October 1, 2020
Iconic feminist, journalist, and activist Gloria Steinem joins Jameela this week to discuss the importance of sharing abortion stories as well as protecting abortion rights, the problems facing sex workers, white feminists joining black feminists in the work they are doing, and “hard” conversations vs. the joy of learning.
26 — Gloria Steinem
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of “I Weigh” with Jameela Jamal, I hope you’re well. I’m all right. I had a slightly annoying week. Not bad at all. In fact, wonderful. But I’m, I’m, I’m frustrated. So on Sunday, the Emmys were on and I decided to get all dressed up with literally nowhere to go ’cause the Emmys were happening virtually. So I sat in my pajamas and thought I’ll just do a full hair and makeup and I’ll do it with everyone on Instagram. So I posted a picture of me straight out the shower, wet hair, no makeup, just letting everyone know it’s going to happen. And I was inundated with, with lovely comments about my, you know, my skin being clear. And it’s not something I prioritize about myself. I sometimes have clear skin. I often don’t. It really depends on my digestive system and my hormones, as with many people in the world. But there were so many comments of like girls kind of doing a, you know, just like a funny kind of cry face of “why is her skin so clear? I wish my skin looked like that”. I was kind of like, I should probably say something. So to one of the girls who mentioned how, how clear my skin was. I just said basically my skin is currently clear because privileged people have more access to good quality nutrition and also our lives are significantly less stressful than the lives of those with less privilege. I also get to sleep more because of this. All these things keep my hormones in balance and I’m also able to address food intolerances easily. And then I also said, well, b, I believe that trans rights are human rights, and C, I exfoliate twice a week. Right? So I really just meant nothing condescending or bad with this comment. I only meant, and it was also met with just so much love and so much, you know, just so many sweet DMs. And I think it was important to say, because we don’t talk about this, especially when it comes to the beauty industry, we don’t talk about the fact that the people we are supposed to live up to are, have all this help. I mean, aside from just the amount of airbrushing and Photoshop that they use, even in, like anti-aging cream adverts, which shouldn’t be fucking legal, that’s insane that you’re allowed to use airbrushing on foundations or anything to do with the skin. Literal false advertising. But on top of that, these people have nutritionists, they have health care providers. They have, you know, I don’t know, skin care people who do all kinds of peels and prods and facials, etc. And they’re also not working four jobs to raise four children on four hours sleep. These all, these, these things all make a massive impact on the way that your skin is going to feel and look, sometimes. Of course, some people just have, you know, genetics involved, but many of us live far less stressful lives than most because of privilege. And so the whole setup of this industry that deliberately never talks about this because transparency would ruin the sales of just quick, quick fix nonsense products, you know, like the ones that you’re rid of cellulite or anti-aging creams, most of which are just bullshit. They deliberately don’t let you know. Don’t let you in on all of the stuff that happens behind-the-scenes before a celebrity comes to you presenting perfectly or whatever or whatever we deem is societally perfect at the moment. And then they sell you this simple product and they’re like, all you need to do is just use this cream and you’ll look exactly like me. Bullshit. That is bullshit. No one single product is likely to ever be able to completely make up for all of the teams that help them look the way that they do. So I really just enjoy consistently pulling back the curtain and just saying this is, this is what’s actually going on. So thank you. Loveliest response. One of the loveliest responses to anything I’ve ever, ever done. From women. From men on Twitter and in my DMs, there have been, it’s been an onslaught of abuse, of people being like, oh, shut up or just take the compliment, compliment, or saying, stop bragging about how much privilege you have. I’m not fucking bragging. It’s no secret that I have privilege. I’m a fucking actress. It is so frustrating and boring and shortsighted for them to try to silence anyone who breaks the myth, who interrupts the myth of beauty of how women look or detaches from the fantasy, or someone just being honest or having integrity, like the vitriol it inspires. It just made me feel so sad about the kind of state of affairs that we still insinuate that there is so much just manipulation behind everything a woman does. I’m not out for anyone to trust my intention. The amount people kind of reading into my tone as condescending or deciding my intentions for me, people who have never met me or who don’t even follow me, don’t even know anything about me. It’s just such a sign that as, as a society, we haven’t moved as far as we can when it comes to misogyny and this just like inherent mistrust of women that, you know, started back in the Garden of Eden. You know, bloody Eve, bloody Eve dragging Adam of course, ruining everything for everyone. You know, I’ve said this before, but we don’t have the benefit of the doubt left for women, because we spent it all on men. And I really felt that and saw that in the last couple of days in just the disgusting way I’ve been spoken to about really what was my intention to just have an honest, transparent conversation with a teenager who was being really sweet about my skin. So anyway, it didn’t, it hasn’t gotten to me that much. It just made me feel a bit bummed out about how suspicious even women can be of other women and how much work we will have to do to just kind of wonder to ourselves, why do we find it so grating when someone’s trying to help and why when they do try to help, do we have to nit pick the way in which you’re helping? I’m not saying you can’t criticize. We must criticize. But why do we only nit pick the way that they’re doing it rather than ever zoom out to realize what is the bigger impact of their action? Who is it designed for and is it helping those people? But I’m fucking glad I said it because it made loads of people feel better. And I’m glad to blow all bullshit out the window. Speaking of misogyny, on today’s episode, I am talking to the Queen of the fight against the patriarchy, or at least one of many queens of the fight against patriarchy. She’s someone I’ve looked up to for the longest time and I admire so much. She’s had such an interesting career, full of so many fascinating shifts and so many moments of great accountability and public growth than she has been through so much when it comes to people always again, doubting her intentions, insinuating that she must be wrong and evil and bad and dangerous. And she’s just muscled through all the way into her 80s, consistently spending about six decades fighting for the rights of women. She is one of the leading white feminists to ever remind everyone that black women are at the forefront of feminism and that we don’t need to bring white feminism to black women. White feminists need to join black feminists who are where it’s at. She was saying this decades ago, long before this year, where people