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40th Anniversary

In Conversation: Gloria Steinem and Suheir Hammad

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You know, even if Sarah Palin was better on the issues, the goal is not to elect Superwoman. As social-justice movements have learned the hard way, having someone who looks like you and behaves like them —who looks like a friend but behaves like an adversary—is worse than having no one.

SH: My brother-in-law was raised in Jordan. He changes diapers, he helps with the food, he does everything. We joke in our family when someone’s fresh off the boat, they’re going to come in with these Third World, stagnant ideas—and he, I swear, is way more helpful than any of our friends’ husbands who were born here. I see my friends make the same decisions my mom had to make.

NY: Suheir, your female friends, do they consider themselves feminists?

SH: I have this conversation all the time. I think they all do. Whether or not they would say it publicly, I think it comes from not wanting to be seen as political, and not wanting to make other people uncomfortable. I think of feminism as a socially just and imaginative world. You know, in my twenties I was taught that feminism meant we had to be supersmart, in the realm of intellectualism—to make rational, detached, unemotional pleas. But now I think what Gloria and all our sisters have given us is imagination. It’s a question of: Can I imagine that world?

NY: A guy at work said to ask, Since the movement has succeeded so fully, is there anything left to do?

GS: [Laughs] So, are we going to break his kneecaps now?

SH: No, we’re going to give him a Brazilian bikini wax.

GS: Tell him I’ll know that we’re getting someplace when I go into Central Park and see white men wheeling babies of color and getting well paid for it. There is no postfeminism—it’s like saying “post-democracy”!


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