Gloria Steinem spoke to a packed Stephens Auditorium Tuesday evening, promising to keep election talk to a minimum but later saying Donald Trump should be “hospitalized, not elected” when pressed by an audience member to comment on his campaign and the divisive nature of the current political climate. The voting booth, she added, is the only place where power structures break down and everyone’s input is equally valued.
It was the 82-year-old feminist icon’s third visit to Iowa State University in her 40-plus years as a political and social activist and journalist.
Emphasizing the theme of power structures, Steinem decried and weaved together sexism, racism, and classism on a large scale and interpersonally. The best way to find out which countries and political powers are most likely to be most militant, she suggested, is to look at the places with the greatest levels of domestic abuse. People on the verge of escaping domestic abuse, she said, are the most likely to be most severely beaten or killed. She related this to the state of our country, in which the majority strives for more egalitarian harmony as a vocal minority tries to intimidate everyone else toward a more retro status quo.
But on the whole, Steinem was optimistic in the face of disheartening current events. She fielded questions from audience members who identified themselves as journalists, social workers, sex educators, queer, mothers, lawyers, and part of the BDSM community. When asked about how to point out microaggressions to offenders who might not be sympathetic to alternative worldviews, she said, “Well, I’d think about how I’d like to be addressed and let them know like that. Because I would like for people to let me know when I fuck up.”
There certainly hasn’t been a lack of that in Gloria Steinem’s lifetime, from claims of white elitism to the most recent backlash to her comment about female Bernie Sanders supporters doing it for a man’s approval. None of this seems to have quelled her desires to keep connecting with people, learning from their experiences, and dropping some F-bombs on adoring Midwestern audiences.
After the talk, there was a definite enthusiastic buzz and some tears as the mostly female audience filed out of Stephens to walk back to their dorms, get on retirement center buses, or head to Jam night – it was Tuesday, after all.