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'sPolitical Caucus. Thank you for what we are doing andthinking 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 understandwhy I dealt with it just by not ever wanting to write aboutwomen's subjects. And I guess I was still flatteredwhen someone said to me You write like a man.I would say I think you and I managed to read the wholebook and never consider that it applied to me because it seemed to me to be addressedto women who were living in the suburbs who did not have work outside the homeand 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 untilseveral years later when the women out of the left you know out of STDs out ofSnick out of many of those groups began to toreally talk about feminism in a political way that made it clear that it wassomething that concerned all women you know that they were really talking about a castesystem which was the underlying power structure in the country. And then Ifinally began to see that it did in fact affect every woman and metoo in the office and begin to see the reasons why I hadfelt. Angry or humiliated in all these situations thereasons why I didn't associate with women as a group because it was a great penalty fordoing that. The best thing to be of course was the only woman in a group of men andalso the reasons why I had always felt attracted to aden of five with causes of groups not my own black groups
of Chicano groups and so on because I mean I hadnot before understood that that I too waspart of a powerless or less powerful caste andnaturally therefore you know I felt you know attracted to this kind of coalition but Icertainly 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 previewissue of Ms Magazine and one thousand seventy two. She wrote a piece called TheHousewives moment of truth and she gave a number of illustrations such asa woman having piled all kinds of stuff on the stairs for the next person who wentupstairs 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 isnot to do with justice or biology or anything else that it's the powerthat'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. Whenthe New York State legislature had to have a hearing on thenot yet liberalized abortion law New York State to which they invited totestify 14 men and one nun.So I mean I want to get that. Right. That was their idea of expertise onabortion.Fourteen men and one. So the feminist groups especially redstocking great radical feminist group which I will be grateful to my dying day. Theyorganized a speak out on abortion countertestimony so that women could speak their true life experience.
And there were several hundred women gathered together in a church and in New York andwomen from the group began to get up and talk about their experience andhaving been pregnant and needing an abortion and going out looking forone risking their lives. Or. Even being bargained with. Yes they could have an abortion ifthey would be sterilized or really having to enter a kind ofcriminal world. Otherwise I mean it just extraordinarily movingexperiences that you could see these women had never spoken out about in publicbefore. And I had had an abortion many years before and never toldanyone. Because this was this kind of criminal shamefulact you know. And then and I began to realize but wait a minute you know if oneof your or maybe even want to out of three adult women has had anabortion 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 acast for all men and the women are an oppressed group I mean women are kindof literally the means of production which the male in the familyor the patriarchal state has to control. And you know reallyto see it politically. And then finally I understood that even though I was not married living in thesuburbs and you know that it was that it was a problem that thataffected absolutely every woman.I'd like to talk a little bit about the current economic situation a kind of depression thatway and how that how you feel it effects the movement.Well I think you know economic issues survival issues have always beenthe main emphasis of the women's movement on matter how much the press has made it seem that it was about openingdoors and lighting so it wanted to breast brush itaside. That has never been the case obviously for most women in this country the
problem is survival. If you consider to throw inone you know statistic I think it's a bit of all the jobs thatpay $15000 a year or more. Ninetyfour percent are held by white males. It's a pretty effective cast topretty effect with to to stick with with the other six present livedover for all women and for minority men he really began to see it was a pretty roughsituation especially for older women. I mean women over 65are 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 theemphasis but now of course it's even more severe because weget 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 leasttwo million and probably more women and kids on welfare just in the past few years.So it's.You know it it really is more and more about survival and part ofwhat we try to do is educational You know to just to try to makeeveryone men and women understand that women work because they need to work sothat in this depression we won't get what we had in the last depression which was that womensimply because they were women were put out of work and it was assumed that men just because they were men neededit more. There are many other kinds ofeducational. I mean we we tried to figure out women especially white womenare always thought not to need the job. So we spent sometime at the magazine for an issue we did on money trying to figure out howto count up statistically older women who at this moment could
count on being supported by a man or by the man's money until thewoman's death. Versus all the men who could who had at this momentenough money to survive until their death. And of course the menoutnumber the women so if you're going to ask somebody do you really need this job you know you reallyI ask a white man that's who needs at least.But it's that's not the point of course I mean except for educationbecause 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 theeducational effort is part of it. Organizing is isanother part trying to to to help us have theself-confidence to understand that it's not our fault.You know I think that's the purpose response of many women if they'refired 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 andcompare with that rather than comparing to the ideal tonot 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 knowwho retains the jobs why should the people with seniority also get the overtime. Doesn'tmake sense. You know I mean why should we be able to spread the workload out and and allowmore people to serve. So to you know the strength tounderstand is not a call to challenge it and then also. Information on howto organize effectively inside any kind ofstructure. I mean this much of what all feminist groups do is much of what the magazine tries togive out in terms of information. And part of that also isis forming coalitions. Any time any reallyrough 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 towardpeople who really have the power.So we we try to stress that very hard in whatever its form. Youknow whether it's making it clear that women a noble racesand minority men are in this thing together and if we fight each other we've had it in aor whether it's. Showing that to say if if thestudents in the faculty women both have issues it's stronger ifthey get together on those issues and support each other as the students so the consumer'sright I mean they. You know they have some power they have the faculty may be much more cowardly becausethey are getting salaries. But with each other's support they can do more and evenmore with the women who answer the phones and clean thebuildings and you know work in the cafeteria and so onbecause 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 seeto 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 foreverybody.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 saywe're talking revolution. And then I realized that while I was doingit anyway personally it was to impress my old colleagues of the left because it was a wordthey took seriously. I had to use a different word now. Well I try to you know Itried to think of a bigger word I would like to know one because II mean what they mean when they say revolution is that they're going to take over the army and theradio station which is really nothing. I mean it really doesn't change the basicstructure. You know the caste system that women are after. So now I talk aboutanthropological 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 ourword.What about the employer who uses the excuse that he or she would have tolower the standards for the job in order to employ women. Well it'spatently crazy.It might be individually true as an X in exceptional case but it's certainly not general truegenerally true because women in the labor force at large are bettereducated than men in the labor force at large by two or three years. Women have always had tobe overqualified for everything they do.So you know it's simply not accurate to say except and perhaps incertain professions where women have just not beenallowed to have the experience for instance a man called me a fewmonths ago and wanted the construction engineer with five years of onsiteexperience.
