On March 7, in front of a room of 1,200 admirers, mostly women, writer and activist Gloria Steinem spoke at Wayne State University about parenthood, the women's movement, sexual harassment, and making sense of the current U.S. presidency.
Steinem, one of America's most well-known social activists, has been an icon of the women's movement since the 1960s. She was a columnist for New York magazine and a co-founder of Ms. magazine.
With a sense of humor, and without judgment, she analyzed and synthesized a host of topics at the WSU event presented by FOCIS (Forum on Contemporary Issues in Society).
Dubbed "#MeToo and Time's Up: The Future of Feminism," the event included a keynote address by Steinem and a panel discussion moderated by Pamela Trotman Reid, senior scholar for the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development at WSU. Steinem was joined on the panel by professors Georgia T. Chao, Michigan State University, and Lilia Cortina, University of Michigan.
When audience questions were fielded around educating and raising children, Steinem had some specific thoughts. One question asked how mothers raise conscious children, and Steinem quickly counter asked, "Why is it only mothers. It's parents."
She talked about children doing what they see and the importance of strong male role modeling around men treating other people equally. For single mothers, she suggested exposing their kids to nurturing men.
"The more we can make sure that kids have role models of behavior that are open and free and human, and not confined by sex and race and all these boxes, the more free they will be."
Many themes of the hour-long discussion returned to the importance of connections and creating community.
When asked about how educators can best develop young women and men for the future, Steinem suggested, "If those desks are not rooted down with nails, put them in a circle," instead of a linear, hierarchical set up.
This article is part of Michigan Nightlight, a series of stories about the programs and people that positively impact the lives of Michigan kids. It is made possible with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Read more in the series here.