Meeting Gloria Steinem At Boston University
A few years ago, I had the honor of meeting one of our culture’s most important feminist icons, Gloria Steinem at the Boston University Barnes & Noble Lecture Series where she was promoting the book ENSLAVED, edited by Jesse Sage and Liora Kasten of the American Anti-Slavery Group in which true stories of modern day slavery are told. Sadly, slavery, though officially outlawed in every country in the world, still occurs. Approximately 15 to 30 million people are still enslaved. Here are some photos of me meeting Gloria, an amazing and very moving experience for me.*
When I was about seventeen, I heard Gloria Steinem make a remark I was not ready to hear. It shocked me, but it stayed with me. In response to a question about abortion, she said, “Honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”
All of recorded history ran out from under me as when the tide on the beach takes the sand out from under your feet and leaves you dizzy. I realized I had been conned. By religion, in particular, which plays on good people's innate sense of responsibility by creating guilt where it might not exist and using this guilt to control people's lives.
I asked myself, what if society had given us a different set of rules? We would think differently about many things, including abortion.
One’s opinion of abortion is not the issue. One should never tell another woman what to do. The issue is power. Power over us. Power over our lives. We need to take that power back. That’s why I wrote Atlantis, poems about the United States being another Atlantis. Not because I think the United States is about to sink into the ocean. But because I think we can stop our country from destroying itself and the rest of the world with us.
I gifted her a copy of Atlantis, which seemed to please her very much. I had to tell her how she had influenced me.
Gloria’s response when I told her that a statement of hers had changed my life was to sit back and listen. As I explained, she answered, “I didn’t say that! It was said by a female Irish cab driver, in Boston!”
We went on to talk about religion, and needless guilt about sex. That's when I made her laugh, which was great!
She made some excellent comments on imperialism, which always results in slavery, the subject of the evening.
It is always sad and terrifying to me, especially on a night when we were speaking with women who had escaped real slavery, that people who should otherwise be free, have actually chosen slavery in so many ways.
*(You'll notice, behind Gloria's head, ironically, sadly, in keeping with the recent #metoo movement is a poster for one of Harold Bloom's books - Harold Bloom, the Yale professor who sexually assaulted his graduate student, another feminist writer, Naomi Wolf in 1983. Whenever I see this photo, his name rankles.)
©Patricia Goodwin, 2019
Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, about Marblehead legends and true crime and its sequel, Dreamwater, about the Salem witch trials and the vicious 11-year-old pirate Ned Low. Holy Days is her third novel, about the sexual, psychological seduction of Gloria Wisher and her subsequent transformation. Her newest poetry books are Telling Time By Apples, And Other Poems About Life On The Remnants of Olde Humphrey Farme, illustrated by the author, and Java Love: Poems of a Coffeehouse. Previous poetry books, Atlantis and Marblehead Moon are currently out of print. However, you may read excerpts from these works at patriciagoodwin.com.