10 Questions For Gloria Steinem

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Like the women's-rights movement she has helped lead since the 1970S, Gloria Steinem has come a long way. Proudly single until four years ago, when she married environmentalist David Bale, she became a widow in December when he died of brain lymphoma. TIME's Sonja Steptoe talked with Steinem, who turned 70 last week, and found her just as engaged as ever.

THE EDITOR IN CHIEF OF MS. MAGAZINE CAME TO THE DEFENSE OF MARTHA STEWART, SAYING "THIS WAS NOT A SERIOUS CASE THAT PROTECTED AMERICANS AGAINST CRIMINALS. THIS WAS A BITCH HUNT." DO YOU AGREE?


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It was selective prosecution. The same impulse that made her successful — the desire to make things look good — may have tripped her up. But this was not a case of corporate corruption. There should have been some consideration that society isn't served by jailing her.

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO CITE THE ADVANCES MADE BY WOMEN AS PROOF THAT SOCIETY IS NOW COMFORTABLE WITH WOMEN IN POWER?

I suggest they get a pair of glasses. You can see the absence of women in governing bodies from Congress to state legislators, on corporate boards, in tenured positions in academia and as forepeople in factories.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHEN YOU SAY IT'S TIME TO GET MEN TO DO WHAT WOMEN TRADITIONALLY DO?

As long as working women also have to do the work of child and family care at home, they will have two jobs instead of one. Perhaps more important, children will grow up thinking that only women can be loving and nurturing and men cannot. Achieving a society in which men raise children as much as women do is crucial.

WAS DIANE KEATON'S CHARACTER IN SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE GOOD FOR WOMEN?

Diane Keaton is good for women in and of herself. She's smart and funny and real. The character was also helpful because she was sexual well past the usual age boundary. I thought it was a little unrealistic that she would choose Jack Nicholson over Keanu Reeves, but I suppose you have to give some tribute to the older male egos in Hollywood.

WHAT ABOUT THE IMAGES IN SEX AND THE CITY?

The show is a net plus because the women on the show are able to be sexual without punishment. The minus part is the money they spend on clothes and the time they spend on relationships instead of their inner selves and talents.

SOME YOUNGER WOMEN SEEM TO RUN FROM THE FEMINIST LABEL. HOW CAN YOU INSPIRE THEM TO BE PASSIONATE ABOUT WOMEN'S RIGHTS?

If younger women have a problem [with the label], it's only that they don't know yet that there's a problem. The kind of radicalization that happened to my generation when we tried to get a job happens to them 10 or 15 years into the job, when they fail to get promoted. Women tend to be conservative in youth and get more radical as they get older because they lose power with age. So if a young woman is not a feminist, I say just wait.

WHOM ARE YOU SUPPORTING FOR PRESIDENT?

I'm supporting Kerry, and I'd like to indict Bush. There are many things to recommend Kerry. He has always supported reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right, as well as social programs that women need disproportionately. As a man who knows what war is like, he has tended to be more restrained in his willingness to wage it.

DO YOU THINK THE FIGHT TO LEGALIZE GAY MARRIAGE IS AN IMPORTANT BATTLE OR A DISTRACTION FROM OTHER, MORE IMPORTANT WOMEN'S ISSUES?

It is a women's issue. The idea that sexuality is only O.K. if it ends in reproduction oppresses women — whose health depends on separating sexuality from reproduction — as well as gay men and lesbians. Bush and the right wing have overreached. Even people who oppose same-sex marriage don't want a constitutional amendment.

HOW ARE YOU COPING WITH YOUR HUSBAND'S DEATH?

I don't know how to answer that. I'm all right, but only basically. I haven't come to the point yet of coping with his death. I'm still coping with the length and sadness of his illness.

IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE YOU'RE 70.

With all my other birthdays, I've been able to feel that I can change the age and that the age doesn't have to change me. But this one has the ring of mortality. So I hope it will teach me to use my time better.