BEFORE SENATE HEARINGS ON EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT
My name is Gloria Steinem. I am a writer and editor. I have worked
in several political campaigns, and am currently a member of the Policy
Council of the Democratic National Committee.
During twelve years
of working for a living, I've experienced much of the legal and social
discrimination reserved for women in this country. I have been refused
service in public restaurants, ordered out of public gathering places,
and turned away from apartment rentals, all for the clearly-stated,
sole reason that I am a woman. And all without the legal remedies
available to blacks and other minorities. I have been excluded from
professional groups, writing assignments on so-called "unfeminine"
subjects such as politics, full participation in the Democratic Party,
jury duty, and even from such small male privileges as discounts on
airline fares. Most important to me, I have been denied a society
in which women are encouraged, or even allowed, to think of themselves
as first-class citizens and responsible human beings.
two years of researching the status of American women, I have discovered
that I am very, very lucky. Most women, both wage-earners and housewives,
routinely suffer more humiliation and injustice than I do.
As a freelance
writer, I don't work in the male-dominated hierarchy of an office.
(Women, like blacks and other visibly-different minorities, do better
in individual professions such as the arts, sports, or domestic work;
anything in which they don't have authority over white males.) I am
not one of the millions of women who must support a family. Therefore,
I haven't had to go on welfare because there are no day care centers
for my children while I work, and I haven't had to submit to the humiliating
welfare inquiries about my private and sexual life, inquiries from
which men are exempt. I haven't had to brave the sex bias of labor
unions and employers, only to see my family subsist on a median salary
40% less than the male median salary.
I hope this committee
will hear the personal, daily injustices suffered by many women--professionals
and day laborers, women house-bound by welfare as well as suburbia.
We have all been silent for too long. We won't be silent anymore.
The truth is that
all our problems stem from the same sex-based myths. We may appear
before you as white radicals or the middle-aged middleclass or black
soul sisters, but we are all sisters in fighting against these
out-dated myths. Like racial myths, they have been reflected in our
laws. Let me list a few:
THAT WOMEN ARE
BIOLOGICALLY INFERIOR TO MEN
In fact, an equally
good case can be made for the reverse. Women live longer than men,
even when the men are not subject to business pressures. Women survived
Nazi concentration camps better, keep cooler heads in emergencies
currently studied by disaster-researchers, are protected against heart
attacks by their female sex hormones, and are so much more durable
at every stage of life that nature must conceive 20 to 50 percent
more males in order to keep some balance going.
Man's hunting activities
are forever being pointed to as tribal proof of superiority. But while
he was hunting, women built houses, tilled the fields, developed animal
husbandry, and perfected language. Men, being all alone in the bush,
often developed into a creature as strong as women, fleeter of foot,
but not very bright. 
However, I don't
want to prove the superiority of one sex to another. That would only
be repeating a male mistake. English scientists once definitively
proved, after all, that the English were decended [sic] from the angels,
while the Irish were descended from the apes: it was the rationale
for England's domination of Ireland for more than a century. The point
is that science is used to support current myth and economics almost
as much as the church was.
What we do know
is that the difference between two races or two sexes is much
smaller than the differences to be found within each group.
Therefore, in spite of the slide show on female inferiorities that
I understand was shown to you yesterday, the law makes much more sense
when it treats individuals, not groups bundled together by some condition
A word should be
said about Dr. Freud, the great 19th Century perpetuator of female
inferiority. Many of the differences he assumed to be biological,
and therefore changeless, have turned out to be societal, and have
already changed. Penis Envy, for instance, is clinically disappearing.
Just as black people envied white skins, 19th Century women envied
penises. A secondclass group envies whatever it is that makes another
group first class.
THAT WOMEN ARE
ALREADY TREATED EQUALLY IN THIS SOCIETY
I'm sure there
has been ample testimony to prove that equal pay for equal work, equal
chance for advancement, and equal training or encouragement is obscenely
scarce in every field, even those--like food and fashion industries--that
are supposedly "feminine."
A deeper result
of social and legal injustice, however, is what sociologists refer
to as "Internalized Aggression." Victims of aggression absorb the
myth of their own inferiority, and come to believe that their group
is in fact secondclass.
Women suffer this
secondclass treatment from the moment they are born. They are expected
to be rather than achieve, to function biologically rather
than learn. A brother, whatever his intellect, is more likely to get
the family's encouragement and education money, while girls are often
pressured to conceal ambition and intelligence, to "Uncle Tom."