are starting to wake up. She is, she’s someone who sometimes, sometimes I have not always entirely agreed with. But I think that’s also a beautiful part of our friendship. I’ve, I’ve gotten to know her over the last year since she’s, you know, booked me to moderate a couple of things for her and I was, in fact, you know, oh, my God, I was interviewing her on stage at big, the Ace Theater in Los Angeles. And this is really embarrassing. But as we were walking on stage and you know, I had to, she asked me if she could hold onto my arm because she’s in need of a little bit of assistance. She’s in her 80s, so she was like, “May I hold your arm”? And I was like, “Yes”, I was so nervous, I only just met her, I looked up to this woman for so long. And as we were walking onto the stage in front of 2,000 people, I let out a fart. I farted while holding Gloria Steinem’s hand. Oh, sorry. Yes, it’s Gloria Steinem. Shit. That’s the guest. I can’t believe it. Gloria Steinem is on our podcast. But yes, so I’m holding Gloria Steinem’s hand and I let out a cheeky little fart and it smells. It makes itself known. It’s not loud, but it has a presence of sorts. And then we go and we sit down and we just do the interview. And I spend at least 40 minutes of the interview before finally just admitting on stage that it was me, because there was a part of me that was hoping she might think it was her or just not notice it or smell it at all. But she did. And she’s very gracious about it. And that was my first ever meeting with Gloria Steinem. So that was cool. But that’s what happens when I get very, very nervous and I’m instantly regretting telling any of you that story. I don’t know if it was worth it, but oh, I’m sweating. Anyway, she talks to me in this episode about her extraordinary career. All of the lessons that she has learned, the mistakes that she’s made and overcome, the things that she is still learning about. You know, we have some different stances on how to protect sex workers and how to move forward as allies of the sex worker community because we both care about them. But our approaches are slightly different. And we kind of get into that on the podcast. And just generally, what a rare life story. What a rare human being, what a level of stoicism and survival. This woman, I mean, she’s, even this year had the pandemic not happen, she was going to get on a bus and go around all of the swing states in America and start campaigning for feminism and for people to, to stop engaging in patriarchy and misogyny and all of the bigotry that we are seeing in the world right now. And so I’m thrilled to know her. I’m so honored that she’s on my podcast. And I’m so, so sorry that I’ve kind of farted on her and then hope that she’d blame herself. So on that note, here is the absolutely extraordinary, iconic and kind and generous Gloria, bloody, Steinem. Gloria Steinem, you are an activist and author and one of the truly, truly the greatest feminist of all time, and it’s an honor to have you here at the “I Weigh” podcast. Thank you for joining me.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:10:36] It’s a great honor to hear you say that. But I am not the greatest feminist of all time. I’m very lucky because I get to do what I love and really care about. And that’s a gift.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:49] It is indeed. And I think what I have grown to find so inspiring about you in my own work is not only the way that you make sure to send to the work of other people, the way that you admit that you are fallible and you will apologize for your mistakes or the things that you do not yet know. You are always open to learning. I mean, even when we sat down together at the Ace Hotel and I moderated your book launch, you were talking to me about how during the audience Q&A you hope to learn from the audience rather than teach them.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:11:17] That’s the great gift of the discussion time after any lecture or any talking circle. It’s a gift. I mean, we don’t learn from sameness. We don’t learn-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:11:27] From echo chambers.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:11:28] While we’re talking. We learn while we’re listening.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:11:31] Yeah, absolutely. And also, it’s your sustained devotion to the cause that I think makes you so inspiring to me, because I can say now from my experience of, I’ve been an activist for about 14 years, but it’s really been the last three years that I’ve been in the middle of mainstream scrutiny. And it is a very exhausting and taxing existence. It’s 100 percent worth it, 110 percent worth it. And it’s not, it’s vital. And it feels like more of a duty than anything else. But it is exhausting. And I don’t know how the fuck you’ve managed to exist for decades of it.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:12:11] Well, it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting. But I think it does get a little better because people believe you more as you continue to be in the same place. If you know what I mean?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:12:22] Yeah.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:12:22] So. Or maybe you just wear them down. I don’t know. But I, I do think that trust is a very important feeling. And when you’ve been consistent for quite a long time, people are more likely to trust you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:12:40] Mmhmm. And I know that people doubted you a lot, especially in the beginning. And sometimes people would say that you were too attractive to possibly be allowed to engage in feminist discussion.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:12:52] Well, the, the hurtful thing was that I was only being successful or recognized to the degree that I was because of my looks. But if you hang in there long enough, you get old and then they can’t say that anymore.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:07] I mean, for whatever it’s worth, I think you still look bloody great. But I do hear what you’re saying. I think it’s also, you know, because they can’t kill us anymore, they like to just discredit us. And that seems to be the weapon used against women now, it’s more insidious.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:13:24] There was one woman I remember who stood up in an audience and kind of saved my life by saying, “It’s important that somebody who can win the game and win, says the game isn’t worth shit”. I said, “Oh, thank you. Now I have a function”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:40] Oh, that’s great. I love that. Well, thank you for being here today. Just to educate me and all of our, all of our listeners. I make this podcast, and I guess the movement that I have, which is called “I Weigh”, is about shame. And it’s about all the different types of shame that we have. Shame is something that I think has seeded in us from the outside, and it’s something that we sometimes tend to grow and water and feed ourselves until it kind of devours us whole. And to, I mean, there are so many different types of shame that I know that you have fought on behalf of other women. And for those who aren’t given the platform that you are given, but one of the ones I think this year that is the most important to discuss is the shame around abortion. And I know that this is something that is close to your heart and something that you care a lot about. And this is certainly the year that we need to be the most aggressive in fighting for the rights of pro-choice, because we’re rolling backwards in a way that I just didn’t anticipate now. And I’m sure in your lifetime, having had to yourself have an illegal abortion. And then, because it was outlawed, and then watch the law change, pro-abortion or pro-choice at least, and now have it rolled back in 2020, must be quite shocking to you.