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Gloria Steinem

Writer, Activist, Chair, Board Emeritus, 2014 Make Equality Reality Honoree

Sue Smalley, Global Board Member, celebrates Gloria Steinem as part of Equality Now’s 30 for 30, featuring 30 women and changemakers who have played a key role in making equality reality as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations.

When I first saw Gloria Steinem on television in 1969 as a young teen, I was in awe of her beauty, from her long hair to her aviator glasses to her cool bell-bottoms. When Gloria spoke eloquently for the rights of women and girls, I listened. I became a feminist overnight. She, and the feminist movement at that time, gave me the confidence to be whatever I wanted to be and to feel that I was of equal value to men and boys.  

It wasn’t until much later that I realized beauty is much deeper than external looks. In Gloria, I see true beauty, someone who lives by a truth of nature, that we are all of equal value. As Gloria says, we are “Linked, not ranked.”

In that simple sentiment is a truth of nature, that humanity is an interdependent whole and that each part is of equal value. Equality flows from this truth, including equal rights under the law. Gloria lives by this truth, and from it arises compassion and care for each one of us and the planet at large. There is beauty in the truth itself, and Gloria has worked tirelessly to help others see it.  

I think of Gloria often and try to emulate her in my own life, whether in my teaching, business, family relationships, or other activities. Gloria’s wisdom has taught me so many lessons. First, humility. No matter what Gloria accomplishes (and the list is vast), she always makes you feel as though you have given as much to others as she does. She reflects back to you in a way that affirms your equal value.  

Second, Gloria says, if you talk a lot – listen more; if you listen a lot, talk more. Notice what you are like in  conversation and lean a bit into the alternative. Be sure that everyone’s voice is part of a discussion. If I’m hosting a dinner, business meeting, or gathering, I try and get everyone in the room to say something at the beginning. True equality means everyone has a voice and is a valuable part of a larger whole. 

Third, laugh. Gloria and I often talk about laughter as the most spontaneous emotion of all and one that’s incompatible with negative emotions or actions, like anger, jealousy or hate.  When someone laughs, the world is a brighter place and we see a bit more of our shared humanity, and we discover a clearer understanding that equality is reality.

A headshot of Gloria Steinem

Photo Credit: Katie Lyman

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