Speaking like a Living Legend. Poised and Inclusive like Gloria Steinem

To listen to her speak, her voice robust, smooth and calm as she responded to a flurry of questions, both supportive and confrontational, you would never imagine that she is 82 years old.

(pictured above, Gloria Steinem at the Bantry Literary Festival in Ireland, July 23, 2016)

As a leader of the feminist movement in the 1960s, founder of Ms. Magazine and after writing six books (including her most recent one chronicling the incredible range of people she’s met during 40 years of traveling as a journalist and speaker that I just purchased, “My Life on the Road”), it makes sense that her age reflects her numerous accomplishments.

Up close, you will notice she is slight as a sparrow and she did accept assistance descending the dias  after speaking yesterday at the West Cork Literary Festival in Ireland.  But!

On stage, Gloria Steinem’s delivery was dynamic, funny and youthfully vigorous.

Vocal quality can be trained and improved. And yes, that’s a service I provide having developed my own professional delivery style as a network television correspondent and anchor, but that is not the purpose of this essay.

I was simply struck as I listened to Gloria, not only by the content of her responses, but by the way in which she delivered.

(pictured above, I’m next in line to meet Gloria Steinem! July 23, 2016, Bantry, Ireland)

  1. Gloria’s Humor: When someone questioned the scanty outfits and nudity of Beyonce and Kim Kardashian, Gloria deftly distinguished between the two with humor, “We should all be body proud, able to walk the streets nude and expect to be safe. Beyonce…had me at hello.. but Kim Kardashian has no content that I’m aware of.”
  2. Gloria’s Inclusiveness: She agreed with a man who asked why there weren’t more men in the room saying, “If it’s not inclusive, it isn’t feminism.”

I was most impressed how she handled opposition.

3.    Gloria’s Composure: One impassioned woman, opposing the campaign to repeal Ireland’s Eighth Amendment that prohibits abortion, spoke of her children and speculated that her adopted husband could have been aborted before going on to slam Gloria as not understanding since she had no children of her own.

A few boos rippled from the audience. The questioner was clearly in the minority in the room. But Gloria didn’t try to exclude her or shame her or make her feel embarrassed.  Gloria’s expression was soothing as she answered in dulcet tones.

“Reproductive rights respects your power to decide to have children as well as someone else’s decision not to have children….Let’s work together.”

A less-skilled and experienced person might not have maintained composure. Confrontations can topple any event.

So when Gloria spoke in support of Hillary Clinton as the best and “most truthful” candidate for US president, (the truth claim backed up by numerous fact-checking reports), I couldn’t help mentally comparing the verbal presentation styles of these two powerful and successful women.

I think their difference is largely demonstrated by their voices.  Gloria’s is warm. Rich. Soothing. Mellifluous.

By sharp contrast, Hillary’s voice is quite the opposite. She can sound grating. Shrill. Strident. Harsh.

Hillary, especially when she is defending against her e-mails, Benghazi or a Trumpish accusation, turns herself up to an excessively forceful volume and pitch.

But throughout yesterday’s program, Gloria’s delivery was full of poise. She even cursed as if she were merely sprinkling cinnamon on a latte.  Her occasional “F***” and “bullsh**” didn’t stand out as offensive. They were delivered in the same relaxed cadence as their surrounding words.  Mollifying pats part of a peaceful embrace.

Gloria and Hillary are friends. Perhaps before Mrs. Clinton accepts the official nomination as the candidate for president later this week at the Democratic National Convention, Ms. Steinem can fly to Philadelphia and give her some last minute delivery coaching.

Hillary needs to sound gracious and inclusive.  A worthy combination and one that is not exhibited by the Republican candidate.

Who, by the way, “Should not be elected, but should be hospitalized,” according to Gloria yesterday.

And finally, one of Gloria’s parting shots, in which she urged us all to pay attention to our instincts, may also have bearing on the upcoming election.  She declared,

 “If it looks like a duck and swims like a duck and sounds like a duck – but you think it’s a pig, it’s a pig.”

Okay, so Gloria’s not inclusive of everyone.

Copyright Gina London 2016.  All Rights Reserved. 

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