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:14:57] Well, it is and it isn’t. I think that I now finally have realized that, that controlling reproduction is the first step in every authoritarian regime. It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it was National Socialism in Hitler’s Germany or whether it is the Catholic Church or any hierarchy starts with controlling reproduction because we have wombs, you know, and, and we happen to have a monopoly on wombs. And the control of our bodies becomes representative of that first step.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:32] Something that I think is important is more of us coming out and sharing our abortion stories because we are facing an influx like I’ve never seen of misinformation around abortion, shaming, they’re now starting to, you know, post more and more pictures of, of a fetus at three weeks and six weeks. And it’s got, you know, like a bow tie on and a beard and, you know, a job. It’s got a W-9. So all this misinformation about how developed the fetus is and how the heart beat means that that is a sentiment being and therefore it’s life. It’s almost more important than yours. This is the information that’s going out there and how terrible you are. And all these, these false, these false reports about all the mental health statistics that happen to women after they’ve, or those who’ve had abortions, after they’ve done the, had the abortion, that they then face like depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:16:27] No, it’s quite the contrary.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:16:27] No. It’s relief. Relief has the overwhelming impact and side effect of abortion.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:16:32] And the depression comes from being forced into a role that you didn’t choose.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:16:36] Yeah, forced birth is what would cause depression in many people that I know of who had babies that they were just too afraid to not have. And it’s amazing to me how they underestimate, they’re just like, “Well, then just give it away” as though that’s easy. You go through 10 months of creating a baby, your health changes, your hormones change, your bodies change, your life changes, perhaps derails your entire career and you know, your relationship with the world as it is. And then you’re supposed to, you naturally develop often a chemical bond with this creature and you’re supposed to just pass it off into an imperfect system. Foster care can be brilliant and foster parents can be amazing, but there can also be terrible trauma stories that come from being in foster care, both for the person who had to give up the baby and for the baby itself.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:17:19] No, it’s, unless we control our bodies from the skin in, we can’t control our lives from the skin out. I mean, it just, it’s not possible. And, and it always makes me think of the great Irish woman, taxi driver, who turned around to Flo Kennedy and me and said as we were having a discussion, just like you and I are now, and said, “Honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:43] Mmhmm.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:17:44] I mean, you know, it’s, it’s a question of, of control. I mean, of course, it’s the basis of democracy, of just common sense that each of us has to have control of our own bodies and voices.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:58] I agree. And then the argument against that is, well, the fetus isn’t being given democracy. It’s like, well, the fetus hasn’t been here all this time.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:18:06] No, but as long, no, but as long, as long as, as the fetus is dependent on our blood circulation, heart, lungs, you know, then we have obvious right and need to decide how our body is being used.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:24] Absolutely. I completely agree. I, I’m glad that you spoke out about having had your own abortion. Do you mind me asking you about it?
GLORIA STEINEM [00:18:32] No, no, not at all.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:33] What the circumstances were. Was it an emergency? Was it just decision you made because you weren’t ready for a child?
GLORIA STEINEM [00:18:38] No. I had graduated from college and was engaged to a very, very nice man who I knew I shouldn’t marry. It wouldn’t be good for either one of us.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:50] Right.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:18:51] So I was offered a fellowship to India, so I fled to India, where I eventually lived for two years. And while I was waiting for my visa in London, I realized that I was pregnant and I did not have a clue what to do. You know, I mean, I thought, oh, I should go horseback riding in the park or I should throw myself downstairs or, you know, I had not a clue.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:19:18] All these ways to risk your life.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:19:21] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:19:21] And it wasn’t legal at the time.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:19:22] And it wasn’t legal. No. Actually, in London it was slightly easier because if you could prove that your life was at stake, you could have a legal abortion, which wasn’t true even, even that was not true in this-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:19:35] Unbelievable.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:19:36] But I didn’t know that. And I kept thinking, well, I’ll go to Paris. I thought certainly Paris was like a, you know, liberal city, not realizing it was a Catholic city. I mean, I hadn’t an idea, but I went to a party given by a terrible American playwright, whose play was so terrible he couldn’t get it done in New York and he had to go to London to get it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:02] Right.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:20:02] And, and, and he was busily complaining about the fact that two of the women in the cast, he had to find abortions for before the play opened and he was bitterly complaining. So my ears perked right up. And in that way, I discovered that it was possible. So I went home and looked in, what would be the yellow pages, is what people would call. And I found the name of a doctor near where I was staying with friends and I went to see him and he said, you know, “You know, this is a risk. You know, it’s illegal and so on. But if you promise me that you will never tell anyone my name. And that you will do what you want to do with your life. I will sign the permission”. You know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:50] I love that.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:20:50] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:52] And so he did it?
GLORIA STEINEM [00:20:53] He did it. Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:54] And how did you feel afterwards?
