Woman; A Conversation with Gloria Steinem
No. And welcome to Woman My guest is a writer and editor and a member of the advisory of the National Women's Political Caucus. Thank you for what we are doing and thinking in The Feminine Mystique. Well I was I was making my living in New York. I understood what made me feel angry and humiliated but I didn't understand why I dealt with it just by not ever wanting to write about women's subjects. And I guess I was still flattered when someone said to me You write like a man.
I would say I think you and I managed to read the whole book and never consider that it applied to me because it seemed to me to be addressed to women who were living in the suburbs who did not have work outside the home and who were looking for this other identity. Now I wasn't married I didn't have kids that was living in the suburbs so I thought it didn't apply to me and it wasn't until several years later when the women out of the left you know out of STDs out of Snick out of many of those groups began to to really talk about feminism in a political way that made it clear that it was something that concerned all women you know that they were really talking about a caste system which was the underlying power structure in the country. And then I finally began to see that it did in fact affect every woman and me too in the office and begin to see the reasons why I had felt. Angry or humiliated in all these situations the reasons why I didn't associate with women as a group because it was a great penalty for doing that. The best thing to be of course was the only woman in a group of men and also the reasons why I had always felt attracted to a den of five with causes of groups not my own black groups of Chicano groups and so on because I mean I had not before understood that that I too was part of a powerless or less powerful caste and naturally therefore you know I felt you know attracted to this kind of coalition but I certainly haven't understood it.
When and how is your consciousness raised. I guess what I really want to know is it's good to have a click. Maybe we better define differently.
OK well click was invented as far as I know by Jane O'REILLY In the preview issue of Ms Magazine and one thousand seventy two. She wrote a piece called The Housewives moment of truth and she gave a number of illustrations such as a woman having piled all kinds of stuff on the stairs for the next person who went upstairs to take up stairs.
Hearing from her husband you know what does all this junk on the stairs why don't you. And she thinks to herself wait a minute you have two hands quick. And when she finally understands in some way big or small that the system is not to do with justice or biology or anything else that it's the power that's a click.
And for me the first a memorable and important one was. In abortion speak it out in one thousand sixty eight or nine. When the New York State legislature had to have a hearing on the not yet liberalized abortion law New York State to which they invited to testify 14 men and one nun.
So I mean I want to get that. Right. That was their idea of expertise on abortion.
Fourteen men and one. So the feminist groups especially red stocking great radical feminist group which I will be grateful to my dying day. They organized a speak out on abortion counter testimony so that women could speak their true life experience. And there were several hundred women gathered together in a church and in New York and women from the group began to get up and talk about their experience and having been pregnant and needing an abortion and going out looking for one risking their lives. Or. Even being bargained with. Yes they could have an abortion if they would be sterilized or really having to enter a kind of criminal world. Otherwise I mean it just extraordinarily moving experiences that you could see these women had never spoken out about in public before. And I had had an abortion many years before and never told anyone. Because this was this kind of criminal shameful act you know. And then and I began to realize but wait a minute you know if one of your or maybe even want to out of three adult women has had an abortion then why is this an aberration and why is this. It's our bodies you know why is it not a right and I begin to see what of course the radical feminists were were saying in the first place which was that you know it is a cast for all men and the women are an oppressed group I mean women are kind of literally the means of production which the male in the family or the patriarchal state has to control. And you know really to see it politically. And then finally I understood that even though I was not married living in the suburbs and you know that it was that it was a problem that that affected absolutely every woman.
I'd like to talk a little bit about the current economic situation a kind of depression that way and how that how you feel it effects the movement.
Well I think you know economic issues survival issues have always been the main emphasis of the women's movement on matter how much the press has made it seem that it was about opening doors and lighting so it wanted to breast brush it aside. That has never been the case obviously for most women in this country the problem is survival. If you consider to throw in one you know statistic I think it's a bit of all the jobs that pay $15000 a year or more. Ninety four percent are held by white males. It's a pretty effective cast to pretty effect with to to stick with with the other six present lived over for all women and for minority men he really began to see it was a pretty rough situation especially for older women. I mean women over 65 are the single poorest group of people in this country whatever the race of the woman. And for female headed families so it's you know it's always been the emphasis but now of course it's even more severe because we get female unemployment going up much much higher and faster. It's gone up about 40 percent just in the past four years. They're going up not down. Female unemployment yes unemployment is gone is gone and enormously You know and there are at least two million and probably more women and kids on welfare just in the past few years.
