The kick-off to the Milford Readers and Writers Festival’s first online global event, “Doing It Write,” will come at a profoundly significant moment. We’re not only celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote, but also witnessing the historic nomination of the first Black and Indian American woman to become the vice-presidential nominee of a major party. The kick-off will be broadcast live from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 11, on the Milford Readers and Writer’s Festival (MRAWF) Facebook page, as well as on Twitter and YouTube.
It is stunning, then, that two leading feminist writers and thinkers, Gloria Steinem and Suzanne Braun Levine, will be talking about “How the women’s vote can shape the election.” Amy Ferris, author, editor, and screenwriter, who writes about all things women, will complete this triad of strong, feminist women when she fields the session’s Q&A.
Steinem’s name is synonymous with the women’s movement, political activism, feminism, and pro-choice. She has, for decades, influenced women all around the world. Steinem has been called “brilliant, witty, iconic, very human,” and “the world’s most influential, eloquent, and revered feminist” (by Cynthia Gorney, in Mother Jones magazine).
Steinem co-founded Ms. Magazine in 1972 and said recently in an interview that she was really proud of the magazine and surprised at how current it still is. Levine was the magazine’s first editor, and she and Steinem worked closely together from 1972 to 1989.
“Ms. Magazine owes everything to Suzanne,” Steinem said. “She had a feminist writing head and editorial knowledge. I just wrote little notes.”
To which Levine responded, “The little notes, by the way, were scraps of paper with brilliant story ideas she brought back from her life on the road – not ‘little’ at all.”
These two colleagues have stayed close for years and have great respect for each other, which is central to their being in the festival together. Steinem and Levine were in conversation together at the first Milford Readers and Writers Festival in 2016.
“It had way more community feeling than most festivals,” Steinem said. “It felt more intimate – like we were in a circle.”
And now she is back to light up the stage again.
Steinem has won countless awards for her journalism. Some examples are The Penney-Missouri Journalism, The Front Page and Clarion Awards, and the Society of Writers Award from the United Nations. Among the organizations she founded or help to found were The Ms. Foundation for Women, The Free to Be Foundation, and the Women’s Media Center.
In 2013, President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Steinem has written numerous books, produced films and documentaries, and has herself been the subject of at least two films. Her book, “Revolution from Within: A Book of Self Esteem” was one of the most far-reaching and intimate. She said it was the hardest to write.
“My Life on the Road” is autobiographical and shines light on her life as a traveler, a listener, and a catalyst for change. The most recent, “The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It will Piss Your Off,” is a marvelous collection of thoughts on how she sees various aspects of life (families, aging, work, laughter) and includes memorable “Gloria-isms” (“Imagine your future self walking on the path ahead of you. Let her lead you; one day an army of gray-haired women may quietly take over the earth! Whatever you want to do, just do it. Making a damn fool of yourself is absolutely essential.”).
The HBO film “Gloria in Her Own Words” is a vivid documentary about the indelible mark Steinem has left on the feminist movement. The film “The Glorias” produced by the super-creative Julie Taymor of “Lion King,” “Frida,” and “Across the Universe” fame will premiere on Amazon in September. Taymor’s film is based on “My Life on the Road” but it is not the typical chronological biography. Steinem is very excited about this production and Taymor’s creative genius.
’Listen to yourself’
Steinem often works with young people – sometimes 30 years younger than herself. She sees her role as setting the stage for discussion in a talking circle where they learn from each other. Her words of advice: “Don’t listen to me, listen to yourself and support each other.”
“Young women today have a ground floor assumption in a way that didn’t used to be,” she said. They have a better understanding of intersectionality – the overlapping and intersecting of various aspects of discrimination such as race, class, gender, language, age, ethnicity, and culture. Intersectional feminism is currently an important topic and is sure to be discussed in this online event.
Steinem says she “is very glad that the book loving and small-town spirit is still living online and on Zoom. It’s the spirit that matters,” and she thanks everyone for keeping this spirit alive.
For more information about Steinem, visit gloriasteinem.com.
For more information on the festival, see the related story “Doing It Write – Milford Readers and Writers to hold first online global event” at pikecountycourier.com.
“Young women today have a ground floor assumption in a way that didn’t used to be.” --Gloria Steinem