On Monday night, at the New York Public Library, legendary feminist Gloria Steinem received the Library Lion award, which honors cultural leaders for outstanding creative achievements. Steinem, at age 81, has just published a new book, My Life on the Road, that chronicles her time traveling the country as a child and the lessons she’s learned as an adult activist lapping the globe. A vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton, Steinem spoke with the Cut about Hillary’s chances for 2016, fourth-wave feminism, and dinner with Donald Trump.
Are things different for Hillary now than they were in 2008?
I think, unlike in 2008, the country is more ready for a female in that position of authority. I personally didn’t think she could get elected in 2008. I think now it is possible. It is going to be very difficult, but it is possible.
Why is it going to be difficult?
For the same reason I thought it was impossible then, which is that most of us, men and women, are raised by women. We distinctly associate female authority with childhood, and we don’t see women honored as authorities — we see men. In 2008, the big grown-up male political analysts would say things like "I cross my legs when I see her" and "She reminds me of my first wife waiting for alimony."
You have said that violence is one of the big issues still facing women. What do you make of the conversation of sexual assault on college campuses?
I think we are realizing what has always been there.
There is this idea of a fourth-wave or new feminist moment. Do you think that is happening?
I don’t quite believe there are waves. At any given moment in this country we are going to find the 22nd century and the 16th century. But I think that, for example, young women are graduating [from college] with big debt and realizing that they are wrestling with as much debt as guys but earning a million dollars less in their lifetimes to pay the debt back, and they are mad as hell.
What advice do you have for young people who make a change in the world?
Do it. Stop worrying about what you should do, and do anything you can, with language or with your money, or with organizing.
This interview has been condensed and edited.