Gloria Steinem in Montreal: On feminism, abortion and online activism

Gloria Steinem spoke to a sold-out crowd of about 800 people in Montreal for the launch of her new book Tuesday night. Missed it? Here are a few select exchanges.

Feminist icon answers questions from Montrealers at her sold-out book launch

The feminist icon discusses her life on the road in a sold-out talk at Montreal's Rialto Theatre. 2:24

Gloria Steinem spoke to a sold-out crowd of about 800 people in Montreal for the launch of her new book Tuesday night.

The event, hosted by CBC's Jeanette Kelly, was a conversation about Steinem's life of travelling, educating, and being educated herself. Here are a few selected exchanges. There are more in the video above.

Why is abortion still controversial?

Reproduction is the whole political ball game. Patriarchy or whatever you want to call it, these systems are about controlling reproduction and therefore controlling women. It wasn't always this way.

And this is not only to decide how many workers and soldiers and who owns them, but to continue race or caste or class, you have to control who women marry and have children with in order to maintain those systems.

You toured a lot with black and First Nations activists and mention that several times in your book. Why do you remind us that they were with you?

Because they were there first. If you can say one learns feminism or learns about equality, I learned mainly from women in India, from African-American women disproportionately. And it's very depressing to me that it's not presented this way. When we say it's a white movement, it's rendering invisible the women of colour who disproportionately invented and continue to lead.

What are the pros and cons of organizing movements on the web as opposed to in person?

Obviously, there are huge advantages to the web, but it is not the same as being together in a room as we are now. You cannot empathize with each other in the same way when you use all five senses. It isn't about giving up the web, but understanding that pressing send isn't changing anything. Probably the best use of the web is to find each other.

Do men have a place in feminism?

We chose the word feminism because men can be feminists too. It was about including men. The prisons of gender affect them too. There's a full circle of human qualities that we all have. Women have two-thirds denied to them but men have a crucial third denied to them. There are all kinds of incredibly brave male allies who have their whole humanity to gain. In my mind, it never excluded men. It's definitely for all of us.

Tune in to Jeanette Kelly's Cinq à Six program next Saturday on CBC Radio between 5 and 6 p.m. to hear audio segments from the event. 


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.