Steinem served as a Ms. editor for 15 years and while she continues to play a role as a consulting editor, she's paved the way for change in a multitude of areas beyond the pages of the publication. Steinem co-founded a variety of organizations that helped shape the role of feminism in America over the decades. In 1971, she helped establish the Women's Action Alliance, which promotes non-sexist, multiracial children's education and in 1977, she co-created Voters for Change, a pro-choice political action committee which later merged with the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. In 2004, she was a key player in creating the Women's Media Center, which promotes positive images of women in media — a cause Berger has devoted her career to.
"Honestly, who wasn't inspired by her?" Berger says, citing some of the feminist movement's modern leaders who she feels were directly influenced by Steinem. "One is Dr. Jean Kilbourne, who exposed how the media represents women in the film "Killing Us Softly," and she is my major inspiration in my drive to help girls decode the media messages they're getting every day ... and the line will continue from there. Others who take after her as writers, like Jessica Valenti, Lindy West and Jaclyn Friedman, also come to mind."
Despite the decades of work from feminists like Steinem, Berger says the true message of feminism is still muddled and misconstrued. "Because of this misconception, it's still hard for a company or organization or nonprofit to even use the word 'feminism' if they want to include folks from all over the country or world," she says. "So at About-Face, we really don't say we're a feminist organization, but if you know what feminist ideals are, you can see that we're inspired by them. We're working to be sure teen girls know their power and use their voices to advocate for themselves to create equality."
There are other pervasive stereotypes that Berger says continue to limit the reach and impact of Steinem's vision. "It's also a misconception that feminism is for white women like me," she says. "The idea of 'white feminism' needs to go away — it refers to the fact that some white women who are feminists don't have a good handle on how to be strong allies for women of color. That's not a problem with feminism as a whole, but a problem with the women who first called themselves feminists, who excluded women of color or did not address their needs too. And it's a problem with some of the current white female feminists. White women need to become truly aware of their privilege, show up as allies when we're wanted, and help eliminate that term. I think more women of color are feminists now, but for a while there, it was not a term that was accepted. Alice Walker, the writer, coined the term 'womanism' to get around this knotty issue."
While Steinem may not have had it all figured out in her early days, Berger believes she gained important knowledge and experience as she progressed throughout her career "Gloria evolved," Berger says. "She didn't know much about native, indigenous rights or about workers' rights early on, but became friends with Wilma Mankiller and Dolores Huerta and showed up at their fights to help out or help them get media coverage."
Today, Steinem lives in New York City and appears to still be fighting for feminism. In 2013, President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 2017, Rutgers University created The Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies. In 2009, she seemed to sum it up quite nicely, saying, "The idea of retiring is as foreign to me as the idea of going hunting."