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9 things I took from 'On the Road: Gloria Steinem in conversation with Melissa McCarthy'

Written by
Jane Borden

Last night, Melissa McCarthy admitted to having drawn little hearts throughout her copy of Gloria Steinem's latest bookMy Life on the Road (Random House; $28), assigning the doodles to quotes or thoughts that resonated with her. The two women sat in conversation last night inside the stunningly renovated Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. If you weren't among the wide range of women or the sprinkling of men in attendance, here is your highlight reel.  

1. Best exchange:

McCarthy: "I've got 45 years of questions for her, guys."

Steinem: "It's OK because I have 81 years of answers."

McCarthy: "I wish she'd dropped her mic and walked off stage."

2. Best plans for vandalism: 

While speaking of her interest in and admiration for ancient cultures, Steinem admitted that on every Columbus Day, she is tempted to hang a sign that reads Murderer on the statue in Columbus Circle. McCarthy pledged that whenever Steinem decides to make good on this plan, she will help. 

3. Funniest form of activism: 

McCarthy shared that she called Merriam-Webster earlier this week in response to reading in Steinam's book that the venerable dictionary includes very different definitions for adventurer and adventuress (the latter of which is "a female adventurer; especiallyone who seeks position or livelihood by questionable means"). First, she asked Stephen Perrault, the dictionary's humorously titled director of defining, if he wears a wizard hat. Then she promised to call back every six weeks until the issue had been resolved.

4. Easiest form of activism:

Steinem used examples such as "Toledo" versus "East Toledo" and "author" versus "black author" to illustrate how adjectives are used to differentiate and subjugate. The solution, she says, is more adjectives. So to counter the effects of her least favorite modified noun, the Chick Flick, she refers to films full of violence and/or machines as Prick Flicks. It does roll off the tongue.

5. Most difficult but effective forms of activism: 

Steinem, who called herself "a hope-oholic," was asked her opinions on some of the toughest problems facing our country and the world. She had eloquent and powerful suggested solutions for each.

• How to fix the economic crisis: equal pay. She said it "would be the best economic stimulus this country could have," not only for the extra money it would put in workers' pockets but for the relief it would provide to national welfare services, which are predominately afforded to families headed by single working mothers.

• How to combat global warming: letting women decide "when and whether to have children." (As a result, the world population would reach stasis.)

• How to fight the NRA: "social disapproval and condemnation" of guns. Steinem mused that this may be the only tactic proponents haven't yet tried. I thought to myself that the strategy certainly worked with cigarettes.

6. Most upsetting bit of knowledge dropped:

The Walton family has more money than the entire bottom third of the United States. Oof. 

7. Best bit of trivia:

During what she described as a speed round, McCarthy asked, "Do men hold the door for you?" Steinem replied, "Not really." She added, however, that when they occasionally do, she passes on the offer. 

8. The takeaway:

Steinem quoted Robin Morgan, saying, "Hate generalizes. Love specifies." And she added, "The more we tell the truth to each other, the more we see the individualities before us." 

9. Quote of the night:

While praising McCarthy, Steinem waxed on the power of humor. She described laughter as the only emotion that cannot be compelled. Someone can make you scared or even force you to love them (for example, Stockholm syndrome), but laughter cannot be forced. Then she said, "Laughter is the best proof of freedom," and added, "if you're somewhere they won't let you laugh, get out."  

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