You know it it really is more and more about survival and part of what we try to do is educational You know to just to try to make everyone men and women understand that women work because they need to work so that in this depression we won't get what we had in the last depression which was that women simply because they were women were put out of work and it was assumed that men just because they were men needed it more. There are many other kinds of educational. I mean we we tried to figure out women especially white women are always thought not to need the job. So we spent some time at the magazine for an issue we did on money trying to figure out how to count up statistically older women who at this moment could count on being supported by a man or by the man's money until the woman's death. Versus all the men who could who had at this moment enough money to survive until their death. And of course the men outnumber the women so if you're going to ask somebody do you really need this job you know you really I ask a white man that's who needs at least.
But it's that's not the point of course I mean except for education because it should be an ability to to do the job and. And to represent the population fairly in the jobs and so on. So but the educational effort is part of it. Organizing is is another part trying to to to help us have the self-confidence to understand that it's not our fault.
You know I think that's the purpose response of many women if they're fired or chastised in some way or are not given a promotion you know that somehow it's their fault but to look at the comparable people in jobs and compare with that rather than comparing to the ideal to not be afraid to speak out and to question the system. I mean why should it be. Why should seniority be the only system that functions in terms of you know who retains the jobs why should the people with seniority also get the overtime. Doesn't make sense. You know I mean why should we be able to spread the workload out and and allow more people to serve. So to you know the strength to understand is not a call to challenge it and then also. Information on how to organize effectively inside any kind of structure. I mean this much of what all feminist groups do is much of what the magazine tries to give out in terms of information. And part of that also is is forming coalitions. Any time any really rough economic time is going to really is going to increase the problem of trying to turn the outgroups against each other and keep them all fighting each other rather than directing their efforts toward people who really have the power.
So we we try to stress that very hard in whatever its form. You know whether it's making it clear that women a noble races and minority men are in this thing together and if we fight each other we've had it in a or whether it's. Showing that to say if if the students in the faculty women both have issues it's stronger if they get together on those issues and support each other as the students so the consumer's right I mean they. You know they have some power they have the faculty may be much more cowardly because they are getting salaries. But with each other's support they can do more and even more with the women who answer the phones and clean the buildings and you know work in the cafeteria and so on because because when you join your issues and you know that means that instead of just having a strike in English department which might not be too crucial You can see to it that a phone call doesn't go in or out of the campus for a couple of days and maybe that'll bring results for everybody.
So it's you know it's tactical lessons as well.
Sounds like you're talking evolution. Yeah.
When is that except that that's really too strong a word. You know I mean I always used to say that I was just to say we're talking revolution. And then I realized that while I was doing it anyway personally it was to impress my old colleagues of the left because it was a word they took seriously. I had to use a different word now. Well I try to you know I tried to think of a bigger word I would like to know one because I I mean what they mean when they say revolution is that they're going to take over the army and the radio station which is really nothing. I mean it really doesn't change the basic structure. You know the caste system that women are after. So now I talk about anthropological revolution but that sounds too slow. So if you think of a better word I would really I'd appreciate it.
Well maybe some women in the viewing audience will have to write it we'll have our word.
What about the employer who uses the excuse that he or she would have to lower the standards for the job in order to employ women. Well it's patently crazy.
It might be individually true as an X in exceptional case but it's certainly not general true generally true because women in the labor force at large are better educated than men in the labor force at large by two or three years. Women have always had to be overqualified for everything they do. So you know it's simply not accurate to say except and perhaps in certain professions where women have just not been allowed to have the experience for instance a man called me a few months ago and wanted the construction engineer with five years of onsite experience.
