Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Steinem shares her feminism story with Eckerd audience

The night after Hillary Rodham Clinton pulled a comeback victory in the fight for the presidency, about 1,200 people — mostly women — stood to applaud Gloria Steinem as the feminist icon took the stage at Eckerd College.

They clapped again when Steinem and panelist Dorothy Pitman Hughes raised their arms in the power salute made emblematic in a photo from the era.

Before a packed gymnasium of enthusiastic admirers, Steinem spoke Wednesday night. The discussion felt more like a heart-to-heart talk as she and the three other women on the panel told stories from rose-colored couches.

Steinem, 73, said that for the first time in her life, an election has offered Democratic candidates that are all strong supporters of women and civil rights. "When asked an either/or, my tendency is to say both," Steinem said when asked whom she supported for president. "We could have Hillary Clinton for eight years, and we could have Barack Obama for eight years."

Steinem, one of the most recognizable faces of the women's movement of the 1970s, has been vocal in this election, endorsing Clinton in a New York Times op-ed in which she wrote, "Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life."

This weekend in Austin, Texas, she caused a stir when she questioned whether Sen. John McCain's experience as a prisoner of war qualifies him to be president.

At a news conference before Wednesday's event, she said the media's spin made her feel like Hillary Clinton for a day. She said the context was a light-hearted event at a bar where she listed 10 reasons to vote for Clinton in a David Letterman list.

But she said she does worry she said she worries about militarism being viewed as a requirement to be president, from George Washington to John F. Kennedy — especially when the experience is limited to men.

"The idea that you have to learn to kill people in order to be president needs to be put to rest.''

But the program, sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times Fund Inc., and part of Eckerd's Women's History Month, mostly focused on the personal experiences that joined the panelists across generations and race to fight for women's rights.

Four feminists — Steinem, Hughes, Amy Richards, and Jennifer Baumgardner — traced the history of the movement, from the second-wave feminists of Steinem's day to the third-wave activists represented by Richards and Baumgardner.

They told of their starts as feminists:

Steinem said she attended a basement gathering of women who described their abortions before legislators liberalized abortion laws. "I had never heard women speak the truth in public before," she said, adding she had kept secret her own abortion at 22.

Baumgardner, a bisexual, learned the word lesbian from Ms. magazine, which Steinem helped found.

Richards said she thinks she became a feminist in the womb, because her mother left her father when she was seven months pregnant in 1969.

"We live in a different world now — a woman president, or a black president?" Hughes said. "The team we've been dreaming about."

Stephanie Garry can be reached at (727) 892-2374 or

Steinem shares her feminism story with Eckerd audience 03/05/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:28am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Who took a knee? How each NFL team responded to Donald Trump's tweets about anthem protests


    NFL players, coaches and owners across the league reacted in various ways on Sunday to remarks from President Donald Trump speaking about NFL players who have protested during the national anthem.

    Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson both kneeled during the national anthem in protest before Sunday's game at the Vikings. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Florida State out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2011


    Florida State's first 0-2 start since 1989 has led to another low.

  3. From care center to purgatory to 'hellhole': How 11 frail elders died after Irma


    As she got ready to say goodbye to her mother at the Hollywood Hills nursing home, Rose Wyda's heart was sick. Hurricane Irma had been gone for nearly 48 hours, but the trail of shattered trees and broken, hissing power lines the storm left behind was still dangerously apparent. And the nursing home was part of the …

  4. Bucs' Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson kneel during national anthem


    Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson both kneeled during the national anthem in protest before Sunday's game at the Vikings, two days after President Donald Trump made critical remarks about NFL …

    Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson both kneeled during the national anthem in protest before Sunday's game at the Vikings. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Authorities ID man killed in Clearwater Beach boating crash; Girl, 4, still in critical condition


    An Altamonte Springs man died and a 4-year-old girl remains in critical condition Sunday morning after their personal watercraft collided with a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway near Clearwater Beach just before 5 p.m.