edge of possibility, with no history to guide them and a courage to make themselves vulnerable that I find moving beyond the words to express it.  [from the 1972 preview issue of Ms. Magazine]

• [About Ms. Magazine's founding] I backed into it. I felt very strongly there should be a feminist magazine. But I didn't want to start it myself. I wanted to be a freelance writer. I'd never had a job, never worked in an office, never worked with a group before. It just happened.

• I always wanted to be a writer. I got into activism just because it needed to be done.

• The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.

• We've begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.

• We can tell our values by looking at our checkbook stubs.

• Women may be the one group that grows more radical with age.

• But the problem is that when I go around and speak on campuses, I still don't get young men standing up and saying, "How can I combine career and family?"

• Now we have the dreams and tools to move beyond words and history, beyond the possible to the imagined, and into a life both ancient and new, where we will look back to see our present dreams trailing behind us as markers of where we have been. [1994]

• Each of us has an inner compass that helps us know where to go and what to do. Its signals are interest, the joy of understanding for its own sake, and the sort of fear that is a sign of being in new territory -- and therefore of growth.

• A liberated woman is one who has sex before marriage and a job after.

• Someone asked me why women don't gamble as much as men do, and I gave the commonsensical reply that we don't have as much money. That was a true and incomplete answer. In fact, women's total instinct for gambling is satisfied by marriage.

• We know that we can do what men can do, but we still don't know that men can do what women can do. That's absolutely crucial. We can't go on doing two jobs.

• Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.

• Most women are one man away from welfare. [or] Most of us are only one man away from welfare. [the second is more likely the original]

[About Geraldine Ferraro's candidacy:] What has the women's movement learned from her candidacy for vice president? Never get married.

[After her marriage at age 66 to David Bale] "If I had got married when I was supposed to have in my 20s, I would have lost almost all my civil rights. I wouldn't have had my own name, my own legal residence, my own credit rating. I would have had to get a husband to sign off on a bank loan, or starting a business. It's changed profoundly.

• If women are supposed to be less rational and more emotional at the beginning of our menstrual cycle when the female hormone is at its lowest level, then why isn't it logical to say that, in those few days, women behave the most like the way men behave all month long?

• Law and justice are not always the same. When they aren't, destroying the law may be the first step toward changing it.

• Most women's magazines simply try to mold women into bigger and better consumers.

• I have met brave women who are exploring the outer edge of human possibility, with no history to guide them, and with a courage to make themselves vulnerable that I find moving beyond words.

• If the shoe doesn't fit, must we change the foot?

• The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.

• Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself.

• A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space.

• The family is the basic cell of government: it is where we are trained to believe that we are human beings or that we are chattel, it is where we are trained to see the sex and race divisions and become callous to injustice even if it is done to ourselves, to accept as biological a full system of authoritarian government.

• Happy or unhappy, families are all mysterious. We have only to imagine how differently we would be described -- and will be, after our deaths -- by each of the family members who believe they know us.

• I don't breed well in captivity.

• Childbirth is more admirable than conquest, more amazing than self-defense, and as courageous as either one.

• Most American children suffer too much mother and too little father.

• The authority of any governing institution must stop at its citizen's skin.

• Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.

• One thing is clear: The human mind can imagine both how to break self-esteem and how to nurture it -- and imagining anything is the first step toward creating it.

• A woman reading Playboy feels a little like a Jew reading a Nazi manual.

• For women... bras, panties, bathing suits, and other stereotypical gear are visual reminders of a commercial, idealized feminine image that our real and diverse female bodies can't possibly fit. Without these visual references, each individual woman's body demands to be accepted on its own terms. We stop being comparatives. We begin to be unique.

• If you let Barnum & Bailey interpret a plot by Stendhal, it might turn out to be something like the 1972 Democratic convention.

• [About "Dr. Ruth" Westheimer:] She has become the Julia Child of sex.

• [About Marilyn Monroe:] [I]t's hard for men to admit that a sex goddess didn't enjoy sex.... It's part of the desire to believe she was murdered -- the same cultural impulse that says if she's a sex goddess she had to have enjoyed sex doesn't want to believe she killed herself, doesn't want to accept her unhappiness.

• Planning ahead is a measure of class. The rich and even the middle class plan for future generations, but the poor can plan ahead only a few weeks or days.

• Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else.

• I think we deserve to be proud that so many "Smith girls" of the 1950s survived educations that trained us to fit the world, or at least to fear the conflict that comes from trying the make the world fit us.

• From pacifist to terrorist, each person condemns violence -- and then adds one cherished case in which it may be justified.

• No man can call himself liberal, or radical, or even a conservative advocate of fair play, if his work depends in any way on the unpaid or underpaid labor of women at home, or in the office.

• The only thing I can't stand is discomfort.

• For much of the female half of the world, food is the first signal of our inferiority. It lets us know that our own families may consider female bodies to be less deserving, less needy, less valuable.

• Evil is obvious only in retrospect.

• The first wave was about women gaining a legal identity, and it took 150 years. The second wave of feminism is about social equality. We've come a long way, but it's only been 25 years.... Women used to say, 'I am not a feminist, but....' Now they say, 'I am a feminist, but....

More Women's Quotes:

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About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

Citation information:
Jone Johnson Lewis. "Gloria Steinem Quotes." About Women's History. URL: http://womenshistory.about.com/cs/quotes/qu_g_steinem.htm . Date accessed: (today). (More on how to cite online sources including this page)

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