Well it's very tough you know because what what woman with a hard head do you see out there you know in the street you know with on site experience but with those very few exceptions they're they're just not.
They actually have to lower their standards to hire men.
You know if you look at the statistics do you see the exit economic employment issues as the core issues.
Yes. Oh yes I think so because A. Will more core issue we have within the timing. Yeah but I mean who if you include it all. I mean that who who gives out the jobs who has the power to do so. Who benefits from the labor and so on.
You know there is something that's a little bit more basic in that statement isn't it. I mean it basically I think image is the problem. It's well image that's starts and stops all the other things I think.
Yeah. Well it's image that I mean you need enough self-respect do at least say no I'm going to do this which is sort of I mean withdrawing from the system is going to at least the you know the minimal form of protest and you do need some self-respect to do that. But after that I think one thing feeds off the other you know you. You do something successfully and that helps your image and then you try a little more next time and so on. And it really has to do with power. I mean this is sudden you know giving a power to a particular person is certainly going to change the image of me.
Chickens and eggs. You once said that the major enemy of sisterhood was women putting each other down and themselves down actually. Do you still feel that.
Oh you know I don't I would never say that. As some people are fond of saying mostly men say that women's worst enemy is women. That's not true because you know we don't even have the power to be each other's worst enemy we don't care about the jobs we don't have the power to discriminate. So I want but to be the enemy of sisterhood among women certainly. Because we we just absorb this the idea that our group is inferior. As I had as I was talking about you know. And as I think we all have so we believe it and we don't want to identify with our group. We want to be the only woman in a group of men or one of few women. And because we really believe come to believe that our group is inferior just as. Blacks have done and Spanish speaking people and Jews in the ME you know that's the worst punishment of all they then. The system finally invades your head.
You and I both had a similar experience recently we worked with all women film crews.
It was great. Well said it's been a terrific experience. I spent quite a lot of time afterward trying to analyze exactly why it was so terrific and how to make it happen again and really what what did you conclude about it and what was different.
There was a lack of competition. There was no. One at all. I think we were very supportive of each other very respectful of each other's knowledge. I was especially impressed with the technical knowledge of some of the other women on the project.
You know I think the first thing for me that that really knocked me out because I'm a very non-technical person whether that's cultural or personal when I was to see you know all these women running the cameras running the sound equipment you know just doing it all.
I thought that was fantastic made me happy just to see it.
And then also it's true there was a very different but much more cooperative atmosphere. You really do get along better and there's no way. There was no natural hierarchy there was no nobody had titles or was insistent upon it.
I think it's not always so terrific in women's groups but when it's not it's because there's no work involved. You know when it's when when there's expertise and you can actually work together then I think it does function and functions much much better. Pat Schroeder who's the congresswoman from from Denver. I went out to campaign for her. You know both times actually but the last time she was commenting that everybody in her campaign worked together terrific except she had to invent titles for the men because it made them feel very insecure not to have a title. Whereas the women just did what was had to be done with or without.
That's just one of the challenges that they often leveled against the women's movement is that it's imitative. How do you feel about it.
Well I think that's inevitable in a sense that is both because what we know is the world around us and because well for instance I mean the black movement was always in the beginning thought to be trying to be middle class white I mean that that was the great ideal you know. And so women are said to you know want to be like Man or wait to have a piece of the pie as in the system as it exists and so on. But I think that's. That's mostly If you go sort of well we're just you know that that's all we know but what could be better than to be you know. But also it's partly fear because it's sort of as if men were saying suppose they do to us what we've been doing to them. Fortunately it's not possible for women to be integrated into the system as it exists they're just too many of us it is economically structurally and every way impossible. But I think we need much more futuristic thinking theoretical thinking planning and so on about stating what future tactics. Can be. What future societies different kinds of societies would accommodate feminism which means humanism of course.
I haven't thought about that. Do you have a fantasy or whatever.
Question most recent you say fantasy I mean I must confess to the most recent that that game came out of despair total despair because things have been going on and you know regressing and so on.