GLORIA STEINEM [00:20:58] I, you know, I tried to. I’ve, I tried to dredge up some feeling of guilt, but I couldn’t-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:06] Same.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:21:06] Right. I was just, I just felt free and, and grateful to him and celebratory that I had my life back and that I could get on the plane and, you know, go to, to India and go on with my life. No, I’ve, even, even, even in those days when you were supposed to feel guilty. So you tried very hard to make yourself feel guilty. I couldn’t. I couldn’t.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:34] I, I almost felt like I had to pretend to feel guilty for the people around me. I had to pretend to be more traumatized by it than I was. I’m lucky that I was able to achieve it, not to achieve, I was lucky that I was able to access a legal abortion that was in a proper clinic where I wasn’t hidden away or anything and I was able to be unconscious during it. So it really kind of felt like it almost didn’t happen and there was no pain afterwards. But I just felt relieved. And since then, I’ve continued to feel relief. And I don’t think it’s the act that makes us feel guilty. I think it’s our society, because-.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:22:11] Well, in any case, I mean, perhaps some people feel guilty and some don’t. But the important thing is to be able to be honest about whatever it is we feel.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:18] Yes, I agree.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:22:20] I mean, that’s the whole, the whole point. It’s, it means something different, perhaps in the lives of different people. But the important thing is to be able to tell our own stories honestly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:34] I agree. And one of the reasons that I spoke out about mine, you know, similarly with yours, is that it wasn’t a decision of my life wasn’t in any danger. My health wasn’t in any danger. I just knew that I was mentally ill. I was not financially stable enough to really have a baby in comfort. I wasn’t mentally well enough to do it. Mentally stable. I wasn’t emotionally stable. I wasn’t in the right relationship with someone that I could count on for support that I would need. And I didn’t want children. So naturally, you can tend to resent someone that deprives you of sleep for several years after it’s born. But if you really don’t want that in your life, I don’t think that that’s a necessary thing for you to have to derail your existence for.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:23:17] No, it’s not. It’s like, you know, just because we all have wombs doesn’t mean we have to be mothers, just like we all have vocal cords, doesn’t mean we’re all opera singers.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:23:28] Yeah. Exactly.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:23:29] It’s a gift.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:23:30] And I’m not sure if I will ever want children, it’s still something that I feel uncertain about. And that makes me feel doubly happy that eight years ago I made that decision, considering I still don’t feel that maternal urge yet. And I really talk about it so casually, not because I’m trying to rile anyone up, not because I’m trying to dismiss this as a, as something that isn’t a big decision. I know it is, but because I think we need more stories of women doing it, not because of an emergency, but sometimes just because, A, they could, they had the right to and B, because that was what was best for them. And our needs are never prioritized in any circumstance.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:24:06] No, no, it’s crucial and also nature aborts, what? About a third of all pregnancies anyway. You know, it isn’t as if every fertilized egg, even in the eyes of nature, you know, progresses.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:20] And the laws that they’re trying to bring in now in Alabama are that if nature were to perhaps create a miscarriage in you, but you happen to have maybe smoked some marijuana within a couple of days of that happening, then you can be done. You can be charged.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:24:34] Well, that’s just all an excuse to-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:36] Insanity.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:24:37] Control us and control reproduction. They’re just all elaborate excuses, you know, taking away clinics or closing them, you know, except for one day a week or propagandizing. It’s just all a way of taking the first step in an authoritarian regime which is controlling women’s bodies to control reproduction.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:57] I remember you talking about how Hitler used abortion, that was one of the first things that he implemented in his regime, was abortion being banned of white aryan people
GLORIA STEINEM [00:25:08] Excuse me. Yes, he, he among his first acts after he was elected was to padlock all the family planning clinics and declare abortion a crime against the state with the death penalty for the doctor, and prison for the woman, because, now we’re talking about Aryan women, of course. Then if in prison they could be forcibly, they could be forced to have children. And he was about reproducing the Aryan race, even though he was the least Aryan looking guy you’ve ever seen.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:40] I know. It’s so ridiculous. I, I also know that there are dark histories with abortion in America where, you know, there were certain people who were pro-abortion, just of people of color. And that history has now been brought back up. But I feel like that has now been reversed.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:25:58] But it was both things.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:59] Yeah.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:26:00] Both things. Because it was important to slave owners that their slaves have children because they were property.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:08] Mmhmm.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:26:09] So whichever way it went, it was about control.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:13] Mmhmm. Oh, for sure.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:26:14] So, so women in slavery were also forced to have children.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:19] OK. I’m just going to stop you there. And we’re going to go to a little break. And we’re back. You are someone who said before that, after a kind of win or a success for the oppressed, is when the oppression doubles down.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:26:38] Well, after any victory, there’s a backlash.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:40] Yeah, exactly.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:26:40] I think. That’s a dangerous time. Right after a victory.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:44] And I think, like, post Me Too, post Time’s Up, like post Black Lives Matter, like post these movements coming up-.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:26:49] But we’re not post yet though.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:50] No, I know. What I’m saying is that post the emerge, like the, the, those, post those movements emerging and becoming mainstream and all of us talking about it, and becoming galvanized about it, and suddenly you have women speaking out in a way that we haven’t seen in a very long time, in the, on this scale. They’re now doubling down with misinformation and mass shaming. And I wonder, knowing that a lot of women or people with uteruses who follow me do so because of the fact that I champion the right to have an abortion. I wonder what your words of advice would be to anyone who’s listening to this today, who is struggling with the shame around abortion that they’ve inherited from our society.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:27:28] There’s no reason on Earth that you should have this shame. It is your absolute right to make decisions over your own body and the people who tell you otherwise should be ashamed.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:27:44] Yeah, I agree. Another thing that has come up this year, you know, within the feminist agenda of the things that we are discussing, we’re discussing a lot about race, which is incredibly important, a lot about abortion and abortion rights. And also sex work is something that has come up as a topic that I see more and more in the mainstream and it’s, and we’re having more and more people with big platforms speak out about their opinions on the matter. And it feels as though feminism is sort of divided. As ever it is, I’m sure, on every cause. But feminists are very divided currently on this subject. And it’s something that I wanted to discuss with you, because I’d like to learn from you. And also, I myself am learning from people who’ve come from an existence that I don’t personally experience. And I hear their stories and I kind of want to work out with you a way to benefit everyone. Now, where do you stand currently on the sex work industry?
