Talking Feminism With Gloria Steinem
Sarah Palin may be trying to take over feminism and reacquisition it for her conservative causes, but the true leader in feminism, Gloria Steinem, will never let it go without a fight.
Steinem and Woman’s Media Center president Jehmue Greene sat down for an interview with Katie Couric last week, where they discussed the women in the workforce,
Alternet has the full transcript of the interview, and the following are a few excerpts.
On equality between the sexes in employment and homelife:
COURIC: [L]et’s talk about some of the negative statistics and why they still exist. Now this is according to the White House Project. Women account for only 18% of our top leaders in all fields. In politics – in female representation — the US has dropped to the 69th spot, behind Iraq and North Korea, which I found so shocking. In 1993 women were 12% of partners in law firms. Today it’s a whopping 18%. Only 17% of Congress is made up of women. Women make 78.7 cents for every dollar a man makes. And women earn more college degrees, as I mentioned, but hold only 16% of leadership roles in the business world, 23% in academia, and 22% in journalism. And of course the number that you mentioned are decision‐making ‐- I guess management ‐- jobs. So why these depressing statistics? What’s behind this? And why haven’t we come further if so many strides have been made?
STEINEM: Patriarchy is behind this and racism is behind this. These are really old systems so it takes quite awhile.We had a suffragist and an abolitionist movement that gained a legal identity as human beings for women of all races and men of color. That took more than 100 years. Now we’re striving for legal and social equality. That’s gonna take 100 years probably. We’re only 30 years into it. This is a long process and we’ve come an incredible distance, which we need to celebrate, but really the problem mainly is our idea of our sound bite minds that we think it’s going to happen right away. We have to do as much as we can every day and push the boundaries. But we also have to plan for our daughters and our grandsons who are also going to be feminists. We have to look forward…There’s progress but I think we’re mostly measuring progress by whether or not women are doing what men used to do. We need to also measure whether men are being nurturing parents and being truly parents, because women cannot do two full time jobs. And that is the problem of most women in this country right now — they’re working outside the home and inside the home too. And men are missing being nurturing parents. There are all kinds of wonderful studies showing that men live longer, have fewer illnesses, less depression, better sex lives, all kinds of things if they are egalitarian parents.
On reproductive health:
COURIC: Wasn’t that just an extension, though, of the Hyde Amendment which basically said no federal funds could be used…
STEINEM: No. No, it went further than the Hyde Amendment. And the Hyde Amendment should be repealed. You know, it was challenged in the Supreme Court. If there had been more women at the time on the Court we wouldn’t have the Hyde Amendment because it penalizes poor women terribly.
STEINEM: But you know I think we need to understand, if we get the politics of reproduction, we’re not so mystified by what happens. For instance sometimes on campus, students will say to me “Why are these right wing groups both against contraception and lesbians? “ Haha. Which they find bizarre. And I say but you know it’s not bizarre. It’s rational because they’re against any form of sexual expression that doesn’t end in conception or that can’t end in conception. So those are condemned by the same groups even though it may seem irrational.
On Sarah Palin:
COURIC: While we’re on the subject of reproductive rights, can you be a conservative feminist? Sarah Palin recently I think rankled some traditional feminists by calling herself a feminist, despite the fact she doesn’t espouse many traditional feminist points of view.
STEINEM: Well, we’re free to call ourselves whatever we wish. But I think her calling herself a feminist has mostly to do with how many votes Hillary Clinton got in the presidential race. Because yes, you can be a feminist who doesn’t agree with abortion, who would never have an abortion. But you can’t be a feminist who says that other women can’t and criminalizes abortion. 1 in 3 American women needs an abortion at some time in her life. To make that criminal and dangerous is not a feminist act and that is the position of Sarah Palin.
For more from Steinem and Greene, see the interview below.