I interviewed a
New York public school teacher who told me about a black teenager's
desire to be a doctor. With all the barriers in mind, she suggested
he be a veterinarian instead.
The same day, a
high school teacher mentioned a girl who wanted to be a doctor. The
teacher said, "How about a nurse--"
and the Supreme Court may exude a protective, well-meaning rationale,
but limiting the individual's ambition is doing no one a favor. Certainly
not this country. It needs all the talent it can get.
WOMEN HOLD GREAT ECONOMIC POWER
51% of all shareholders
in this country are women. That's a favorite male-chauvinist statistic.
However, the number of shares they hold is so small that the total
is only 18% of all shares. Even those holdings are often controlled
5% of all the people in the country who receive $10,000 a year or
more, earned or otherwise, are women. And that includes all the famous
myth of our economic power seems less testimony to our real power
than to the resentment of what little power we do have.
MUST HAVE FULL-TIME MOTHERS
spend more time with their homes and children than those of any other
society we know about. In the past, joint families, servants, a prevalent
system in which grandparents [raised] the children, or family field
work in the agrarian systems--all these factors contributed more to
child care than the labor-saving devices of which we are so proud.
The truth is that
most American children seem to be suffering from too much Mother,
and too little Father. Part of the program of Women's Liberation is
a return of fathers to their children. If laws permit women equal
work and pay opportunities, men will then be relieved of their role
as sole breadwinner. Fewer ulcers, fewer hours of meaningless work,
equal responsibility  for his own children: these are a few of
the reasons that Women's Liberation is Men's Liberation, too.
As for the psychic
health of the children, studies show that the quality of time spent
by parents is more important than the quantity. The most damaged children
were not those whose mothers worked, but those whose mothers preferred
to work but stayed home out of role-playing desire to be a "good mother."
THAT THE WOMEN'S
MOVEMENT IS NOT POLITICAL, WON'T LAST, OR IS SOMEHOW NOT "SERIOUS"
When black people
leave their 19th Century roles, they are feared. When women dare to
leave theirs, they are ridiculed. We understand this, and accept the
burden of ridicule. It won't keep us quiet anymore.
Similarly, it shouldn't
deceive male observers into thinking this is somehow a joke. We are
51% of the population, we are essentially united on these issues across
boundaries of class or race or age, and we may well end by changing
this society more than the civil rights movement. That is an apt parallel.
We, too, have our right wing and left wing, our separatists, gradualists,
and Uncle Toms. But we are changing our own consciousness, and that
of the country. Engels noted the relationship of the authoritarian,
nuclear family to capitalism: the father as capitalist, the mother
as means of production, and the children as labor. He said the family
would change as the economic system did, and that seems to have happened,
whether we want to admit it or not. Women's bodies will no longer
be owned by the state for the production of workers and soldiers:
birth control and abortion are facts of everyday life. The new family
is an egalitarian family.
Gunnar Myrdal noted
thirty years ago the parallel between women and Negroes in this country.
Both suffered from such restricting social myths as: smaller brains,
passive natures, inability to govern themselves (and certainly not
white men), sex objects only, childlike natures, special skills and
the like. When evaluating a general statement about women, it might
be valuable to substitute "black people" for "women"--just to test
the prejudice at work.
And it might be
valuable to do this Constitutionally as well. Neither group is going
to be content as a cheap labor pool anymore. And neither is going
to be content without full Constitutional rights.
Finally, I would
like to say one thing about this time in which I am testifying.
I had deep misgivings
about discussing this topic when National Guardsmen are occupying
our campuses, the country is being turned against itself in a terrible
polarization, and America is enlarging an already inhuman and unjustifiable
war. But it seems to me that much of the trouble this country is in
has to do with the Masculine Mystique; with the myth that masculinity
somehow depends on the subjugation of other people. It is a bi-partisan
problem: both our past and current Presidents seem to be victims of
this myth, and to behave accordingly.
Women are not more
moral than men. We are only uncorrupted by power. But we do not want
to imitate men, to join this country as it is, and I think our very
participation will change it. Perhaps women elected leaders--and there
will be many more of them--will not be so likely to dominate black
people or yellow people or men; anybody who looks different from us.
After all, we won't
have our masculinity to prove.
"EqualRights" Amendment, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Constitutional
Amendments of the Committee on the Judiciary United States Senate Ninety-First
Congress, Second Session, on S. J. Res. 61 5-7 May 1970 (Washington,
D. C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1970), 335-7.
have been added, and the original pagination appears in brackets.