GLORIA STEINEM [00:28:41] Well, I mean, obviously, we, as we were just saying, we have a right to use our own bodies.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:46] Exactly.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:28:47] In anyway. And the question is, is it free will or not? It’s interesting because when I first started to think about this, which was decades ago, I’ve thought, and Flo Kennedy, my teacher and comrade and so on, we all thought sex work was a great phrase. And people work, sex workers work like any other work. Right? And then we went to Las Vegas, to Nevada, which has the one county in this country in which it’s legal. And what was happening there was that because it was work, like any other, women were being forced off welfare and into it. In other words, if you call it work and you don’t do it, you can be de, be deprived of, of unemployment, welfare and other benefits. So suddenly I began to realize that there were consequences of, of language, in, in this case. Then the same thing happened in Germany and in Holland, where calling it work meant if you didn’t do it, you didn’t get unemployment or you didn’t get, if you see what I mean. So there, we just, it doesn’t mean we have to change our language, but it doesn’t mean we have to think about the legal meaning of, of, of work. If you see what I mean? And then also the question of whether the people in it are in it as, by free will or not, because actually most are not. Most are trafficked. Most are very young girls who have been trafficked and who are totally controlled and whose life expectancy is less than a man in combat. So in other words, there’s no, you have to look at the individual situation, I think. There’s no single answer. You have to look at the truth that is being lived.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:55] I agree. I agree. And I understand, you know, I know that a lot of women, a lot of feminist support the Nordic model. And I understand I see there’s, there’s a lot of logic within the Nordic model that would fight against sex trafficking. But the problem that we’re finding, I guess, is that we’re leaving out some people who aren’t necessarily trafficked into sex work. Obviously, there are some people who choose sex work and that is their right and they’re doing what they do with body.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:31:23] No, but the Nordic model does include them because it says that it’s their right show and it decriminalizes. It decriminalizes the prostituted person.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:31:32] 100 percent. And that’s something that I support massively. I support the decriminalization of sex work, sex workers. But then you have people who aren’t trafficked, who choose to be in sex work, or there are some people who wouldn’t necessarily choose to be in sex work, but because perhaps they are black or because they are trans or black and trans.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:31:53] Well, it’s mostly economic need. I mean-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:31:55] Exactly.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:31:55] People don’t get up in the, you know, little girls don’t say I dream of being a pro-, or boys, you know? It’s, it mostly has to do with economic need.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:06] For sure.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:32:06] And, and actually all the, across Europe, that, nothing is perfect. No law can make sense of inequality and lack of power, lack of equal power. And neither can the Nordic model. It’s been adapted throughout Europe and also in South Korea, and many other places, because it’s the most practical, because it does decriminalize the prostituted person.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:36] Absolutely. But then it still criminalizes the person who is soliciting the sex.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:32:42] It doesn’t criminalize, it penalizes. In other words, they’re not sent to prison. They’re fined.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:47] They’re fined. OK, so, is, so the problem, the only issue that I know that sex workers are having with, with penalizing the-.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:32:59] Customer.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:59] The customer, let’s say, is the fact that then that sends the customer further underground and it’s harder to be able to meet the customer out and about, to screen the customer. It is harder to be able to find housing because you are unable to have a, another sex worker with you to keep you safe in a situation with a customer because if there’s more than one sex worker on the premises, then that premise is considered a brothel and therefore either one sex worker can be considered the pimp and then they can be criminalized, they can be charged. I think that’s correct.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:33:34] I don’t know.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:35] From, from what I’ve been reading.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:33:37] That’s a very specific situation.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:39] This is just within New York where we’re sitting currently. This is something that I’ve only just started learning about from studying with Decrim. Decrim New York, a, an organization trying to decriminalize sex workers. So the issue with penalizing the customer, I’m 100 percent up for criminalizing the pimp or the person who is in charge of the money or anything to do with the life of the sex worker. I believe that sex work should be available to those who need it as a means to survive. But, and I disagree with the concept of a pimp. I think they should be allowed to work just like a hair and makeup artist, where they should be able to freelance from their own house or from their own kitchen. But by having the person who is looking for sex, by having the customer put in a position where they are being penalized and maybe their name can go on any kind of record, that is going to send them further underground. And that seems to be putting sex workers in a more dangerous situation.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:34:39] It’s interesting that, it’s the sex workers that are complaining, not the, not the Johns.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:34:45] Well, I’m sure the Johns are, but the Johns don’t want to admit that they’re the Johns. Don’t want to get penalized.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:34:51] Well, the Johns just have to get together and have a lobby.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:34:57] What do you mean?
