Gloria Steinem: a Malthusian feminist

Gloria Steinem thinks women are having too many babies, and that it’s putting the planet in danger.

In an interview with Refinery 29, Steinem was asked if climate change was a feminist issue. She replied: ‘Are you kidding me? Listen, what causes climate deprivation is population. If we had not been systematically forcing women to have children they don’t want or can’t care for over the 500 years of patriarchy, we wouldn’t have the climate problems that we have.’

Steinem is an outspoken advocate of abortion rights. She’s also mentioned her theory on overpopulation before. In an interview with the Guardian in 2015, following the launch of her memoir My Life on the Road, Steinem said that American Christians were ‘devoted to encouraging, forcing white women to have a lot of children’. According to Steinem, women’s lack of access to abortion is down to the patriarchy and, more specifically, the pope.

This Malthusian, misanthropic argument is an insult to women’s freedom. Steinem clearly has no understanding of the real barriers women face in trying to gain access to safe abortions. In the UK and the US, the primary thing stopping women from accessing abortion services is the law, which only allows abortions in certain circumstances and up until a certain time limit. Though religion plays a big role in anti-abortion politics, particularly in the US, framing this as a mythical war with the patriarchy clouds the issue.

What’s more, she’s damning the many women who choose to have lots of kids. Any argument for women’s autonomy must be grounded in respect for human beings. That means trusting women to make their own decisions about their own bodies, whether they want to have five kids or five abortions. And it means believing that more people on the planet is a good thing. Steinem’s climate-change rant reflects a low view not just of women, but of humanity.

Ella Whelan is assistant editor at spiked.

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