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Feminism is Alive and Well ... Even Sarah Palin Wants to Be One

Gloria Steinem, grande dame of the feminist movement, and Jehmu Greene, Women's Media Center director, discuss the state of feminism with Katie Couric.
 
 
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Editor's note:Due to a production error on Friday, AlterNet accidentally published only the second half of the transcript of Couric's interview with Gloria Steinem and Jehmu Greene. We're resurfacing the article over the weekend to make sure readers have another chance to read it through.

KATIE COURIC: The Atlantic recently featured an article called "The End of Men" that caught my attention. It stated that this year for the first time women became the majority of the US work force and most managers are now women. And for every two men who received a college degree, three women did the same. And according to the article, many moms‐to‐be would rather have a pink nursery than a blue one. So have we come a long way or are there still big obstacles on the road to equality? Joining me today are two women with a lot of expertise in the area. Gloria Steinem is a writer and journalist who is the godmother of the modern women’s movement. And Jehmu Greene is the president of the Women’s Media Center and former head of Rock the Vote. As always I’d like to say a quick thank you to the sponsor of our webshow ‐ Dove.

COURIC: First of all, let’s talk about this article. Because I know that it’s something you both read as well and you had a problem with the title. It was called “The End of Men” and that bugged you.

STEINEM: Yes, it’s a stupid (haha) title because the idea is that somebody has to win. They can’t even imagine equality. So the lack of ability to imagine equality and cooperation instead of domination is certainly a big problem in getting there.

COURIC: But don’t you think that the title was a bit misleading? The article was really about how women are suddenly – and this is something we’ll have to discuss too because there are a lot of things that contradict the very thesis of this piece ‐-  making themselves known in a variety of fields and a variety of areas that heretofore they have not. That’s sort of what I took away from the article. They were trying to market the article and capture a lot of attention? Why would a magazine do that?

STEINEM: No. Well it’s possible that the writer didn’t like the title either because I agree with you that it was different from the article. But the idea that women are almost now the majority of workers in the labor force is true, but it doesn’t tell us that they’re still earning 25% less and they’re still less likely to get promoted. And you know actually it’s a big motive for men to work for equal pay for women so that men are not the hired paid ones who get fired first.

COURIC: Oh I see. In the “mancession” as they call it. Jehmu, what did you think of the article?

GREENE: I think that some of the questions she poses are harmful as well. To start off by saying “What if equality is not the end goal?” Equality has always been the end goal. And I do think that she dismissed a lot of the issues that we’re still facing, as Gloria mentioned. To casually pass on the fact that men are still clearly in control in many of the upper echelons of society ‐- it was a really brief phrase ‐- and then she went on to continue to point to a number of the advances we’ve made, which clearly need to be celebrated. Clearly we owe a lot to the work that has been done for decades. And I think though, we still have to look in the media ‐- though we’ve had great success with your show and Diane Sawyer and a lot of women who have made it in very successful ways in front of the camera ‐- 3% of the decision making positions in the media (the “clout” positions) are still held by women where 97% of the decisions are made by men. There’s a lot of work to be done.

COURIC: What was confusing for me when I read the article ... I thought, well, this is a lot to celebrate and then I would read other pieces. And Anna Quindlen came and gave a speech in Charlottesville and she brought up some very antithetical points to the piece. But before we mentioned those can I just talk about some of the good news real quick before we totally become buzz‐killington, as my daughter says?

Women are 60 % of all college graduates. Women are 68% of all master degree holders. They have more PhDs and almost 42% of those with MBAs are now women. So there are some good things. As we mentioned, they are the majority in the work force. But let’s talk about some things that are not so good.

STEINEM: But even that is not so… It’s great that women are educated. I couldn’t agree more because it gives you pleasure in your life. But part of the reason women need a BA degree or a college degree is that even with one they make less than a man with a high school education because they can’t become plumbers and electricians or they’re less likely to get into the trades that pay a lot even without a college education.

COURIC: Which is an interesting point. But let’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.

COURIC: What do you think are the major factors? If you had to pinpoint sort of actual things, in addition to social and cultural movements taking a long time to have an impact. Are there specific things that are keeping women from progressing more in the workplace?

