Gloria Steinem has been a prominent journalist and women’s rights advocate since the 1960s.
You once wrote that you and a group of colleagues met with George McGovern and he said, “Why is this group interested in welfare?” Do you think politicians have gotten better at figuring out what are women’s issues?
Yes, I do. Absolutely, because, you know, we all change. And voices hadn’t been heard in political life, so the idea of—first of all—what women’s issues were, and also how they’re connected to everything else, takes some time for us to realize. I mean, we now, for instance, understand equal pay. We’ve got that, even though [laughs] we don’t get equal pay. But we still don’t understand that it would be the best economic stimulus for the whole culture. It’s still regarded as a woman’s issue, as opposed to a large economic stimulus. That’s the next step.
One of the things I have in mind is the war on drugs. There are a lot of households headed by women alone—and particularly in the African-American community, because so many fathers are in prison—and a lot of people do not consider that a women’s issue.
No, of course it’s a women’s issue, because our ways of looking at drug issues have been so racially influenced. So if you are a drug addict on prescription drugs—which means you’re more likely to be white—it’s different from being a drug addict to drugs that the corporations are not benefiting from. It’s underground. So we are beginning to realize our prison-industrial complex and how biased it is—why we have a greater percentage of our population in prison than any country on Earth—and also how it’s connected to our educational system. Now, if a prison has a literacy program, then the recidivism rate goes down by 80 percent. … I mean, it is so clear that who is in prison is also evidence of a failure of our schools.
You were talking about how these things are interconnected. There’s a cliché about Nevada—that we’re at the top of all the bad lists and at the bottom of all the good lists. And, in fact, today—I regret to tell you that this has happened the day you arrived here, Nevada was put number three on a list of states, women killed by men.
Yes, I saw that.
A lot of Nevada’s quality-of-life indicators are bad. How do you grab the web whole?
You know, wherever we can, the answer is. I mean, when you get a case of the shoulds—you know, “What should I do?”—instead of simply saying, “I’m going to do whatever I can from the bottom up.” And [this particular issue of killing is] rooted in crazy ideas of gender and addiction, because gender, you know, that somehow to be a real man someone has to be superior and dominant and so on, which, you know, is not true. So it has its deep roots. But if we just look at simple fairness every day and say, “How would I feel if I was in the other person’s position?” You know, for instance, the golden rule, which was written by a smart guy, for guys, I think—it said we should treat other people the way we want to be treated. But women, in less powerful groups, often have to say, “I’m going to treat myself as well as I treat other people.”