Feminist activist Gloria Steinem today called for an economic stimulus with equal pay for women in an often-political speech in Washington which averted any politicians by name.
“If we just had equal pay in this country, we would have the single most important economic stimulus this country could possibly, possibly ever have,” Steinem said, estimating that such a change would inject about $200 billion a year into the economy.
As audience members nodded, Steinem added a zinger:
“And it would be injected into the economy exactly where it’s most likely to be spent. We are not going to send it to the Cayman Islands, no.”
Her unmistakable jab at Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, whose offshore investments have been targeted in TV campaign ads by President Barack Obama, got a big laugh from the room.
Steinem, a co-founder and consulting editor for Ms. magazine, was one of several Ms. leaders who spoke at the magazine’s 40th anniversary celebration at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., today. She discussed issues ranging from domestic violence to foreign policy to sexuality while ostensibly trying to stay within parameters outlined earlier by the magazine’s publisher, Eleanor Smeal.
“We’re not going to say much about the election because we’re a 501c3 and people in this room know what that means,” Smeal said, eliciting laughter. “We’re a nonprofit and we can’t take a position on candidates. Unbelievable. But we can take a position on ballot issues and issues of all kinds.”
After making the case for equal pay, Steinem championed a more gender-minded foreign policy. A nation’s level of violence is proportional to its rate of domestic violence against women, she said, citing the book “Sex & World Peace.” Gender relations cannot be polarized within a peaceful country, she said.
Steinem encouraged the overwhelmingly female audience of approximately 350 people to continue championing women’s issues in the coming decades. Public opinion polls are encouraging because the women’s movement has gained a majority’s support on social issues it has raised so far, Steinem said.
“But nowhere is it written, I’m sorry to say, that the majority will win,” she added. “And there is enormous power on the other side and enormous financial interest on the other side.”
A few minutes later, Steinem had some fun at the expense of “the other side,” too.
“Sometimes on campuses someone will say to me, ‘Why is it that the ultra-right wing is against both lesbians and birth control?'” Steinem deadpanned.
The final audience question in the program’s Q&A asked Steinem and Smeal how to elect more women to public office, and when a woman might be elected president.
“It’s going to be soon,” Smeal said, before predicting an increase in female membership of both congressional bodies in the Nov. 6 election.
Steinem offered a more balanced response.
“It’s not about biology, it’s about consciousness,” she said. “It’s not about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for both women and men.”