Quick Note: Gloria Steinem’s Paganism

Feminist activist, journalist, and icon Gloria Steinem, the subject of a recent HBO documentary, appears to have outed herself as a capital-P Pagan at a recent speaking engagement with Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy.


“Eltahawy’s family lived in England for most of her childhood, until her parents moved to Saudi Arabia when she was a teenager. She said she was raised Muslim, but not strictly traditionally, adding that she is now much more liberal than her parents and that her feminism was formed, in large part, in response to the restrictions on women in Saudi Arabia. Steinem’s father was Jewish, her mother was not, and she was raised without religion. She now calls herself a “pagan,” inspired by a trip down the Nile, where she witnessed how the ancient Egyptians incorporated nature into their worship.”

Feminism has always walked arm-in-arm with the modern Pagan movement, just ask Starhawk, Vicki Noble, or Diane Stein (among many, many others).The image of a Goddess, even if seen as only a symbol, is a powerful recurring element within feminist writing and theology. My only question is how recent is this shift? While there’s long been evidence that Steinem has been sympathetic to Paganism and the Goddess Movement, I think this is the first time I heard her label herself as a Pagan. In any case, welcome! Maybe we’ll see you at the next PantheaCon?

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  • Pagan Puff Pieces

    Whether she’s Pagan in a more solid sense that would please other Pagans, or Pagan in a more figurative sense, that gives voice and shape that establishment can’t…
    … I feel more and more that being Pagan is, first and foremost, being “the people.”

  • Obsidia

    I agree about being Pagan is being “the people.” I call Paganism the “default religion” of humankind. 😉

  • Kilmrnock

    The idea of Gloria Stienem being one of us , tickles me . That someone of her social recognition is pagan is wonderful , probibly Dianic but thats cool too. with the connection between feminism and american paganism this realy comes as no surprise , tis cool tho. Kilm

  • Lioness

    Welcome, Sister!

  • Obsidia

    I could see Ms. Stienem as an Egyptian-based Pagan, for sure. And her recent appearance at the Bioneers conference shows her great commitment to Environmental Justice which, of course, positively impacts women’s lives. As someone who was SO excited to purchase the first MS magazine, I say G-L-O-RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR-IA!!! :-)

  • Jason Mankey

    It’s a shame I don’t like her more. While much of what she does is deserving of praise, a lot of the time she seems to just be looking for attention.

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “While much of what she does is deserving of praise, a lot of the time she seems to just be looking for attention.”

    That right there describes so, so, many Pagan leaders.

  • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

    Get out of my head.

  • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

    Quick, someone tell the NAR! More evidence of the Gay-Pagan-Feminist-Environmentalist-Communist-Satanic conspiracy to bring about the downfall of Christianity!

  • http://egregores.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

    I saw Gloria Steinem speak when I was a college student in 1976. The thing that most impressed my young mind was her approach to the whole question of matriarchy. She said not to get too involved in the historical accuracy of the idea, but just to consider the possibility of a non-patriarchal society. Not even strictly a “matriarchy”, but just the possibility of a society of equals. I think she even used the phrase “thought experiment”. Well, I took the bait, and opened my mind to at least the possibility. And there was no looking back.

  • http://pinkpolarity.livejournal.com/ Polarity

    I like this, and it’s why it frustrates me that so many people in the Goddess Spirituality movement have attached so much importance to the idea that there actually was a historical, factual Glorious Old Matriarchy. Those ideas of a goddess-based civilization are useful as symbol, as a jump-start for thinking of how we can create a non-patriarchal civilization in the present and in the future; but they shouldn’t obscure the actual history of ancient women, something just as interesting and potentially just as inspiring as any fantasy we might dream up.

  • http://paosirdjhutmosu.wordpress.com Djhutmosu Si-Hathor

    This news warms this Kemetic’s heart…And makes him wish more that he could visit Egypt himself. :)

  • Judith Laura

    I remember reading of her Nile trip in one of her books at least 10 years ago. It seemed to be her “discover the Goddess” experience. I didn’t realize that it had stayed with her (and she with us). Glad she’s apparently now out about it.

  • Michael Warby

    Skepticlawyer did a nice post on the upsurge in “small p paganism” in Europe. I did a follow-up piece on why the Middle East selected for monotheism which ties in with why feminists might look for other religious perspectives.

  • Adon

    I’m tired of reading the same false argument over and over again, Monotheism is not a Middle Eastern religion! It’s just the ideology of specific groups of people who imposed it by steel and fire.

    The Near East was always polytheist to the bones before advent of the monotheist gang, even the most dry areas in the Arabian peninsula were polytheist until Islam came.

    Let me remind you that monotheism didn’t dominate the Mediterranean until it was “romanized”, and Roma is not Middle Eastern. Also the most rigid forms of Christianity came out from Europe during the reformation and from Northern America from the Salem witch hunts till today, just as the worst forms of Islam came out from the Near East.

    Oh, and It’s actually insulting to imply that people should refuse monotheism because it’s Middle Eastern and not European.

  • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy


    Sometimes, I wonder why there are non-pagans who insist that paganism is a slippery-slope to racism and neo-nazism, and then posts and comments like Mr Warby’s come up, and I’m reminded.

  • http://lorenzo-thinkingoutaloud.blogspot.com/ LorenzofromOz

    Skepticlawyer did a nice post on the upsurge in “small p paganism” in Europe. I did a follow-up piece on why the Middle East selected for monotheism which ties in with why feminists might look for other religious perspectives.