GLORIA STEINEM [00:34:57] Well, I mean, it’s, it’s, you know, they can’t expect everybody else to work on their behalf. They have to speak up. You know, it’s only, the studies say there’s about 16 percent of men in this country who, who have ever gone to a prostitute.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:13] Well, those are the ones who have ever admitted to it. Like, I’m, I’m sure, you know, you asked me yesterday when we were on the phone, like do I know any men who’ve gone to a sex worker? And I was like, no. But also, there’s loads the don’t tell me. God knows.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:35:27] But the two of us are sitting here. We’re pretty sure that the men in our lives and there have been a fair number of men in our lives. Right?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:35] Yeah.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:35:35] We’re not, we’re not so desperate that they had to pay for sex.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:43] No, but some people are so desperate that they have to pay for sex for various reasons. They’re not all creeps with vans. I think there are some people who are socially anxious or some people who are not good with, maybe not good at sex and therefore afraid of trying to have sex. And there are some people who have disabilities.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:35:59] Well, it’s nice of you to speak up on behalf of people you don’t know, it’s very generous.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:03] Look, I’m aware of how I must be coming across, but I also just think it’s a valid conversation. Just to explore because, so that, because I think it’s also really important for us to be able to show that two feminists with like, slightly different views on something can just enter discourse.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:36:18] No, but no. What do you think? So instead of-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:20] So I also think there are people with disabilities who within a culture that like discriminates against disability throughout the media and society, that want to be able to have sex.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:36:26] But there are lots of women with disabilities too.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:29] No, I know. But also women can sometimes hire the sex work of a man. There are male sex workers. I know they are disproportionately female, but I’m just saying that sometimes, that male, male escorts and male prostitutes, I guess, exist in this world. And so-.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:36:43] It seems to be more about dancing, in my experience. It’s, women, women like to be taken dancing.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:48] Right. Well, either way, there are people who do have a desire to be able to attain sex that they may not be able to socially get. And if there are other people who are willing to provide that service, I think that’s fine. It’s the pimp that I have the problem with, and it’s the fear that, that we are now making it harder for us to house women who are sex workers or who people, even fear might be sex workers. I think if this person even has a history of sex work, a landlord can discriminate against them and refuse to give them housing. So we are, we are increasing homelessness. And I understand, you know, from what you were saying to me on the phone, that the reason that it’s important to be protective over giving housing to a sex worker is because you don’t know whether they are there with their consent or not, if they’re just lying to you, that it’s, that they are being, whether or not they’re being trafficked.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:37:43] Yeah. And that’s really not up to the landlord to find out.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:46] Yeah.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:37:47] I mean, that’s not a question-. .
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:47] Exactly.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:37:48] A landlord understands. That has to do with trafficking and age and all kinds of other things. So, you know, I’m just not sure we can expect legislation to reach all of these problems. And it’s much more likely that we can reach them by talking to each other, helping each other, trying to provide housing, to provide support, to look at individual situations-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:18] Which could also maybe perhaps be easier if we didn’t spend so much money, police money and government money on trying to find and fine the Johns or criminalize or not criminalize, or-. I wonder if that money could-.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:38:31] Listen.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:31] Go into housing for women who are forced into sex work.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:38:34] Do you think that much money is being spent on that? No. I mean, are you kidding me? I mean, you know, look, look at Harvey Weinstein. Look at all these men. You know, our problem is not that the police are spending money on sex crimes, but that they aren’t paying any attention to sex crimes. You know, that, rape is a clear crime, has a very, very difficult time getting prosecuted because there’s just not enough energy, money or understanding in the police department.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:09] I agree with you 100 percent that I don’t want to legalize this industry because then that creates a whole other host of issues for sex workers and then can make-.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:39:16] Well.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:17] Trafficking free flow.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:39:18] But we don’t want the people to be, we don’t want sex workers to be arrested. So we do want to decriminalize. Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:23] Yes, decriminalize is different, though, to legalize. And so to decriminalize, I’m happy with that. But I just worry that if we push the customer into the underground, then we still create some sort of a black market. And that is something that I feel afraid of. We create cartels. And so that’s another thing that I hope.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:39:41] Well, you and I together are going to overturn patriarchy.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:45] OK.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:39:45] And that means-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:45] Are we declaring this now?
GLORIA STEINEM [00:39:49] Yes, we are. And that means that gradually sex will be about cooperation, not domination.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:57] I agree.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:39:58] And there have been and continue to be many cultures without prostitution, because people are, first of all, patriarchy doesn’t tell men that sex is about domination. And also, people have enough to eat, without selling the invasion of their bodies.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:17] That, to me, is a huge priority of, A, getting rid of a black market. And B, because I don’t ever see the appetite for sex work going away. As they say, it’s the oldest trait in the world.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:40:28] It’s not true.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:29] OK. I agree.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:40:30] It is not the oldest trade. It’s not the oldest profession. It’s the oldest oppression. And it, in the, as far as I know. And as far as anybody I’ve ever talked to in the hundreds of Native American cultures that were here before Europeans then showed up and patriarchy arrived, there was not rape. There was not prostitution. The, many of the-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:02] And we know for a fact there wasn’t rape?
GLORIA STEINEM [00:41:05] Well, that’s, that, I’ve read tons of reports that, you know, white women fled white settlements to live in Indian settlements because they were safer.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:18] Yeah, I mean-.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:41:19] If we learn this in school, we would have much more a sense of possibility.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:23] I agree. I do always fear sometimes that women, A, either don’t know that they’re allowed to speak out. So I don’t always, I find the idea of a world without rape unfathomable.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:41:35] Why?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:36] Because, because, I can’t imag-.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:41:39] Why?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:39] Because I cannot-.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:41:40] Cooperation is way more pleasurable than submission.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:44] Oh no, I’m not saying that I think we should keep rape, Gloria. I was just saying that I worry whenever we say that, that something happened less, that sometimes it’s also just because women reported it less. Or women weren’t taken more seriously because I do thing-.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:41:58] Oh no, I agree with you about that. Absolutely.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:59] I, I, I do feel like-.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:42:00] Yes, no. And certainly with domestic violence. That’s absolutely true.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:04] Like, I don’t even know how much, I wonder if, I can’t be an authority on this, but I don’t even know if domestic violence has increased or if rape has increased or if women are just talking about it more because they can. Because they’ve got social media or they have social acceptance to speak out about it or they even-.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:42:18] Well, I think, I think statistically from the United Nations statistics anyway.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:22] Yeah.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:42:23] Both things are happening. That is, women are speaking out about it more and it is counted as a crime instead of just human nature.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:32] Yes.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:42:33] So things are changing very, very rapidly. But at the same time, there is so much cumulative violence against women, whether it’s female infanticide or domestic violence or clitoridectomies or, you know, all the forms of violence against females. That for the first time that we know of, there are now fewer females on earth than males. And as far as we know, that hasn’t happened before. So that’s quite scary.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:02] Indeed.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:43:03] So we are at a time of-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:05] You’d wonder why they’re so bloody afraid of us. There’s less of us than you.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:43:09] There’s, there’s, you know, we’re at a time of both hope and danger, which I think, isn’t that the Chinese character for opportunity? Something like that. It’s both hope and danger.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:24] And so, I’m sure you get asked this everyday of your life. I’m sure you ask yourself this every single day of your life. I’m sure it’s your waking thought. I wonder if you ever get holi-, do you ever get holidays?