Well it's very tough you know because what what woman with a hard head do you see out thereyou know in the street you know with on site experience but with those very few exceptions they'rethey'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 coreissues.Yes. Oh yes I think so because A. Willmore core issue we have within the timing. Yeah but I mean who if youinclude it all. I mean that who who gives out the jobs who has the power to doso. 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 imagethat's starts and stops all the other things I think.Yeah. Well it's image that I mean you need enough self-respect do atleast say no I'm going to do this which is sort of Imean 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 dothat. But after that I think one thing feeds off the other youknow you. You do something successfully and that helps your image and then youtry a little more next time and so on. And it really has to do with power. I meanthis is sudden you know giving a power to a particular personis certainly going to change the image of me.Chickens and eggs. You once said that the major enemy ofsisterhood 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 somepeople are fond of saying mostly men say that women's worst enemyis women. That's not true because you know we don't even have the power tobe each other's worst enemy we don't care about the jobs we don't have the power to discriminate. So I wantbut to be the enemy of sisterhood among women certainly.
Because we we just absorb this the idea thatour 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 tobe the only woman in a group of men orone of few women. And because we really believe come to believe that our groupis inferior just as. Blacks have done andSpanish speaking people and Jews in the ME you know that's the worst punishment of all they then. Thesystem finally invades your head.You and I both had a similar experience recently we worked with all womenfilm crews.It was great. Well said it's been a terrific experience. I spent quite a lotof time afterward trying to analyze exactly why it was so terrific and how to make ithappen 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 eachother's knowledge. I was especially impressed with thetechnical 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 verynon-technical person whether that's cultural or personal when I was to see youknow 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 nonatural 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'sexpertise and you can actually work together then I think it does functionand functions much much better. Pat Schroeder who's the congresswoman fromfrom Denver. I went out to campaign for her. You know both timesactually but the last time she was commenting that everybody in her campaign worked togetherterrific except she had to invent titles for the men because it made them feel very insecure not tohave 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'smovement is that it's imitative. How do you feel about it.Well I think that's inevitable in a sense that is bothbecause what we know is the world around usand because well for instance I mean the black movement was always in the beginningthought to be trying to be middle class white I mean that that was the great
ideal you know. And so women are said toyou know want to be like Man or wait to have a piece of the pie as in the system as itexists 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 butwhat could be better than to be you know. But also it'spartly fear because it's sort of as if men were saying suppose they doto us what we've been doing to them. Fortunately it's not possible forwomen to be integrated into the system as it exists they're just too many of us it iseconomically structurally and every way impossible. But I thinkwe need much more futuristic thinking theoretical thinkingplanning and so on about stating whatfuture tactics. Can be. What future societies differentkinds 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 thatthat game came out of despair totaldespair because things have been going on and you know regressing andso on.And. With a friend whoI think who understands money you know. Marlene Krauss was saying we werewe were hatching jointly this fantasy that what we should do is we should get an army of womenand we should invade Saudi Arabia and take it over I mean what could bemore likely to be freaked out by an army of women than all the Arabs with theirfeelings about women. OK then we sit on the all that oil and turnto the world and we say OK now deal. You want this oil Here's whatyou do for your you know women and oppressed them.
But. I think.We do need to begin to outline thekinds of societies that would allow the humanist values we'retalking about and beginning at any level I mean the family of course is hasalways been the microcosm of the state. So you know different kinds offamily 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 theoreticallyinclined.I wish that they would begin to think about because I think women have atough 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 ofclass planning ahead as a function of you know poor people planned for Saturday night richpeople plan for three generations. So thatby that measure also when there were protests and we need to counter that tobegin to have the courage to look forward and plan forward. And as apreparation I suggest that the people who are into this I mean not everybody is but Iread 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 knowwhile I'm reading a great book. Really. So I readparts 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 tothink 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 theprice 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 ownself-interest which is I think what makes it healthy. The masculinemystique. It's a it's a prison even though it's a big richwell-lit prison and sometimes it's still a prison and they're beginning to questionthat not to say to women let me help you. You know like a kind of white liberal butto really look at it from their own self-interested point of view and see theways 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 menand 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 thewhite liberals of the civil rights movement you know people who would rather come and say let me helpyou 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 Foundationand 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 ownself-interested point of view and see the ways in which they have been deprived of their formnatures of their full lives by this idea of what is and isn't masculine and Mark isone I think the the book is very good and and I'm I'm glad to seeit's been reviewed well by man.That's a lot of women and I weren't terribly receptive to the whole thing of talkingWell I think it depends how it's done.You know I mean it can it it can. And what the motive is because of thosethere's a lot of very. It's exactly like the white liberals of of the civil rights movement youknow 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.Look you can link provided by public television station painter you can
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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.
- Woman is a talk show featuring in-depth conversations exploring issues affecting the lives of women.
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- Copyright 1974 by Western New York Educational Television Association, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Director: George, Will
Guest: Steinem, Gloria
Host: Elkin, Sandra
Producer: Elkin, Sandra
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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 May 20, 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. May 20, 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