The Golden Rule is a good one, but for women and others in oppressed groups, its reversal might be a better one, said Gloria Steinem: Treat yourself as well as you do others.
The renowned feminist dispensed advice and opinion to a full house Monday at the Lied Center.
The feminist movement is far from over, but it has moved into its second stage, Steinem said. Instead of having to deal with those who argue that "things will always be this way," she said, women now have to fight against the assumption that all necessary gains have been made.
In fact, Steinem said, women still are shortchanged in the workplace where they make on average only 70 cents for every dollar men earn, health care policies disproportionally affect women, and homemakers are not yet recognized as part of the work force.
As for reproductive rights, the United States has "moved backward light years" in the three decades since Roe v. Wade, Steinem said in an interview earlier in the evening.
"We are moving back to something we have never had before," she said, pointing to the relationship conservative politicians are trying to establish between the law and an embryo.
Steinem, who was brought to Kansas University by the Student Lecture Series and was paid about $18,000 for the address, also discussed parallels between the feminist movement and struggles against racism and homophobia.
And although she turned the lecture into something of an organizational meeting, it was not all business.
She drew several outbursts of laughter from the audience by poking fun at both herself and the Republican Party, against which she has been highly outspoken.
When asked in the interview about hopes for the next presidential election, she quipped, "Well certainly the top three are no George Bush, no George Bush, no George Bush."
The last several minutes of the evening were devoted to audience questions, many of which focused on how to organize and make a stand on a local level.
Tell your stories, and then draw a wider circle and see who is telling a similar tale, Steinem said; make use of dollar and voter power.
Audience members, who were mostly women, applauded throughout the speech. Their perspectives on today's feminist movement tended to vary with their generation.
Women today have a greater sense of equality and activism is still around, said Kate Freund, a KU freshman from Topeka.
Yet her mother, Nancy Freund, said today's women tended to be more passive, and a nearby friend said many didn't know their history.
Women today "take for granted what we went through," said Vicki Wheeler, Topeka.
But Steinem spoke for both sides, saying she would rather women have high expectations for the future than a grasp of feminism's history.
And she pointed out that she didn't get involved in the movement until she was about 30 years old.
"Life will radicalize you," she said.