Gloria Steinem Defines What Is Holding Feminism Back Today

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Answers by Gloria Steinem, writer, lecturer, political activist, and feminist organizer, on Quora.

A: Violence against females in all its forms -- domestic violence here, sexualized violence in war zones, sex trafficking, FGM, son preference and daughter deficit -- have added up to the fact that there are now fewer females on earth than males. That seems to be a first. This needs to be taken seriously, from our local police precinct, to our foreign policy. And we need to understand that this violence normalizes other forms that endanger men too.


A: Men have not always controlled society -- in original cultures there were migratory groups, women controlled when and whether to have children, and men participated in childcare -- and men hunted while women did agriculture or food gathering -- but both were equal -- including on our own continent and Native American cultures. Also the San in Africa and many more. I hope that's comforting because what once was can be again. Patriarchy got started to control women's bodies and reproduction -- and we need to reverse this process.


A: The state of feminism is different from my early and naive imaginings in two ways. In this and many other countries of the world, there is majority support in public opinion polls for all the issues of equality. Given that fact, I would have thought that we would be way further ahead with laws and daily life. In other words, I thought we had democracies when we have very, very imperfect ones. Money and access often counts way more than public opinion. But I am also surprised by the grassroots will and movement toward equality. Little kids all over the world say two things in some form -- "It's not fair," and "you are not the boss of me." That makes me more hopeful in a slower but more basic way than I was in the beginning.

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