GREENE: We have to look at the media again. It surrounds us. It tells our stories. When you look at G rated movies having the same amount of sexualized images of girls and women as R rated films do, that clearly has an impact. When you look at the speaking roles in all animated films that one out of three are going to be girls or women. If you look at just the acceptance of sexism in the media, especially with our female candidates, the levels of attacks and how it is accepted which is completely contrary to if something is said that is deemed as being racist. I think I’m actually quoting you when I say “sexism needs to become as repugnant as racism.” We are far from that place today because the outrage isn’t there. We saw in the 2008 presidential campaign, with the level of attack Senator Clinton came under, all without much response from the community to say: “This is unacceptable."  Whether it is products that are being sold or statements that are said on air, we do have a long ways to go to raise the level of outrage around sexism.

COURIC: So do you think little girls are programmed to be subservient, submissive in popular culture in terms of the images that confront them from a very very early age? I’m very cognizant of this having two daughters and being a strong, proactive feminist and proud of it so I’m very conscious of that… But I also see films like Mulan that celebrate sort of a really strong woman and I try to see other things in mass media that counter some of these images that we’ve been seeing all our lives. As someone who’s 53 and grew up kind of in that culture. So do you see things changing for the better in some ways?

GREENE: We’re making incremental changes. That’s what’s so in a sense laughable about the title of the piece “The End of Men.” We are so far away from that.

COURIC: We don’t want the end of men by the way, let's state that loud and clear.

GREENE: We don’t want that and that has never been the goal of feminists. But we absolutely have large steps that still need to be made. And a lot of this can again be pointed back to the media and the role they play. We have Dora, which is a great example to point to, but the majority of images, the majority of speaking characters, the majority of the positions of authority, an overwhelming majority are going to be men and boys

STEINEM: 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.

COURIC : Well I did read something this weekend in the Washington Post that I found very heartening. It was about a shift in the role of fathers. It was really a profile of a single father who adopted two African American boys. A white man in Washington DC. A single guy. But it went on to say that according to the Labor Department, for every hour and a half a mother spends doing the child caring responsibilities, men are now spending 49 minutes. Now I thought that was actually a wonderful advance in terms of sharing the responsibility of raising children. Do you see that trend?

STEINEM: It is an advance. Men are doing more than their fathers but they’re still not doing anything like as much as women are doing. So it’s on the way, but it’s not there yet. But this I think is deeply connected to our political life too. Because most of us women and men are raised almost entirely by women. We associate female authority with childhood. And we think it’s appropriate to childhood and not to adult life and politics. Because we really haven’t seen it that much. So some people, and I think men especially, as we saw in the last election, feel regressed when they saw Hillary Clinton, a powerful woman because the last time they saw a powerful woman they were eight. So men raising children is crucial in every area because it shapes our idea that men can be nurturing. Women can be knowledgeable and authoritative. We both can be both.

COURIC: Do you think one of the reasons that a patriarchal society is perpetuated -- that white males in positions of powers and authority generally, t generally hire people who look like them and that’s part of the problem.

STEINEM: That’s part of it. But that’s the outcropping of something that goes very deep, which is that women got in this jam in the first place, all of us, wherever we come from, because we are the means of production. Our bodies are the means of reproduction. And it’s the desire to control the process of reproduction which is made even more strong if there is a racial caste system because then you want to maintain racial “purity.” And restrict the movements of the women of the powerful group and create and get the women of color to create more and more cheap labor. And you know it really is the politics of reproduction at the root of it. And that is increased by what you described ‐- the idea that we are not all human beings and we can somehow only relate to people who look like us.

GREENE: And I think we can point to the health care reform process we just went through as a very clear example of how much work there is to be done. Absolutely there are some really good things in the bill that should be celebrated and will allow for greater access for healthcare for many women. But we just went through the biggest rollback in reproductive rights in my generation. I was born the same year Roe v Wade was affirmed.

GREENE: Going through the health care reform process, women and our reproductive rights were targeted. At that last minute hour, behind closed doors, when the Catholic bishops cut a deal with Nancy Pelosi. When it came to which constituency was going to be hit the most, we did take a real big hit.

