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Steinem looks back in HBO special

Despite spending more than 40 years in the public eye as the face and voice of the women's liberation movement, Gloria Steinem says she still finds it awkward to talk about herself.

"I always feel like I should be doing what you're doing," Steinem says to a reporter with a smile.

Instead, Steinem, now 77, is promoting the HBO special "Gloria: In Her Own Words," which looks at her life from frustrated journalist to tireless crusader for women's rights.

She says she's as uncomfortable being called a leader as she is talking about herself.

"I never felt like I was leading the charge. A movement is a movement. I was always a part of a community trying to get other women — who, like me, had never spoken in public before — to speak out," Steinem says.

Leader or not, Steinem's fight to show the inequalities between men and woman started when, as a journalist in 1963, she wrote an article for Show magazine that exposed horrible working conditions of Playboy bunnies. (She's appalled by the idea of the new NBC series "The Playboy Club" glamorizing the bunnies' jobs).

The public came to know her face — framed by streaked blonde hair and sporting aviator glasses—as she helped lead the nationwide Women's Strike for Equality march in 1970. And she gave women a new and modern voice when she cofounded Ms. Magazine in 1972.

Steinem learned early how powerful words can be.

"I remember writing a poem about Thanksgiving and the teacher thought I didn't write it. She thought it sounded too grown up. I was so hurt by that I didn't write anything for a long time," Steinem says. "I really saw the power of words after I got out of college and was living in India and writing for newspapers there because they were interested in an outsider's view of the country.

"That's when I realized that the written word had a lot of power. That was exciting and you had to be careful."

One big lesson she learned was that there aren't just two sides to every story. Stories can have five, 10 or 20 sides, she says, and that meant she couldn't limit her writing to just the pros and cons but needed to present a full circle of information.

Steinem wants those who watch the documentary to come away with one thought:

"We have come this far in 30 or 40 years. Where do we want to go in the next 30 years? I hope that they might see that it's possible to make change and that it comes from the bottom," Steinem says.


Gloria: In Her Own Words

9p.m. Monday HBO