Gloria Steinem spent over 30 years organizing and supporting feminist movements throughout the nation. Even though her traveling years are now detailed and packed away in her recently published memoir, “My Life on the Road,” Steinem hasn’t yet put the road behind her.
On her latest stop, Steinem spoke Wednesday night at UT as part of the Plan II Liz Carpenter Lecture Series, urging people to take to the polls this election season.
“Way too many of us have come to believe that it’s hopeless, and our vote doesn’t count, and therefore have given up on the one place on Earth where the most powerful and the least powerful are equal, which is the voting booth,” Steinem said. “That is exactly what we need to come back and seize.”
Steinem said the negative, divisive nature of the current election season has exposed basic truths about society, especially in regards to women. She said since generally people are raised by women, they associate female authority with childhood and are uncomfortable with females in roles of authority.
“I think women, too, but many men especially may feel regressed to childhood when they see a powerful woman because the last time they saw one they were 8, and they feel unmanned by this,” Steinem said. “This election is helping us to think about that.”
Steinem’s history of feminist and political activism is what encouraged the lectureship series to select her as this year’s speaker, said Mary Dillman, alumni liaison and programs coordinator for Plan II. Dillman said free tickets to the event were available to the public and all 900 sold out in less than 24 hours. For students who weren’t able to access tickets to the main event, a live video feed was set up in a separate room.
“I think with everything going on in the election and with Hillary, [Steinem] was the right person at the right time at the right moment,” Dillman said. “It generated a lot of excitement, which was our goal.”
Plan II senior Caroline Read sat in on the lecture. Read said she walked away from the speech feeling empowered to vote.
“I think a lot of people, especially at college age, get into feeling that their vote doesn’t matter,” Reed said. “[Steinem] kept bringing it back to the idea that every person has a voice, so you need to use it. You have to.”
At the end of her lecture, Steinem said she believes Hillary Clinton will win the election if voter turnout is high.
“Regardless of what the media does, regardless of what the candidates say, if you look at the issues and which issues are majority issues, it’s perfectly clear that Hillary Clinton will win and Donald Trump will be defeated if there is a strong voter turnout,” Steinem said. “Everything depends on that.”
She said it’s important to note she’s not simply “playing the gender card” by supporting Clinton.
“It is about the qualifications and the experience, not just the biology,” Steinem said.