Gloria Steinem: ‘I think we need to get much angrier’

Rachel Cooke in Guardian:

Gloria-steinem-007The last person to interview Gloria Steinem for the Observer was Martin Amis, in 1984. He waited for her at the offices of Ms, the magazine that she co-founded in 1972 – “Pleasant though I found it, I was also aware of my otherness, my testosterone, among all this female calm” – and then they headed out together to Suffolk County Community College, Long Island, where Gloria was, as ever, to address a group of students. To read this piece now is excruciatingly embarrassing, especially given Amis's more recent conversion to what he likes to call the “gynocracy”. Feminism? From the male point of view, he said back then, the reparations look to be alarmingly steep. As for Steinem herself, she is “the least frightening” kind of feminist, being possessed of – prepare to be amazed! – both a sense of humour and good looks. She was, he wrote, relief slowly blooming, “nice, and friendly, and feminine… the long hair is expertly layered, the long fingers expertly manicured. Fifty this year, Ms Steinem is unashamedly glamorous.”

A quarter of a century later, and Steinem is still glamorous: wildly so. But the point is surely that this glamour derives, just as it always did, as much from her extraordinary career – in other words, from her brain – as from her appearance (Mart unaccountably failed to spot this). At 77, she remains tiny of waist and big of hair – and, yes, the nails are as smooth and as shiny as a credit card – but what strikes you most, at least at first, is how preoccupied she seems. She is so busy. It has taken me the best part of two years to bag this slot with her, and even now I'm here, I'm uncertain how much time, in the end, she will have to spare. Does she remember who I work for? I can't tell. I have the impression that she believes I live in New York – and sure enough, when I eventually tell her that I've flown in from London, she looks first amazed, and then, quickly, solicitous. (She might be distracted, but Steinem is also famously nice.)

More here.