And. With a friend who I think who understands money you know. Marlene Krauss was saying we were we were hatching jointly this fantasy that what we should do is we should get an army of women and we should invade Saudi Arabia and take it over I mean what could be more likely to be freaked out by an army of women than all the Arabs with their feelings about women. OK then we sit on the all that oil and turn to the world and we say OK now deal. You want this oil Here's what you do for your you know women and oppressed them. But. I think.
We do need to begin to outline the kinds of societies that would allow the humanist values we're talking about and beginning at any level I mean the family of course is has always been the microcosm of the state. So you know different kinds of family styles and lifestyles are themselves you know forging a different kind of society. What kind of structures what would be the basic values of this society. Whether or not feminism is really fundamentally anti nationalist which I think it's a possibility.
But I would just if anybody he is listening to this was theoretically inclined.
I wish that they would begin to think about because I think women have a tough time tough enough seizing control of our own lives now. It's even tougher for us to think about seizing control of the future.
Anybody else's future I don't know about you but I'm worried about To my left and right.
Well that's I mean that's a sociologist say that's the it's a function of class planning ahead as a function of you know poor people planned for Saturday night rich people plan for three generations. So that by that measure also when there were protests and we need to counter that to begin to have the courage to look forward and plan forward. And as a preparation I suggest that the people who are into this I mean not everybody is but I read the mail utopians it removes your humility.
I had to re read Plato for her research for something not all but some. And I had read. Plato when I was in college with this fantastic all you know while I'm reading a great book. Really. So I read parts over again and I discovered he's really not very good I mean it's the style was poor the logic is lacking.
And we really need to begin to have the confidence to to think forward.
Well you recently wrote a forward to lock fast else book. What do you feel about men's liberation do you feel that some men are having second thoughts about the price of power.
Yeah I think so I think there are. We have one man. That's ok usually you get to women at the end.
There are a few women who are beginning to really question from their own self-interest which is I think what makes it healthy. The masculine mystique. It's a it's a prison even though it's a big rich well-lit prison and sometimes it's still a prison and they're beginning to question that not to say to women let me help you. You know like a kind of white liberal but to really look at it from their own self-interested point of view and see the ways in which they have been deprived of their full natures of their full lives by this idea of what is and isn't masculine and Mark is one I think the book. Is very good and and I'm glad to see it's been reviewed well by men and women and I weren't terribly receptive to the whole thing.
I'm talking Well I think it depends how it's done. You know I mean it can it can. And what the motive is because there's there's a lot of very. It's exactly like the white liberals of the civil rights movement you know people who would rather come and say let me help you then I have really changed the law I'm sorry.
Thank you very much for calling. Thank you. Thank you for watching. See you next week.
Reduction in funding provided by public television stations. The Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
You know maybe you.
And they're beginning to question that not to say to women let me help you. You know like a kind of white liberal but two to really look at it from their own self-interested point of view and see the ways in which they have been deprived of their form natures of their full lives by this idea of what is and isn't masculine and Mark is one I think the the book is very good and and I'm I'm glad to see it's been reviewed well by man.
That's a lot of women and I weren't terribly receptive to the whole thing of talking Well I think it depends how it's done.
You know I mean it can it it can. And what the motive is because of those there's a lot of very. It's exactly like the white liberals of of the civil rights movement you know people who would rather come and say let me help you with that I have really changed a lot I'm sorry.
Thank you very much for calling.
Thank you thank you for watching see you next week.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
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- This episode features a conversation with Gloria Steinem. She is a writer, co-founder and editor of Ms. Magazine and a member of the advisory board of the National Women's Political Caucus.
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Director: George, Will
Guest: Steinem, Gloria
Host: Elkin, Sandra
Producer: Elkin, Sandra
Producing Organization: WNED
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Identifier: WNED 04327 (WNED-TV)
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- Chicago: “Woman; A Conversation with Gloria Steinem,” 1974-12-05, WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 21, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_81-57np5qgv.
- MLA: “Woman; A Conversation with Gloria Steinem.” 1974-12-05. WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 21, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_81-57np5qgv>.
- APA: Woman; A Conversation with Gloria Steinem. Boston, MA: WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_81-57np5qgv