Getting My Feminist High With Gloria Steinem and bell hooks

Gloria Steinem and bell hooks at the New School
Gloria Steinem and bell hooks spoke at the New School in early October (photo credit: Alanna Vagianos).

Being able to meet young feminists is inspiring, intense, and hopeful. But getting to see in person two older, second wave feminist idols can be equally if not more extraordinary and enlightening.

Earlier this fall, my high school feminism teacher Ileana Jiménez took our feminism class to see Gloria Steinem and bell hooks in conversation at the New School in New York City. Gloria Steinem still had her famous beautiful glow that I noticed in a documentary about her in our feminism class called Gloria: In Her Own Words. She also still had the energy and passion for women’s liberation at age 80. bell hooks also glowed with a special beauty that I admired especially after reading her work in our class.

Seeing them perched above me was like seeing angels for the first time. As soon as they walked on stage and everyone bursted out with applause and screams, I felt my emotions build up and knew I was in the right place.

I was surprised that I had so much in common with Gloria, but not as much with bell. bell even seemed to have a grudge against Gloria. Gloria had a peaceful energy about her, while bell was still ready to fight.

Gloria articulated a lot of thoughts that I had while taking my high school feminism class, and about myself. She explained that she was “spiritual, not religious,” and bell was quick to snap at her. But I completely agreed with Gloria.

We both believe in the morals of Christianity, but we’re not religious. One of her great lines of the night was “if monotheism looks like imperialism, we’re f**ked.”

She then went on to talk about white Jesus and how we need intersectionality, which examines the intersections of related oppressions. She explained that we have internalized the notion of a white Jesus and that is why she is not religious, but instead, spiritual.

I couldn’t agree more.

She also talked about the female Buddha and Bon, which preceded Buddhism, where Gloria said there is “no he and she in the language.” She also talked about Native American spirituality. In reference to native cultures, where women are respected, especially the elders, Gloria said,  “it takes four generations to heal one act of violence.”

At that point, the crowd was filled with responsive “ahh”‘s.  Both Gloria and I patch together our spirituality out of several religions, and have a similar outlook on the world. With intersectionality already embedded in our minds, it seems that she and I are on the same level regarding the ways in which we regard our spirituality.

Another theme that bell hooks and Gloria Steinem talked about was the role of men in feminism, which I also strongly feel is important. Some things that Gloria said was “men should raise children as much as women do” and “children and the kitchen are our domain, let’s let them have some.”

I especially loved when Gloria said: “Patriarchy has no gender.”

Gloria and I have a shared connection. We both fight with kindness and understanding. We do have anger, but not bell, who seems more radical in her anger. bell and I are both women of color, and I really admire that bell has a strong voice who sparks energy in other women of color. Gloria is a white woman, whose voice is perhaps more easily heard by others.

Being white, black, and Native American, I hear both of their voices, but found that Gloria’s spoke to me the most. It was soft but just as strong. It was patient and intelligent. Gloria is truly a beautiful angel.

Both bell and Gloria filled the room with their energy and left me on a feminist high.

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