Gloria Steinem Looks to Encourage New Generation of Activists

by | August 15, 2011 at 1:57 PM | TV News

Gloria Steinem (Annie Liebovitz/HBO)

Gloria Steinem (Annie Liebovitz/HBO)

Gloria Steinem is brilliant, beautiful, and not shy about admitting she’s 77 years old. “Everyplace I go I tell my age because I figure it’s like a form of coming out,” she recently told reporters at the Television Critics Association Press Tour. It’s also her way of still waving the flag of a movement she helped start in the 1960s. “This generation of young women is much more feminist than we ever were,” she says. But older women continue to face an uphill battle. “Age is still more of a penalty, generally speaking, for women than for men,” she says. “One only has to look at what actors are working and what couples look like.”

Outspoken, fascinating, and a catalyst for thought and change, Steinem is the subject of a documentary about her life (“Gloria: In Her Own Words“) airing on HBO tonight at 9/8c. “It’s scary to give up total control and submit your life to somebody else,” she says of the project. Initially, Steinem frowned at a film about her impact on the women’s liberation movement. “I said, ‘No, that won’t work because the whole movement is too big and too diverse for anybody,” she says. She changed her mind when the focus was narrowed to just her life. “I just answered questions,” she explained. “I kind of supplied the trees, and Sheila Nevins [HBO documentaries chief and "Gloria" co-executive producer] and HBO said, ‘OK, we think this is the forest.’”

The film uses a mixture of interviews with Steinem and archival footage collected from the forty-plus years of her feminist crusade to chart her journey from reporter to women’s liberation leader. It also takes an inside look at her own personal struggles, including an abortion at 22, cancer at 50, and the death of her husband David Bale in 2004. “I like the form very much,” she said. “It is in your own words. I just think it’s so important to tell our stories. Otherwise people look at somebody who has done something and they think, Well, I couldn’t do that because they’re different than me. So it seems very important to be truthful so that other people feel empowered by that…That people will see an imperfect person with all kinds of different things who did this, and then they will say, Okay, if she did that, maybe I can do it, too, and figure out what the future should be.”

And the takeaway? “[I hope] that people will look at it and say, Okay, we’ve come this far in thirty or forty years,” she says. “Now where do we want to go?”

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