From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/arts/gloria-steinem-robin-morgan-festival-albertine.html?_r=1
By Melena Ryzik
Oct. 5, 2017
Gloria Steinem first visited Paris in college — her first trip to Europe. “Everything was magic,” she said. She and her classmates quickly “acquired boyfriends,” as she put it, so they could hitch rides on scooters. They visited every cathedral and discovered that, if they arrived early at clubs, they’d be treated to a free glass of Champagne. She went to the markets at Les Halles and tasted escargot and climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe.
Robin Morgan also first went to Paris as a teenager, hired as an au pair for an American family. Once her charge went to sleep, “I would go out and frequent the places the poets had been, and just think, ‘my God, here was their land,’ ” she recalled.
Now Ms. Steinem and Ms. Morgan, pioneering activists, are thinking about France in another light, as the curators of Festival Albertine, the French-American cultural gathering in Manhattan. In its fourth installment, Nov. 1-5, it is examining feminism across the world, with “Feminism Has No Boundaries” (“Feminisme Sans Frontières”).
Ms. Morgan, an author and radio host, founded the Sisterhood Is Global Institute, a think tank, with the writer Simone de Beauvoir in 1984. Though de Beauvoir’s seminal 1949 book “The Second Sex” was a hit in the United States, the push for equality differs in France and America.
In France, feminism tends “to be more theoretical and academic,” Ms. Morgan said. Though there are more French national programs supporting working mothers, said Bénédicte de Montlaur, the French Embassy’s cultural counselor in New York, who came up with the festival theme, “we face the same issues, of underrepresentation, of lower salaries.”
Solutions will be debated on panels of writers and activists, including Roxane Gay, Cecile Richards, and the artist collective Guerrilla Girls, alongside prominent French thinkers like Camille Morineau, a museum director and curator.
France, Ms. Mornieau said, “is a country where people love to think and debate and criticize — to bitch, it’s the core of French culture.”
Explaining why she wanted to take part, Ms. Steinem said: “I’m always in favor of people sitting in a circle and sharing ideas. Something unexpected always comes out of it.” (The event, held at the Albertine bookshop inside the French Embassy in Manhattan, is free and first-come, first-serve.)
Ms. Steinem and Ms. Morgan, longtime friends and colleagues, met at the French Embassy to discuss their collaboration. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Politics was going to come up no matter what, but what else did you want to include in this program?
STEINEM We wanted to talk about organizing, because the truism that movements grow from the bottom up, like a tree, and not from the top down, is still neglected. The politics of language is something as simple as always saying “mankind,” which people actually do see as men, instead of “humankind.” Mary Kathryn Nagle [a panelist] is a Cherokee lawyer and playwright, and I thought she would be a revelation. Because we don’t learn from languages that were here before Europeans showed up, and the fact that they didn’t have “he” and “she” — they weren’t gendered, they didn’t have a word for race.
And the body, for sex and race, is the source of our problem. If we didn’t have wombs, we’d be fine. It’s about reproduction.
You are still protesting some of the same things you talked about when you first started as activists. How do you manage the frustration of that?
STEINEM The best thing to do with frustration is to turn it into action, and anger. That’s the only way to relieve the pressure.
MORGAN And they’re not the same. It’s like mistaking a spiral for a circle: you come back at the same thing but at a different level; you see the change from before. The young women waking up to feminism now already wake up to more consciousness than my generation had. Even just simple things like equal pay — before you went, in my generation, and asked for a raise, you went through nausea and your palms sweating. Or before you said, ‘Henry, pick up your own socks.’ Any of those things. And younger women now just come in at a level that is wonderful to see.
It doesn’t help with the socks, though.
STEINEM Here’s the best answer I ever heard about the socks. Actually it was underwear: “When he leaves his underwear on the floor, I find it quite useful to nail it to the floor.” I never forgot that.