Steinem a leader, but don’t call her an ‘icon’

Gloria Steinem, shown in this 2008 photo, says of Hillary Clinton, “People can now imagine a female head of state where they may not have been able to imagine that before.”

Don’t call her an icon of feminism or the instantly recognizable face of women’s liberation.

Don’t even call her Ms. Steinem. Just call her Gloria.

Is she the face of feminism?

“I don’t believe that,” says Steinem, 75. “The face of women’s liberation is every woman, every self-respecting woman. … It’s many different people. And at a personal level, it’s the faces we see every day. Feminism is the most democratic of all movements. It really doesn’t have an icon.”

More about that word.

“I think there’s also been a concerted campaign against the word. We’ve had many, many years of Rush Limbaugh referring to femi-nazis,” she says. “So, it’s quite an accomplishment that even with no definition, about 30 percent of American woman identify as feminists, and with a definition, more than 60 percent. Unfortunately, the pollsters don’t have the wit to ask men.”

She says, “I always wished I were Spanish-speaking, so I could be a mujerista.”

Did women’s lib create a generation of stressed-out working moms?

“Women’s liberation has never advocated doing two full-time jobs. We’ve advocated men being equal parents and also a changed work pattern for both parents of small children,” says Steinem. “The idea of having it all never meant doing it all. Men are parents, too, and actually women will never be equal outside the home until men are equal inside the home.”

On the notion of a Madame President: “I always said there will be several varieties of men before there is any variety of women. And I think that’s what we’ve seen. I also think that Hillary Clinton changed the molecules in this country, and people can now imagine a female head of state where they may not have been able to imagine that before.”

The focus an upcoming speech in Macomb, Mich.: “You could describe it as the current state of the longest revolution.”

Warning! She will ask attendees to get outrageous: Expect to be asked to commit an “outrageous act.” It’s part of a Ms. Foundation campaign for social networking and social change to help further women’s rights.

“Sometimes it’s as simple as telling each other our salaries,” says Steinem, to record the differences between what women and men are paid. “There are some employers who have argued they can fire people if they even tell the one thing they know — which is their own salary. So sharing the information of salary in an office or factory is an outrageous act, yet a very simple one.”