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Gloria Steinem on keeping the women's movement 'revolutionary'


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Judy Woodruff: Gloria Steinem, the writer, author, activist and feminist, is at 85, still traveling widely to help raise awareness for the gender equity issues she helped pioneer. Steinem reflects on her life in tonight's "Brief But Spectacular," and in her updated edition of essay collections, "Gloria Steinem: Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions."

Gloria Steinem: Until the women's movement came along and freed our heads and our hearts, I just assumed that you were not supposed to talk about having had an abortion, or even sexual affairs. There was not a tradition that allowed us to tell the truth. And I didn't question that.

I had had an abortion in England. It allowed me to live my own life, not to marry someone for whom I would have been the wrong wife, and he would have been the wrong husband. It allowed me to come home, and become a freelance writer.

I would have had a profoundly different life if I had been responsible for rearing a child.

I think I learned that my childhood was not traditional, when I saw other kids going to school. We were living in a house trailer in the wintertime, traveling from Michigan to Florida, or California. And also, when I went to the movies, and I saw kids going to school and living in houses with picket fences, and I thought, you know, how great that would be.

Since then, I've come to really appreciate the way I grew up. I just learned by reading and doing what I loved, which I think is a pretty good way of learning.

The stories I'm most interested in telling are stories that aren't being told. It's so much more interesting to write about the unknown that needs to become visible. And because I travel so much, I get to hear a lot of these stories, and to transmit them in writing.

What frustrates me the most is the degree and various kinds of violence against females. For the first time that we know of, there are fewer females on earth than males. But it's also true that violence against females is the biggest indicator of all other violence, not because female life is any more important than male life. It is not. But because when we see dominance and violence in our homes and neighborhoods, it makes us assume that one group is born to dominate the other, and it's OK.

People, at my age, do ask me, you know, who am I passing the torch to? And I always say, first of all, I'm keeping my torch, thank you very much. And I'm using it to light other torches, because everybody needs a torch, that is a way better revolutionary image than one person with a torch.

My name is Gloria Steinem, and this is my brief but spectacular take on right now.

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