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Gloria Steinem Speaks to Santa Barbara
updated: Mar 04, 2017, 1:00 PM

By Lauren Bray, edhat staff

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem sold out the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara on Thursday evening. The event, hosted by UCSB Arts & Lectures,  featured an intimate dialogue with the legendary social activist, writer, editor, and lecturer. 

(courtesy photo)

Steinem has been a key leader of the feminist movement since the 1960's. She also helped create New York and Ms. magazines, worked to form the National Women’s Political Caucus, produced the groundbreaking Viceland TV show Woman, and co-founded the Women's Media Center. 

In 1993, Steinem was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and in 2013, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, by President Obama. Most recently, at age 82, Steinem served as honorary co-chair of the Women's March on Washington.

The Arlington Theatre buzzed at full capacity with local students and residents eager to hear the words of a historical and cultural champion of women. This was Steinem's third visit to Santa Barbara and there was still so much interest in this event that UCSB Arts & Lectures provided an additional simulcast to accommodate the demand.

After a brief introduction, Steinem walked onto the stage to a raucous standing ovation donning a pink scarf, a nod to the most recent Women's March movement. She spoke at the podium for nearly two hours as the crowd listened intently to every word.

Steinem opened by addressing the recent Presidential election, or the "elephant in the room" as she called it. As a self-proclaimed hope-aholic, Steinem acknowledged those who feel endangered by the Washington policies. "It's important that we remember this guy is not too swift," she said referencing President Trump. 

Steinem said after the election she put on her "prisoner of war bracelets" that represent every woman who has died from being denied safe abortion services. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every 8 minutes a woman in a developing nation will die of complications arising from an unsafe abortion. WHO deems unsafe abortions as one of the easiest preventable causes of maternal mortality and a staggering public health issue. Steinem reminded the audience that President Trump blocked U.S. aid to international organizations that use funds to perform or discuss abortions. The withdrawal of funding also affects AIDS services and basic health care as these clinics may have to shut down.

(Photo: Nancy Gee)

"But the women's march," Steinem started to say referencing the Women's March on Washington in January, resulting in roaring cheers from the audience. " [There was a] contagion of energy I've never seen before... it was everywhere, marching in Nairobi, and more remarkable, marching in Oklahoma." Steinem said the Women's March felt more energized than anti-Vietnam War protests because those were more tied to age, but this movement was uniting everyone on a global scale. She discussed hearing from women in Berlin who marched to the Brandenburg Gate and reminded her that walls do not work.

Steinem discussed progress over the years with the women's movement. "I remember when there wasn't a word for domestic violence, it was called 'life.'" Yet she acknowledged the work that is yet to be done, "Don't worry about what you should do, just do what you can, every day," she said. Steinem referenced a previous protest tactic,"Take out the percentage of your income tax that would have gone to Planned Parenthood and donate it to them directly, then send that notice to the IRS. We did this during the Vietnam War, it drove them crazy," she laughed.

A specific interest of Steinem's are the shared origins of sex and race caste systems. She describes race and sex as being intertwined. "You can't be a feminist without being anti-racist," she said while discussing how the same patriarchal systems that oppress women, also oppress people of color, the LGBTQ community, and more. 

Steinem spoke of all the women involved in the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War movements who weren't recognized. She said the absence of female leaders in these movements is what caused the Women's Movement long ago. Fannie Lou Hamer, Flo Kennedy, Dorothy Pitman Hughes, and Aileen Hernandez were civil rights leaders that Steinem named as being integral in the fight for women's rights too.

This past August, Steinem published My Life on the Road, which became a New York Times bestseller. After the event ended, she signed copies of her book in the lobby and personally greeted each person who waited to meet her. 

A message that was imprinted on everyone in the room was to connect with one another and never stop fighting. "We are so much more on a path to a real democracy now than we were when I was here two years ago... Are we woke now? Yes we are," said Steinem.

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 ELAZ agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-04 02:27 PM

Thanks for summarizing the evening so well!
I was there, and you've captured it. Hard to believe Gloria is 82! Still active, still inspiring!
Feeling grateful.


 COMMENT 761469 agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-04 02:33 PM

Seemed pretty upidity.


