Born in 1934 and raised in Ohio, Gloria Steinem said she doesn’t recall much feminist inspiration when she was younger.
“It was pretty awful [in the 1950s] because it was a time in which the country was trying to put back women into the home because they've been working in factories, and trying to put back black men who served in the military,” Steinem said. “It was really very a repressive time.”
But the feminist activist and writer said she became interested in equality and women’s rights movements from a young age.
Steinem, who cofounded Ms. magazine and several feminist organizations, came Monday to Ball State to discuss her book “The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off!” — which features a collection of her quotes and those from other people she admires.
The event, organized by Ball State’s Women and Gender Studies program, was moderated by WaTasha Barnes Griffin, CEO of Muncie’s YWCA and Muncie Community Schools board member, and Mia Johnson, vice chancellor for academic affairs at Ivy Tech Community College in Muncie.
The book, Steinem said, emphasizes subjects like feminism and intersectionality through personal essays that accompany the quotes. Steinem said she decided which quotes to put in her book based on which quotes she found herself repeating.
“I hope that if people don't already know those people, they will love them to find their other quotes,” she said.
Her editor at Random House, Steinem said, suggested she write the book. Even though the task turned out to be harder than she anticipated, she said she loved writing it because of her appreciation of quotes.
“I think [quotes] truly are poetry of everyday life,” she said. “It's that way of saying something very short — if its important or funny or outrageous — and if you poured water on those words that would become a book.”
At the end of the book are blank pages, where Steinem said readers can put their own quotes.
The first part of the title of the book “The Truth Will Set You Free,” reflects history, she said — from words in the Bible to phrases on signs protesting the Vietnam War. She said it also accepts the role that anger has in society.
“I added ‘But First It Will Piss You Off’ because I just think that’s what happens, and I think that anger is a sign of healthiness,” Steinem said.
Junior English education major Emily Badger found out about Steinem’s presentation last minute, and dropped everything to attend, she said. Her favorite part about the conversation was when Steinem equated quotes with poetry.
“I think when she said that, that was just like a little snippet that I can carry with me and just think about,” Badger said. “As someone who has been thinking more and more about activism, and my role in it and as a feminist, it's important to do small things even like this — just going to a talk — because it inspires me to actually go out and do something as opposed to just tweeting about something.”