The Humanist Interview With Gloria Steinem
2012 Humanist of the Year Gloria Steinem sat down with the Humanist magazine at the 71st Annual Conference of the American Humanist Association, held June 7-10, 2012, in New Orleans. The following is an adapted version of that interview recorded on Friday, June 7. Previously solicited questions from leading secular women writers are noted herein. Steinem’s speech in acceptance of the Humanist of the Year award will be published in the November/December issue.
The Humanist: You’re being honored with the 2012 Humanist of the Year award. What led to you accepting this award from the American Humanist Association? Do you feel that your writing and activism as a feminist intersects with humanism?
Gloria Steinem: I always thought that “humanist” was a good word long before I understood that anyone thought it was a bad word. It seems to me that it means you believe in the great potential and the best of human beings, so I didn’t have to overcome anything to accept this award; it seemed an unmitigated honor. And since the ultra-right wing has tried so hard to make it a bad word— “humanist” has been demonized in much the same way that the word “feminist” has—it seemed especially important to identify as humanist and support humanist groups. This is the only national group I know of, but I run into local ones, too.
The Humanist: So let’s talk a little about women in secularism. I attended the first-ever Women in Secularism conference in May, and I’m wondering if it would surprise you to learn that there are problems with sexist behavior within the secular movement, including in online forums and at conferences.
Steinem: No, it doesn’t surprise me to learn that there is bias and sexism everywhere, just like there are problems of racism and homophobia stemming from the whole notion that we’re arranged in a hierarchy, that we’re ranked rather than linked. I think we’ve learned that we have to contend with these divisions everywhere.