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Happy 80th Birthday Gloria Steinem: 8 of Her Funniest Quips

Rare images and great moments in the activist and author's extraordinary life

Gloria Steinem isn’t just the founder of Ms. Magazine and the most recognizable “face of feminism” — she’s also hilarious. Herewith, some of her most entertaining nuggets of wisdom.

1) “A woman reading Playboy feels a little like a Jew reading a Nazi manual.” (1970)

Marianne Barcellona—Time & Life Pictures/Getty ImageFeminist journalist and author Gloria Steinem baring one leg as she relaxes in a luxurious bubble bath at home.

2) “A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space.”(1972)

Writer Gloria Steinem sitting cross-legged on floor w. sign "We Shall Overcome"
Yale Joel—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesWriter Gloria Steinem sitting cross-legged on floor w. sign “We Shall Overcome”

3) “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”

APA uniformed officer arrests feminist Gloria Steinem during an anti-apartheid protest outside the South African Embassy in Washington, Dec. 19, 1984.

4) “On my 70th birthday I was going to get a tramp stamp.” (2011)

Gloria Steinem photographed at Mort Zuckerman's home in East Hampton, 1984.
Susan Wood—Getty ImagesGloria Steinem photographed at Mort Zuckerman’s home in East Hampton, 1984.

5) “A liberated woman is one who has sex before marriage and a job after”

Gloria Steinem and Marlo Thomas during Gloria Steinem's 50th Birthday Party on May 23, 1984, at Waldor-Astoria Hotel in New York City.
Ron Galella—WireImage/Getty ImagesGloria Steinem and Marlo Thomas during Gloria Steinem’s 50th Birthday Party on May 23, 1984, at Waldor-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

6) “When I was hosting the Today show, I had a little fat removed from above my eyes so I didn’t look like Mao Zedong and I could wear my contacts. It looked worse afterward.” (2011)

Ray Fisher—Time & Life Pictures/Getty ImageFeminist Gloria Steinem wearing her trademark aviator sunglasses during a TV interview show.

7) “So what would happen if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?…Street guys would invent slang (“He’s a three-pad man”) and “give fives” on the corner with some exchange like, “Man you lookin’ good!” “Yeah, man, I’m on the rag!” — If Men Could Menstruate, 1978

Michael Brennan—Getty ImagesAmerican feminist writer Gloria Steinem in her Manhattan apartment, New York City, March 1992.

8) Her most famous quote is “women need men like fish need a bicycle,” but Gloria is a great lady, and great ladies give credit where credit is due. So she corrected us in 2000 when we misattributed this famous quote to her, when in fact Australian Irina Dunn came up with it. Steinem wrote a letter to Time in 2000,

“You credit me with the witticism “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” In fact, Irina Dunn, a distinguished Australian educator, journalist and politician, coined the phrase back in 1970 when she was a student at the University of Sydney. She paraphrased the philosopher who said, “Man needs God like a fish needs a bicycle.” Dunn deserves credit for creating such a popular and durable spoof of the old idea that women need men more than vice versa.”

That’s called class.

Leigh Vogel—WireImage/Getty ImagesGloria Steinem receives the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama at the White House on November 20, 2013 in Washington.


Watch TIME’s Belinda Luscombe talk with Gloria Steinem about her undercover assignment as a Playboy bunny at the start of her journalism career, whether her looks had something to do with her success as a women’s rights activist, and what she likes about young feminists.

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