 COMMENT 761483 agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-04 04:45 PM

I love her. Wish I could have attended.


 COMMENT 761489 agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-04 05:42 PM

Did she talk about her time in the CIA? The government needed more taxpayers, thus Feminism. A huge manipulation by a loudmouth old girl.


 COMMENT 761502 agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-04 07:47 PM

I was there. Big snooze fest.


 FLICKA agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-04 10:07 PM

You'd have had to be there to know how women were perceived up through the 1950s. About 3rd class citizens, just keep them barefoot and pregnant, all they were good for. We've come a long ways, but it sure could be better.


 COMMENT 761519 agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-05 07:52 AM

In discussing politics did she address how the DNC rigged the primaries?? Or was that OK b/c it was rigged in favor of a woman?


 COMMENT 761538 agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-05 10:05 AM

The few sexist comments prove there is still work to be done.

Great summary, sad I couldn't be there, but happy she's still speaking out.


 COMMENT 761551P agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-05 11:10 AM

As a woman over 60, I lived it. I particularly agree with the observation that you can't be a feminist without also being anti-racist. These anti-humanist sentiments go hand-in-hand -- as if others are somehow less than you? I'm regularly amazed at how prevalent and pervasive sexism and racism still is, even after decades of proving those viewpoints wrong, hateful, and hurtful.

Her comments about birth control and abortion need to spread too, as until women can manage and control their fertility, they can never be truly in charge of their own lives.

We all have to keep fighting the good fight, as long as there are troglodytes among us.


 COMMENT 761572 agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-05 12:34 PM

You've come a long way baby. Heart attacks, high blood pressure and combat duty. Did nature really want this for women? A man's world was not really designed for women but for a handful of outspoken media savvy East coast loudmouths.


 COMMENT 761582 agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-05 01:08 PM

572 - WHAT?!? Please go back to the hole from which you crawled out of.


 COMMENT 761592P agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-05 02:01 PM

Sigh... I no longer believe in trying to convince or even discuss social issues and politics. I'm very depressed about it all today, what happened at pro-Trump rallies sent me spiraling.
Thanks for the report, Lauren.


 COMMENT 761593P agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-05 02:02 PM

Upidity? just noticed that. No more needs to be said, thanks for the laugh! lol


 COMMENT 761594P agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-05 02:03 PM

Yes, the anti-woman comments here are clearly trolling. They're funny.


 COMMENT 761604P agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-05 02:38 PM

Info on Steinem & CIA:

"In May 1975, Redstockings, a radical feminist group, published a report on the Vienna Youth Festival that Steinem and others had put together for the Independent Research Service.[90][91] Though she acknowledged having worked for the CIA-financed foundation in the late 1950s and early 1960s in interviews given to the New York Times and Washington Post in 1967 in the wake of the Ramparts magazine CIA exposures (nearly two years before Steinem attended her first Redstockings or feminist meeting), Steinem in 1975 denied any continuing involvement." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloria_Steinem#CIA_ties

Interview about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HRUEqyZ7p8

SHE ADDRESSED IT. No shame, hiding or cover up. Her international work is well-documented.


 COMMENT 761631P agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-05 05:40 PM

489, if you do more than hit and run with your comments, seems several people here would like to discuss your point of view and allegations. Will you engage? Hope so.


 COMMENT 761672 agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-05 08:46 PM

A personal memory for me back in 1972 when I was working for the reelection of Richard Nixon I had a table set up at the quad area of Ventura College . Mrs. Steinem was speaking at the college that day and passed by my table as she walked by she kind of cocked her head back towards me and said who?? and kept walking. LOL pretty funny memory .
Some human innovations are clearly beneficial, like vaccines. Others like feminism, it can be argued successfully, are clearly not good for humanity. I regard feminism as a failure for humanity based on the amount of familial destruction that has occurred since Mrs. Steinem and other East coast loud mouths have taken hold of the nation. On the other hand, nations like Japan, who were forced to advance the status of woman, have done much better financially and socially.


 COMMENT 761698 agree helpful negative off topic

2017-03-06 06:42 AM

She created Hillary. Thumbs down.


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