Gloria Steinem Says That There is Not Gender Equality, and I Agree With Her

photo of feminist icon gloria steinem pictures photos black and white retro vintage pictures

So, I have to brag for a minute. Gloria Steinem is coming to speak at my school in March. Yes, the Gloria Steinem. Is coming to my school. To do a convocation speech. For free. If you can’t tell, I’m super stoked about this. Really, anyone in my position with my points of view would be.

Anyway — there is a point to my proud boasting; that is to say, this is going somewhere. Whilst having a freak out because the illustrious Gloria Steinem is coming to Oberlin, my friend asked me “Who is this person that you speak of?!” and I was all, “Ohmigod Gloria Steinem is only the hugest feminist figure ever!!!!” And yes, I had all of those exclamation points in my voice, too.  So you know.

Point is, Gloria Steinem is, to me, a really big deal. I have infinite amounts of respect for her — not just because she’s a feminist, but because of how she has really made use of her immense passion for issues of equality to make and inspire social change. You can say what you will about controversial statements she has made (there are definitely some that I disagree with!), but you cannot deny the extent to which she has mobilized and extended the feminist movement.

Anyway, Steinem recently spoke at Franklin and Marshall College and said something that I think is extremely important when considering the progress made thus far in gender equality.  She made the claim that though many people feel that there female individuals are now on an equal level to that of males, there is still a long way to go.

It is true that there has been a significant amount of progress in recent years (though sometimes I really question that), and some might even say that we’ve reached a point – in the “Western World” at least – where women have the same rights as men.

But Steinem makes an extremely interesting and valid point that might not come to mind when thinking of feminism:

From a Lancaster, PA news outlet:

After all, many people now believe that a woman can do what a man can do, she said. The problem is that they don’t believe a man can do what a woman can do, such as raise children.

In fact, one of the biggest challenges facing future generations is that women still have two jobs: one inside the home and one outside the home, she said in an interview after her speech.

Female college students often ask her, “How can I combine a career and family?” but male college students don’t, she noted.

This statement is not only true, but also something that is not often considered as a pertinent gender-equality. Feminism isn’t just about making sure that women can achieve the same salaries as men. It’s about erasing the lines that define one gender from the other, the ones that persist in separating us according to our genitalia. It’s about making common concepts such as raising family pertinent to both women AND men.  We can’t have women’s equality without having equality for the male gender as well.

Oh Gloria Steinem. I can’t wait to hear you say revolutionary things in person. I’m excited, bottom line.

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11 thoughts on “Gloria Steinem Says That There is Not Gender Equality, and I Agree With Her

  1. I hear this from women more often though. It’s women who need to step up and accept what men can do. Most men these days seem interested in being involved parents, but women still tend to see themselves as primary – and this is strongly reinforced by our culture.

    There’s a significant chunk of feminists who declare that a woman can do anything a man can, while denying a man’s ability to do traditional women’s work. Not helpful.

    Then again, if we want 100% evenness, we’re going to be very disappointed. I think some inherent differences do show here. More women are interested in having children than men. More women are interested in raising children as a primary occupation than men. I believe this is societally reinforced, but I don’t believe society can account for all of it.

    • I think women need to deal with their own forms of sexism before they can move forward to greater equality. True equality will start young and will be more about what we allow people to do then what we do not allow them to do IMO.
      I remember when I was 12-13 I would always try to hold my baby cousins (even asked if I could change a diaper once), but was often denied. “Go out side and play, your sister will do this” and I would follow their orders. It is the same story when I when I wanted to learn the secret family recipe (to cook),”Go out side and play, your sister will do this.” I completely self taught now when it comes to cooking and ill probably have to take a class when I get children of my own because I have never handled children under the age of 5.
      All thing I was actually wanted to learn when I was younger. Oh, well.
      Another huge thing that really irks me is the age old statement that boys drop babies. It is so ingrained in me its the only thing I can even think about when asked to hold a small child. To me its one of the greatest lines in male child care inequality and it pisses me off to no end.

      • I think that’s one of the major things people should be reconsidering. If women can do anything men can, then surely men can do anything women can.
        Or more accurately, any person should have the opportunity to do anything – and if their personal tendencies lead them down a traditionally male or female line, that shouldn’t matter.
        I expect that there will always be more stay-home moms than dads. I expect that there will always be more male engineers than female.
        But as long as that is simply a matter of averages, it’s fine. Any woman should have the opportunity to do anything she wants to strive for, and so should a man.

        It’s ridiculous that people still think a boy can’t hold the baby, or shouldn’t be learning to cook and sew. Far better for everyone to grow up with such skills.
        I’ve always liked Robert A Heinlein’s take on things:
        “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
        No gender relevant.

        • I quite like that quote. The fact that we were discussing gender differences in my entomology class today strikes me as amusingly coincidental.

        • His point had nothing to do with gender, but I like the idea, and I like that he didn’t speak of what a man or a woman can do – simply a wide variety of skills that could be asked of any human.

        • Sorry, I got really hung up on the part where Steinem says “After all, many people now believe that a woman can do what a man can do, she said. The problem is that they don’t believe a man can do what a woman can do, such as raise children.”
          Although, I don’t think that what happened to me. I really feel it was more of a “I don’t want to have to deal with a boy right now” type of thing(not a boys can’t cook/change diapers). Perhaps they were more comfortable teaching a girl? If that the case perhaps men need to teach their sons to child care and cook. Well… no, I retract that last statement as it leaves out boys without fathers. Bleh, can’t form an opinion. Just know I’m frustrated on the matter.

        • Bobby, I agree with your point. Some research has found that people use a gender appropriate toy when told that a baby is a boy or a girl, regardless of the actual gender of the baby. It shows that parents, without even knowing may reinforce the stereotype.

  2. a) I’m really jealous of you, Sophia. I missed Ms Steinem when she spoke in my hometown (the chances of her speaking at my school are nil-it’s pretty much an all men’s tech school where no one would listen to anything she had to say, let alone know who she was).

    b) I very much agree. Being that my school is 70% male, I experience quite a bit of “unequalness”: I’m supposed to want to have kids and raise a family, and people are shocked when I say I’d rather go to grad school/have a career than have kids (something I’ve been called a “femi-Nazi” for, better not tell anyone I’m reading the Feminine Mystique right now). However, when I bring up that it’s okay that men would rather do this, I’m laughed at because “that’s the way it is supposed to be”. My school does nothing to counter this, either (I think we might have two classes that could possible fall under the category women’s studies).

    • I wouldn’t expect women’s studies at a tech school – it’s not really what it was set up for. but it is surprising that people are that behind on roles. That is thankfully not the case everywhere.

      • We have a liberal arts program (we aren’t a tech school as in trades, we are are tech school as in engineering), and I think we even have a liberal arts graduate program you can do if you feel like it. And the reason I mentioned it is because we have electives that are meant to study social behavior and such and you’d think that women’s studies would fall under that, but they don’t and even the classes that should be under there some how, are spun so they aren’t.

  3. I was at a Le Tigre show a few years ago and Gloria Steinem showed up (SURPRISE!) to speak briefly and introduce the band. I immediately called my mother and held up my cell phone. I looked around and almost the entire audience was doing the same thing. Have fun!

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