STEINEM: Even though the majority of Catholics in public opinions polls didn’t agree with what the bishops were asking for.

COURIC: That no federal funds be used…

STEINEM: Yes

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.

COURIC: Right

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.

Sarah Palin as Faux Feminist

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.

COURIC: Jehmu, do you agree with that?

GREENE: I think that most feminists do not make their voting decisions based on our reproductive organs. It is about the issues. And are you promoting the sentiment, the values, and our rights that are clearly important? And I would say that Sarah Palin does not represent many of those same sentiments.

COURIC: In what way? I mean why?

GREENE: Well clearly she wants the government to intervene in family planning decisions, and to have the government come in to my home or your home and make medical decisions for us and that to me goes against absolutely any feminist principle I grew up learning.

COURIC: So both of you would say you cannot be against abortion morally for an entire population or for an entire country and be considered a feminist?

STEINEM: Yes, you can be for yourself of course. And in fact the feminist movement has gone to the same lengths to keep women from being pressured into abortion as we have to keep its safe and legal, so it is about that particular freedom of choice. But she can call herself anything she wishes. She can’t say that Susan B. Anthony however was against abortion, which is what they say. There is absolutely no evidence of any statement that Susan B. Anthony ever made against abortion. And they are just not telling the truth about this.

Fiorina and Whitman 

COURIC: But there are other female candidates. It was interesting to see everyone herald this most recent round of primaries as the “Year of the Woman” and they’re certainly talking about women of a variety of political ideologies. Do you applaud these women who have progressed or climbed the political ladder even if their views like Carly Fiorina for example. I’m not sure how Meg Whitman feels about reproductive rights…

 

STEINEM: But you know, Carly’s position on taxation would deprive women of child care and so on. I defend their right to be wrong. They have an absolute right to be wrong. But the reason that they are being put forward is because the women’s movement has been so successful. So there are some people that when they’re on your side, you know you’re winning. And I would say that that’s what’s happening here. The Republican Party, saw how well Hillary Clinton did. And is now fielding female candidates but the good news is this is an electoral process and people are smart. And they can look at the issues and understand.

It’s much more difficult when it’s an appointment. Like with Justice Thomas, who also was put forward because of the Civil Rights Movement, even though he didn’t represent it on most of the issues. But he could be appointed. This time, with an electoral process, we get to look and see what the issues are. And just as more men than women supported Sarah Palin the last time, I suspect it may happen again.

GREENE: And it’s great to celebrate that as we’re getting closer to a time where it will be unremarkable for two women to be running against each other, for women to be in all of the presidential debates. I think we’ve taken some very significant steps in the last cycles to make sure that it is unremarkable. Now how those issues play out for those candidates is what will determine if they’re successful or not. And we’ve seen so many “Years of the Woman.” In 1984 it was the year of the woman.

COURIC: 1992

GREENE: 1992. But in 1984, many women won in primaries and then lost in the general election cycle. And I think that’s because when voters go in to that voting booth, when women go in to cast those votes, they’re not voting again on reproductive organs. They’re voting on where you stand on our rights, the same set of feminist sentiments. And are you for pro‐equality, as Gloria says? And I think that will be a challenge for many of the conservative women who are trying to tap into the success of Secretary Clinton.

STEINEM: And we need feminist men and we do have feminist men.

COURIC: But there are a lot of women who like conservative women.

STEINEM: Yes

COURIC: It’s not as if people who are going to vote are only going to vote for liberal candidates. There are many women out there who relate to and appreciate and applaud the politics of someone like and Carly Fiorina and Sarah Palin and a variety of Republican women.

STEINEM: But it’s not just about biology.

COURIC: No, I’m not saying it is.

STEINEM: No, I know. But those women if they have access to information about the issues and where these women stand, which is squarely against what most women need and want and say they need and want in majority public opinion polls. So if they still vote for them, they’re voting against themselves, which is quite tragic to me.

COURIC: On the other hand I read recently a Gallup poll showed 48% of women identify themselves as prolife. 45% as prochoice.

