Feminist icon Gloria Steinem talked about Donald Trump, feminism and more at the Create & Cultivate conference

By Diana Pearl
May 07, 2017 12:35 PM

Gloria Steinem is no fan of President Donald Trump — but she admits he’s good for something.

The feminist icon was the keynote speaker at this weekend’s Create & Cultivate, an online platform and conference for women looking to create and cultivate their dream careers (and sponsored by Laura Mercier), where she was interviewed by fellow famous feminist Amy Richards. And though Trump was a brief topic in Steinem’s 40-minute talk, she did offer a few words to describe POTUS — and not all were negative.

“Trump is a disaster and a danger,” she said. “But he’s also a big-time consciousness raiser.”

Steinem, a self-declared “hope-aholic” said that Trump is getting people engaged with the political system like never before — which gives her a reason to be optimistic amidst the “patriarchy, nationalism and other bulls—.”

“There are more men involved [in feminism] than there ever were before,” she said. And of the Women’s Marches across the globe in January, she says it’s the “first time I’ve seen a massive march lead by women, with men there.”

“It’s possible to go forward in a different way, and I think we are,” she said.

This level of participation in the feminist movement across genders has been a long time coming, Steinem said. Feminism, she added, benefits men and women.

“They’re in a masculine prison,” she said of male gender norms. “It’s bonkers.”

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And after his popular vote loss, she says that Trump’s making a case for the abolishment of the electoral college, too. Another realization that came on Nov. 9 for Steinem? Just how truly important facts are, in the cycle of “fake news.

“The election made me value fact-checking,” she said. “We have to reward accuracy and facts.”

Becki Smith/Smith House Photo

Bringing Steinem to speak at the female-focused conference was a deliberate choice in response to the political events of the past few months, Create & Cultivate founder Jaclyn Johnson told PEOPLE.

“After the election, our staff sat down and said ‘it’s no longer just about creating beautiful things, and giving advice,'” Johnson said. “We need to stand for something. Everyone wants to be a part of the movement, but no one knows where to start.”

“It was very intentional on all our part,” she said. “We were very fortunate she agreed to do it. It was more of a statement. We’re not fake feminism. There was no stronger statement than having Gloria Steinem keynote.”

For Steinem herself, she hasn’t slowed down much, even though she just celebrated her 83rd birthday. She released her latest book, My Life On the Road, late last year, and expectations for her age hardly dictate her choices. For her, aging is something she’s embracing, and she feels helps to remove people from the “prison of gender.”

“You’re still the same person, but after you hit 50 or 60, you’re free like you were when you were a little girl,” she said. And she added with a laugh: “Except now you have money, and your own apartment.”

Her advice for young women who filled the audience at Create & Cultivate, and have not yet been freed from this “prison,” as Steinem calls it? She says to talk with other women about the issues that are affecting you (open discussion about salary and the gender pay gap, for one.) And of course, practice self-love.

“We need to celebrate who we are and stop trying to change it.”