WHEN I was asked to introduce Gloria Steinem at the annual conference of the American Humanist Association (AHA) and present her with the 2012 Humanist of the Year Award, to say I was thrilled is surely the understatement of the year.
And then I started thinking it made sense-she's a woman, I'm a woman. She was the editor of a magazine you all know--Ms.--I'm the editor of a magazine you all know. She campaigned for Adlai Stevenson and George McGovern; she covered Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign; she did undercover investigative reporting on the Playboy Club. In 1972 Steinem coined the phrase "reproductive freedom" as a member of the National Women's Political Caucus. She's been on the forefront of women's issues for over forty years and is considered the feminist icon of the modern era.
I ... well, naturally, I stopped the comparison right there. But seriously, when I think about women who have influenced me, there are the personal and there are the political, so to speak. And when we think about public figures who have influenced women, Gloria Steinem is right up there at the top. So, as I boasted to anyone who would listen that I was going to meet her, I noticed two things: everyone was impressed, and the women invariably said, "I love her!"
We do love her. We say this and we feel this because of who she is, because of what she's done and what she says. And, as such a positive force, we're also compelled to claim her--as a feminist, as an icon, and yes, as a humanist because her message is one that challenges hierarchy, that challenges authoritarian oppression. To affirm the inherent worth and dignity of all humans-that's the humanist message, right? ]hat's hers too. To focus on the fact that ha/f the human population has never been afforded the same worth and dignity as the other seems like a pretty good place for any humanist to direct her energy. …