Gloria Steinem returns to Chico State, interacts with students


Gloria Steinem at the beginning of her Book in Common lecture. Photo credit: Floritzel Salvador

George Johnston

Gloria Steinem’s last visit to Chico State was in 1984. The feminist icon returned to the university  March 1, providing with an interactive experience and several lectures based on her book, “My Life on the Road.”

Chico Performances invited Steinem when “My Life on the Road” was selected as the Book in Common for Chico State. Steinem’s novel was chosen to honor the university’s first female president, Gayle Hutchinson.

Students and special guests attended the interactive experience in the Paul Zingg Recital Hall in the afternoon. Later in the evening, Steinem gave her lecture to a sold-out audience at Laxson Auditorium.

Gloria Steinem during the student interaction Q&A at the Zingg Recital Hall in the ARTS building Photo credit: Natasha Doron


Director of the Multicultural and Gender Studies Department Sara Cooper introduced Steinem at the student interaction. Steinem gave a short introduction of herself before letting students ask questions, saying she learns better listening than talking. The “My Life on the Road” author spent the next hour answering questions.

“Don’t fail to use your anger,” Steinem said. “Use it to make connections and break boundaries.”

Carol Burr, a retired Chico state professor, holding up a photo of the last time Gloria Steinem was at the university in 1984. Photo credit: George Johnston


The student interaction ended with the students from the Gender and Sexuality Equality Center giving Gloria Steinem a GSEC T-shirt and collage

“It’s time to ask questions and support fairness” Gloria Steinem says at the Book in Common lecture Photo credit: Floritzel Salvador


The lecture itself was like the student interaction. Steinem allotted half the lecture time to telling her life experiences and thoughts on feminism. The remaining time opened up a question and answer session, which Steinem called a group meeting.

“One of the proofs that we’re on the right track is that we laugh,” Steinem said while answering an audience member’s question.

“Laughter, it turns out, is the only free emotion,” Steinem said. “You can make someone afraid. You can even make someone believe they are in love. Nobody can make you laugh. It happens when two things suddenly come together and make a third. Laughter breaks the unknown.”

The audience at Laxson Auditorium listens as Gloria Steinem speaks Photo credit: Floritzel Salvador


Toward the end of the lecture, a person asked what Steinem’s proudest act of rebellion was. “I have not done it yet,” she replied.

As the lecture concluded, people began leaving the auditorium and lining up outside for a book signing of “My Life on the Road.” Audience members also began giving their opinions on Steinem’s lecture.

Associated Students President, Michael Pratt was impressed by Steinem. Pratt said Steinem’s advice on students organizing struck a chord with the current political atmosphere at Chico State. He said Steinem highlighted what needs to happen with students becoming more civic-minded.

“I think her spirit captured the essence of feminism which is to keep striving for it,” said Jamie Cabrea, junior sociology major. “Don’t stop until you get there and it was so awesome to hear.”

George Johnston can be reached at [email protected] or @gjohnston786 on Twitter.