Make no mistake. Gloria Steinem, noted feminist and author, does not see that a woman elected to the White House automatically means a win for feminists or women.
“This is not all about biology, and I think we have to be careful to always say that, because if Sarah Palin were the president it wouldn’t signify change,” she tells NPR’s Steve Inskeep. “If President Obama did not represent the majority views of Americans and of African-Americans, he would not represent change as he does. So it isn’t about simple biology. It’s about what we represent.”
With regard to the 2016 election, are you dismayed that it’s an issue-free election? Or are you thrilled that issues that are important to you are getting discussed?
I’m more dismayed than thrilled because I think the level of discourse has been lowered and that has lowered Hillary Clinton, too. She has gone from being frequently elected the most admired woman in the world to a trustworthy rating that is something like Richard Nixon’s, because you have the false equivalency of a contest between two people, which means that all the objectivity requirements and habits of the press mean that you direct the same amount of negative questions to one as the other, and you try to treat them equally. And this means that [GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump] has been elevated and she has been called into question in all kinds of ways that, with a more equal colleague in opposition, she would not have been.
What happens to feminism if Clinton is elected?
First of all, we’re not just talking about getting one woman a job. We’re talking about getting equality for all women, so it’s only one step — in a very visible place, but still, it’s only one step. But it is helpful, just as it has been enormously helpful to see President Obama and Michelle Obama and their two daughters entering into a White House that was in part constructed by slaves. I’m sure that I was not the only person that was crying when I saw that happen. He has done his best, I believe, to represent equality, including of his own group and other groups.
When Obama was elected in 2008, some people said it was a sign of a post-racial society.
But that’s ridiculous, isn’t it? Doesn’t it drive you crazy when they say that? The advent of one person does not change the intricate interweaving of racial assumptions in a whole society. It’s helpful, and we’re all grateful to be able to see an African-American person honored in authority, but it’s only a beginning.
So we’re not on the edge of a post-gender society?
No, definitely not.