STEINEM: But this is because of the terms. “Prolife” ‐- what does that mean? We all wear buttons that say, “A woman’s life is a human life.” If you ask the question they way it should be asked, without those confusing terms, which are quite backward, which is: who makes the decision? – a woman and her physician or the government? The huge majority, over 60%, say it should be the woman and the physician, not the government. And that’s the point.

GREENE: They don’t want the government coming into our homes and telling us how we should make a medical decision. I think again it is a branding/marketing issue that has been won in many ways by the prolife movement but it does go deeper into the issue. That’s when you see those shift in the support for prochoice candidates.

COURIC: At some point (just getting back to those candidates) it bothered me when everyone said “you’re the woman” because I thought isn’t true equality viewing them from a prism that evaluates their ideology, their positions, how they feel about certain issues? The fact that they’re male or female, of course it shapes who we are as individuals, but shouldn’t it really be secondary to what they would do in positions of power and what their philosophies are?

STEINEM: Yes, of course. I mean in real life… Race is a fiction. We all came from the same place in Africa and we just got adapted to climate wherever we went. So race is a fiction. Gender is a fiction. So we’re trying to get to the point of shared humanity. Absolutely. That’s the whole idea. So it’s just as important to me and I have worked for male candidates who really were feminists and against female candidates who were not.

Obviously Feminism is Wining, Or Sarah Palin Wouldn't be Calling Herself One

KATIE COURIC: Let me ask you a question somebody asked on Facebook. Jaclyn Koch says on Facebook, “Do [you] think that feminism is still considered a bad word today? I think the term used to really get a bad rap. But today it seems things are beginning to level out.” What say you?

GLORIA STEINEM: It’s interesting to me because is Rush Limbaugh gonna call [Sarah Palin] a “feminazi” like he calls me? Obviously feminism is winning, otherwise these women wouldn’t be calling themselves feminists. So the truth of the matter is that, in public opinion polls more women consider themselves feminists than consider themselves Republicans, evangelicals, or even Democrats.

COURIC: I thought it was worth reminding people what the definition of feminism is because when I looked up it says that feminism is the “doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights equal to men.” Hard to argue with that, isn’t it?

STEINEM: Yeah, but it’s been demonized by the Rush Limbaughs of the world who say “feminazi” and so on. So if people go to the dictionary and see what it means, most folks agree. Men too.

JEHMU GREENE: And I think if you look at the Millennial Generation and what is so inspiring of the generations coming up is they are the most diverse, the most tolerant generation this country has ever seen. A lot of these issues around putting feminism in a silo in the way that Rush has tried and other folks have tried, are going to be pushed back by these younger generations.

COURIC: At the same time, don’t you feel like feminism the movement has lost a bit of steam? I didn’t find the statistics, but of course you all more than anyone, are familiar with young women of an early age basically eschewing the whole notion of feminism and not considering themselves feminists.

STEINEM: I agree the word feminism has been demonized, even though it has huge number of adherents. But if you say “women’s movement,” it’s 90 percent of young women versus about 70 percent of older women who say that they support it, so it’s actually more younger women than older women.

GREENE: And that is the power of social media. When you spend any time on Twitter or on Facebook, you see the level of connections and organizing that are happening. The medium is very attractive to women and I think allows us to, in this changing media landscape climate, to really use social media as a way of continuing to rebuild or continuing to build the movement. That’s where I think you’re getting those numbers as far as 90 percent of younger women who will engage and call themselves a part of the woman’s community, woman’s movement.

COURIC: So you think it’s a misconception that many young people don’t consider themselves feminists?

STEINEM: Yes. It’s part of the idea that the movement is over. The opposition first takes the form of “You can’t do that. It’s against biology, God, Freud, something. You can’t do that. It’s not necessary. It’s impossible.”

And then the second form of opposition is “Well, it used to be necessary, but it’s not anymore.” And we’re in that stage. So I think young women should sue for libel because they are so distorted in their real views by this idea that they don’t support their own equality.

COURIC: So you don’t think there’s any merit to the argument that feminism is out of step with modern American women? Because you hear that argument increasingly, as you know. I think it’s really been circulating for the last five to 10 years.