GLORIA STEINEM [00:43:34] Yes, of course I do. Yeah. No, no. But when you mean holiday, you know, I’ve never actually had a job, so.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:41] I don’t know. I consider what you do a fucking job.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:43:44] No, no. But I mean, I’ve never been employed by someone, I’ve always been a freelance writer.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:48] Right.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:43:49] Or, you know. So.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:50] You’re able to make your own hours.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:43:51] Yeah. So which is very lucky. Nobody can fire me. It makes it harder to pay the rent. But still, it’s a wonderful way to live.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:59] So.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:44:00] So, so, you know, the holidays for me are not necessarily, I love my work. So it’s not necessarily free of work. It just means being with friends and laughing. And, you know, that, that kind of holiday.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:44:17] Yeah, I think I’m, I think I’m trying to learn how to have the same. But I. Well, Gloria, what the fuck do we do? That’s what I want to know.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:44:27] Whatever-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:44:27] That’s what we all want to know. Just what the fuck are we going to do?
GLORIA STEINEM [00:44:29] Whatever we fucking well, please.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:44:31] I know. I agree. That should be it. But currently, where things are starting to roll somewhat backwards, even though we are creating tremendous progress, and I don’t think it’s, it’s fair to ever undermine that. I see the progress. I mean, the fact that I’m a woman of color who’s in my position in itself is a sign of tremendous progress, who’s allowed to just mouth off all the time publicly and hasn’t yet been killed. I, I want to know, how do we organize?
GLORIA STEINEM [00:44:58] Yeah, and I would say progress for me, as a white woman, to get to hear you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:03] Yeah.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:45:04] You know, because that’s how we learn. Right?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:06] That’s something that I love about what you speak about, which is that you believe in women coming together face-to-face. And that’s something that I want to talk about as well on this, because I think that that is truly, as you say, where true change happens is when we are together.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:45:20] And we learn about difference and we also learn we’re not alone.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:25] Mmhmm.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:45:27] And that’s the only way we, we, we know that, you know, by, I mean, we’ve been sitting around campfires for hundreds of thousands of years telling our stories. And that’s the way we learn. And that’s the way we bond with each other. And that’s the way we know we are, we share our humanness.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:50] And something else important that you said to me on stage that day at the Ace Hotel wasn’t just to me, it was to everyone is, think about who it is that you sit with. Think about the people that you have lunch with. Think about how diverse those groups are. Think about the stories that you’re hearing. And make sure that you’re not just in your own echo chamber. And I think that’s really important. And I think that’s starting to change as we more and more introduced the concept of intersectional feminism. And I know that something that you said to me in an interview is that it’s not a matter, you know, obviously we have a, still, we still depressingly have a slight racial divide in feminism, where we have the quote unquote, “white feminism”, and then the rest of feminism.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:46:32] But there’s no such thing. If it’s white feminism it’s not feminism.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:35] Exactly. But, but a lot of feminists feel as though feminism turns into an issue that is there set out to protect white people.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:46:43] But actually, literally black feminists have always, it’s always been disproportionately black women, ever since the first, I think I was quoting this when we were there together.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:55] Yeah.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:46:56] Ever since the first national public opinion poll of women on women’s issues, there have been twice as many black women who said, yes, you know, I support the women’s liberation movement and all the issues of equality as white women. So it’s always been disproportionately black women.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:14] We saw it with the Trump vote.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:47:16] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:16] I think it was 93 percent of black women voted against Trump.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:47:19] Yes. 96 percent, I think, yeah, right. 51 percent of white women voted for Trump.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:25] But what I was gonna say is that in the conversation around, like, how do we bring all of femin-, how do we include women of color in feminism? Your answer was, which I loved. It’s we don’t need to include them, they are where it’s at.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:47:38] They are feminism.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:39] We need to join where they are at.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:47:41] Well, we need to join together.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:43] Exactly. That’s what I mean. It’s not a matter of bringing them in. They’re already there.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:47:46] No. To say to be inclusive gives, sounds sort of as if white people had-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:51] Patronizing.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:47:51] Yeah. Patronizing. Yeah. Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:52] Yeah, exactly. And I appreciate you for us, for that sentiment. As someone who has only recently been able to break into traditionally white spaces of feminism and be accepted. And I think that in no small part-.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:48:05] What’s a traditionally white space of feminism?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:08] What I mean is within circles, within my industry, where they discuss these things. We have been segregated up until now by men and, you know, made to fear one another, made to see differences in each other that don’t really truly exist.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:48:21] No, and we have done it too. I mean, it isn’t just that racism is around us. It’s in us.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:26] Yeah.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:48:26] You know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:26] Exactly. But I think it’s in no small part down to your work of constant inclusion and not just inclusion, including yourself, including others, and, and making sure that you stand on stage with women of color, in particular, black women, black feminists, who were the people that I guess you found the most like solidarity with at the beginning of your work.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:48:48] Well, I learned feminism from, say, Flo Kennedy, who was a decade older than me, smarter, a lawyer, you know.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:56] Kind of your mentor.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:48:56] Funnier. Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:01] Yeah.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:49:01] And others. I mean, that’s how I learned feminism.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:04] And I appreciate that. And it’s always been something that’s, that since you’ve said it, I’ve been very thoughtful about who I am sitting with at the lunch table. And I hope everyone listening to this will also have that in their mind as to how we create that change, it has to be from not only within us, but directly around us. And then together, we are stronger as a force against the patriarchy.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:49:26] Yes. And we, it’s, it’s, I worry that it’s presented as difficult or almost a penalty or painful in some way, when actually it’s joyful, it’s fun.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:39] What is considered difficult or a penalty?
