Gloria Steinem lectures at Western Carolina University

Women's rights activist, Gloria Steinem, speaks in the Bardo Arts Center. Photo by Alina Voronenko

The story was updated with video footage on March 17, 2014

Women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem took the stage receiving a blazing round of applause from a sold out crowd on Thursday, March 6, at Western Carolina’s Bardo Arts Center.

As anticipated, Steinem talked about inequality in the workforce, gender and race wage-gape and issues on domestic abuse. The overriding lesson is these issues are still a movement and work still needs to be done.

“Movements give birth to movements. Freedom is a very contagious idea,” Steinem said.

When society sees a change, the mindset is that the issue is resolved. Steinem brought up an example saying that by electing a black president, people think racism is no longer valid.

The audience’s reaction to Steinem’s speech carried different impressions. Some had an optimistic view on the speech like Mildred DelForge.

“When a woman speaks and the man speaks, we cannot give the woman as much respect as we give to a man and I am guilty of that myself,” DelForge said.

Steinem brought up inequality in the workforce and she mentioned how much validation a man holds while a woman is seen as being out of place.

On the contrary, some audience members felt differently about Steinem’s lecture. Attendee Cheryl Pile felt that Steinem had a pessimistic outlook and her passion wasn’t there.

“I really don’t think it was an encouraging positive venue,” Pile said.“I felt that it could have been done with a lot more encouragement, enthusiasm and passion about where this new generation will take us in the future.”

Steinem answered questions from the audience to address personal thoughts. The crowd took the time to thank Steinem and showed her respect with a standing ovation.

What makes Steinem a big deal?

The 1960s: “Take It All In” WCU steering committee is credited for bringing Steinem to campus.

“Early in the planning process, when the committee discussed possible guests to feature during our 1960s: “Take it All In” exploration, Ms. Steinem’s name was suggested and met with a lot of enthusiasm,” professor of music and chair of the committee, Amy Cherry, said.

She hopes that Steinem’s work will show students that there is a lot to be done regarding women’s rights and social justice.

Arguably, one of the most well-known American feminists of all time Steinem was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2013.

Steinem is a graduate of Smith College in 1956 where she studied government. This was a non-traditional choice for a woman at that time but Steinem was never known to be a follower of tradition. After graduation Steinem traveled to India and then became a freelance writer for Show magazine writing one of her most known article A Bunny’s Tale in 1963.

Steinem has a long history of prominent achievements. She was co-founder of New York and Ms. Magazine, founder of Take Our Daughters to Work Day, best-selling author including Revolution from within: A Book of Self-Esteem and co-founder of the Women’s Media Center in New York, N.Y. In 1993, Steinem was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca, N.Y. Biography magazine listed her as one of 25 most influential women in America.

Steinem continues to speak on university campuses and is planning a getaway trip for her birthday. She encourages students by offering hope for the future to students who are struggling with equality and gender issues.

“In general hope is a form of planning. If you are hopeful, you are envisioning what could be,” Steinem said during her lecture.

See a short video from Steinem speech at WCU and answering questions from the audience.