BEREA — Though both have been leaders and icons in the feminist movement, when Gloria Steinem and bell hooks took the stage at Berea College on Sunday night, it was like two old friends chatting.
The pair's conversation and question-and-answer time with a packed house capped a day that inaugurated the college's bell hooks Institute, a center for critical thinking, contemplation and dreaming. Hooks, 57, a native of Hopkinsville, is scholar-in-residence at the college.
Steinem, 76, said hooks has influenced and changed her life, recalling a time when the two put together a cover for Ms. magazine, of which Steinem was one of the founders.
"All I knew was she was this towering intellect from Yale," Steinem said, as hooks spent time as a professor of African and African-American studies and English at the university. "I soon discovered that bell was a universal person."
Steinem said hooks made it clear that feminism was for everyone, emphasizing that the important lesson was for people to know one another.
People must function in an atmosphere of trust, Steinem said. Hooks added that Steinem has exemplified working on building trust.
Steinem said all issues raised by the women's movement now have the support of a majority of people, and structural changes are being made.
Looking back, Steinem pointed to ancient cultures including Africans and Native Americans and said it's not true that women have always been dominated over the course of history.
Hooks said humor is essential in intervening in any dominating culture.
Steinem agreed, adding, "Laughter is the only free emotion."