GLORIA STEINEM [00:49:41] That, that people say about race relations, we have to have hard conversations. Who wants to have a hard conversation? No one. You know? But who wants to have a conversation in which you learn, you know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:55] Everyone.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:49:56] And you get expanded and you discover more of the world and more, I mean, everyone. So I would emphasize that learning and the joy in it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:50:07] Yeah, I agree. I mean, I’m having to constantly learn if anyone follows me on social media, they see me having to take a public L or 10 every single week. But I enjoy learning. Sometimes it feels a little bit painful. But generally, it’s good. And I’m growing up as a human being. OK. Before we move on, I’m just gonna go to a little break. Before you go. So I have this movement called “I Weigh”, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with it at all, but it’s this movement I have. It’s a social movement online against shame. And it’s a million or so people who, who submit posts about what they weigh as a person. And so it’s like, for example, I weigh my financial independence, I weigh my activism, I weigh my relationship with my boyfriend and all of my wonderful friends and the eating disorder that I’ve survived. And I was wondering if you would be able to tell me what you weigh.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:51:04] I weigh my love of my age, unexpectedly. I did not expect to love being old. It’s great fun. It’s sort of almost as much fun as being a child.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:17] It’s sad how much women are told to fear it because I’m loving getting older. Today is actually my birthday.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:51:21] Oh, what? And how old are you?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:22] I’m turning? 34.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:51:23] Oh, gosh.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:24] I think it’s fuckin’ brilliant.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:51:27] So happy birthday. That’s fantastic. I bless the day that you were born. I’m so glad you’re here.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:32] Oh, thank you.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:51:33] I’m so glad that our paths got to cross.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:35] Same. Can I ask what you love about your age?
GLORIA STEINEM [00:51:40] I love that I’m past the, you know, I think we’re kind of free when we’re children. You know, up to, say 10 or whatever. And then, the kind of center of life comes down upon us, which means gender, for both males and females, I think. Comes down at like 11, 12, 13. And it kind of doesn’t leave you alone until after 50 or 60. And it’s fun and it’s full of learning and all kinds of things. But still, it is a rural problem descending on you. And then after 60, you’re free again. And all, it’s great. And all the part of your brain that has been up to then devoted to-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:26] Or distracted.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:52:27] Distracted, is free for other things. It’s great. It’s absolutely wonderful.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:31] It’s liberty.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:52:33] Right. Right, right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:34] Tell me another thing that you weigh.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:52:36] I weigh my house. I weigh having-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:41] The house that you bought.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:52:41] Having a nest. Yes. A nest that I love to live in that I can invite friends to stay in and have meetings in. And, you know, I, I weigh that. I weigh not having a job. ‘Cause I don’t have a schedule. I mean, I do, but I have to make it myself.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:04] Mmhmm.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:53:07] I weigh my friends, my chosen family. I love, I could not get along without my chosen family.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:14] Same. And I’m going to say for you, you weigh an extraordinary contribution to women over decades and your work has moved me so much and helped me and soothed me whenever I feel like I can’t carry on. ‘Cause sometimes the force against me can be so hard and so intense. And the backlash and pushback is violent. And it is your words often that are in my head or videos that I’ve watched of you in moments of need that have carried me on. And seeing how long you’ve been able to sustain this journey gives me hope that I’ll do the same. And I will also love being older.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:53:59] Well, that’s a huge, that’s a huge reward for me. I thank you for that. I could not possibly want any better reward than that. And you can always hide out in my house.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:54:14] Thanks. I have a present for you, actually, that I’ll give to you. I don’t have it with me here today, but I will come and bring it to your house another day. Thank you so much for coming onto this podcast. And I’m glad that we got to talk about abortion and sex work and all of the other cheery things that are going on in the world. I’m so glad that this is who we spent my birthday with. I appreciate you much.
GLORIA STEINEM [00:54:36] No, it’s a big honor that it’s your birthday. And I would like to point out that we have ended on a really positive, in a positive place. And that’s a good harbinger for your year to come.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:54:49] Yeah, lots of love. Thanks, Gloria. Thank you so much for listening to this week’s “I Weigh”. I would also like to thank the team, which helps me make this podcast. My producer, Sophia Jennings and Kimmie Lucas. My editor, Andrew Carson. My boyfriend, James Blake, who made the beautiful music you are hearing now, and me, for my work. At “I Weigh”, we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 1-818-660-5543, or e-mail us what you weigh at IWeighPodcast@gmail.com. And remember, it’s not in pounds and kilos, it’s your social contributions to society or just how you define yourself in life. And now we would love to pass the mic to one of our listeners.
I WEIGH COMMUNITY MEMBER [00:55:34] I weigh my good relationship with my parents. My ability to make people laugh. Being an empath and wanting to dedicate my life to helping others. I weigh my health, my ability to menstruate and I know I complain about it a lot, but it’s something that I’m really proud of because it enables me to have a baby, when I get older. And I weigh all my good friendships. My friends that make me laugh, that make me feel happy and comfortable and safe. I love you. Bye.
September 21, 2023
Jameela is joined by campaigner and writer Gina Martin, and in this optimistic conversation about creating change for equal rights around the world, they discuss how anyone can show up and support activism (especially offline in real spaces) and what this activism work can look like.