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Making Women's History
Scholastic News Online speaks with women's rights leader Gloria Steinem.
By Ezra Billinkoff

Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem speaks at the Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota on February 14, 2006.

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    (Photo: AP Photo/Mankato Free Press/Pat Christman)
  • Women's History Month is not only a time to celebrate the contributions of women. It is also an opportunity to consider women's struggle for equality—a struggle that continues today. At 72, journalist and political activist Gloria Steinem has played an important role in the women's rights movement. Scholastic News Online caught up with Steinem in Philadelphia after she delivered a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania on feminism, or the belief that men and women should be treated equally.

    "Women want to have their own authentic voices and to be able to speak in them and to be heard," Steinem said.

    Finally speaking in that voice is what Steinem considers her greatest accomplishment. After working as a journalist for many years, Steinem felt unfairly treated by her male bosses who assigned her articles that they thought only women would want to read. By 1972, Steinem struck out on her own, founding a magazine called Ms. It was a publication run by women whose goal was to encourage other women to demand the same treatment received by men. It was also during this time that Steinem's activities began to involve several women's organizations, such as the National Women's Political Caucus, a political group devoted to working on issues relating to women.

    "Feminism is easier to understand as kids," Steinem said. "Feminism is all about fairness."

    Steinem explained that girls and boys understand that they have equal value as human beings, and they expect to be treated that way. Women's History Month, she said, is a chance to make sure kids hold on to that way of thinking. This is done by giving them a more well-rounded account of history, showing occasions when women—just like men—made important contributions to the world.

    "I love to hear kids say, 'It's not fair,'" she said. "'Boys aren't worth more than girls, but [they're] not [worth] less either.'"

    Steinem also stressed the importance of letting people make their own decisions. She suggested that girls should be allowed to play sports if they want to, and boys should be free to play with dolls. Once a person makes a decision, she said, they should be respected for it.

    Even though women are treated better today than they were in the past, Steinem said there is still a lot of work to do. Recently, she joined with a number of influential women to launch the Women's Media Center. The project was developed in response to the lack of women in top positions in American media companies.

    "We need all the human talent we have," she said. "And right now the talent that comes in a female body is paid less [than men], more likely to be subject to violence, and [more likely] to be overlooked when it comes to high political office."

    Gloria Steinem's message of fairness and equality continues to motivate women throughout the world. She continues to write and travel all over the world, sharing her ideas. Through her work, Steinem herself has become a symbol of American feminism that will inspire women for years to come.