When asked what in her life led her to feminism, Gloria Steinem, the 78-year-old writer, lecturer and prominent activist in the American feminist movement simply responded with three words: "Being born female."
"Actually, the question I ask myself is 'What took me so long?' because I was in my early 30s before I understood just working hard and being obedient wasn't going to cut it," Steinem elaborated. "We needed to have a movement."
In her talk titled "The Longest Revolution," the marquee event at the third annual Lehigh Valley Women's Summit earlier this month, Steinem engaged the audience of local businesswomen in Cedar Crest College's Lees Gymnasium with her unique wit and insight.
"One of the biggest changes of the movement over the past 30 to 40 years is the sense of control over your future," Steinem said. "Women now say to me 'This is what I want to do in 20 years.' My generation absolutely did not do that.
"It's up to each of us to figure out what we need to achieve balance and to achieve our full circle. The purpose of this day is to help us do that."
Steinem, who has been fighting for women's rights since cofounding the feminist "Ms." magazine in 1972, spent her time at Cedar Crest College giving women such advice as speaking their minds regardless of what other people think, and trusting their intuition, even when intuition gets a "bum rap" as a "female thing."
"If it looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck and you think it's a pig, it's a pig," Steinem joked.
Steinem also said women today should embrace their individualities to bring about change to support the women's revolution.
"The question is how those unique talents can be used and also be a part of the human community at the same time," Steinem said.
She also let the audience in on her secret to good leadership: "Behave as if everything you do matters."
Eventually, though, Steinem tackled the main topic of her talk, "The Longest Revolution," which she said was "obviously the women's revolution because it's the deepest and because it is the primary false division into which human beings are put."
"And, how did we get into this notion of masculine being the subject and feminine being the object?" Steinem asked, and answered. "Unequal roles."
Steinem would ultimately spend much of her discussion encouraging the women in the audience to join together as they did at the Summit to shatter that perceived inequality in society.
"You have already found the single most important thing in this conference because what we need to do is get together in groups like this and discover we are not crazy; the system is crazy," Steinem said. "In all great social justice movements, all changes come from people having the courage to say what's happened to them, and then hearing six or 12 other people say, 'You feel like that? I thought only I felt like that!'"
After her discussion, Steinem called for the spotlight to be taken off her and put on the audience for a brief question-and-answer time.
One audience member, who said she felt revitalized through Steinem and her work, asked her about the "f-word: feminism" and how young women today say feminism is dead.
Steinem said the name is irrelevant. The word could be feminism or it could be "womanism, women's lib or even 'girrrl' power."
Many Women's Summit participants responded favorably to Steinem's talk.
"I think Gloria's terrific," Marna Hayden of Nazareth, president of Hayden Resources Inc., said. "She's been a leader for years and it's wonderful to have her speak to as many people as possible. It's surprising how many of the younger people don't realize how far we've come and, even more, how far we have to go."
Kathryn von Badins of Allentown, an attorney with Pavlack Law Offices P.C., said she was inspired by Steinem and her talk and that, without Steinem, she and other women would not be able to be attorneys today.
A small handful of women stood outdoors in protest of Steinem's appearance at the women's summit
"We're protesting Gloria Steinem," Maryanne Pohl of South Whitehall Township said. "She started the feminist movement and we're protesting her speaking here because the feminist movement did not help women in America."