STEINEM: No. No, because I travel all the time so I’m preserved from that. Time magazine has I think declared feminism, the women’s movement, dead 27 times. So declaring us dead is part of the opposition, but actually it keeps growing and growing and growing in real terms.

COURIC: Jehmu, there’s a Twitter question that has to do with sort of the sexualization of women. I get bothered by how -- and maybe it’s my imagination, maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I have two daughters -- the objectification of women seems to be so in your face these days, whether it’s with artists, rap stars. You know that’s kind of a tired argument. But it’s still very prevalent in pop culture. And even in the way women are presenting themselves, it seems to be they would rather be viewed as “hot” than “accomplished.” And is there any method to my madness here? And do you sense that in popular culture as well?

GREENE: Clearly there is a huge problem with the sexualization of girls and women in the media and we talked a little bit about the images that are funneled into girls from very young ages in G‐rated movies. But when you ask the questions to especially high school students, which is something we’ve been doing at the Women’s Media Center, there is an ability from a media literacy standpoint, that many of these young women are starting to separate those images from their reality. And I think social media is contributing to that media literacy. A lot of the conversations that are going on with high school girls are pushing back against those sexualized images and that is a real opportunity for growth within the women’s movement. But at the end of the day, it is not being generated by young women.

STEINEM: But if it is, more power to them. Because being body‐proud, having control or feeling power in sexuality, there’s nothing wrong with that. In a generalized way, the cultures that require women and girls to cover up their bodies are worse for women in which women can uncover their bodies. So I think some of it may be age because, for me, say, I grew up in a time in which to be overtly sexual was dangerous because you got to be the wrong kind of – you know – anything could happen to you. So we may fear for young girls who are actually expressing their sexuality and have a right to.

GREENE: But I do think that, if you look at rap music in particular, that there are decisions being made in small executive offices by mostly white men about the images that they want to see their artists producing. How they show/portray African American young women is problematic. Again I don’t think that is being driven by the artists or driven by the community. In many ways, that’s driven from a purely profit‐centered reality of these executives. And that is where we’re seeing a lot of young women finally finding their voice and pushing back against those images.

COURIC: But at the same time, I do think there is that same old adage that sex sells and that looks matter in our culture. It’s a cultural medium. I was thinking about Sarah McLachlan, who I love as a singer (and I still like her, I’m not holding this against her). But I noticed she sort of transformed her image in keeping with what a modern pop star "should" look like.

STEINEM: Well, especially in the music world because the singers are so young. I mean if you’re 22 and you’re trying to enter the field, you’re considered old. So the question is whether she did this of her own free will or whether she was forced into it.

COURIC: Yeah, whether somebody said “Hey, if you want to be more marketable, you need to sex yourself up a bit.”

STEINEM: And that’s really the question. And it’s not always easy to figure out. But it’s very important we tune into ourselves to find the inner authority to say what it is I really want and then do it. I must say there is one advantage of being a member of the wrong group ‐- which we all are here ‐- which is that nothing you do is exactly right, this frees you to do whatever you want. Because you really come to the conclusion that there is no right way for the wrong group. If you know what I mean. And therefore for us to be, to have some sort of self authority, why not? Why not?

COURIC: We had a Twitter question that was kind of along these lines. Bobby Rivers TV tweets, “I feel that shows like 'The Bachelorette' are a whoopee cushion on the seat of the feminist movement.”

STEINEM: Haha. Say that again.

COURIC: “I feel that shows like 'The Bachelorette' are a whoopee cushion on the seat of the feminist movement.” Gloria’s opinion on that?

STEINEM: You know the shows are incredibly stupid but what is most offensive about them is that it’s not equal opportunity stupidity.

COURIC: Well they have “The Bachelor” too.

STEINEM: I know, but there are many more women competing for the handsome, rich guy than there are men competing for a woman on these shows.

COURIC: Is that true? I don’t know the numbers.

GREENE: Oh yes. By far.

STEINEM: By far. So I have a kind of motto. Which is… You probably can’t say it on…

COURIC: It’s a webshow Gloria. Go for it. Unless it’s super risqué.

STEINEM: Well it starts with “s” … It's always better if it’s equally divided. It’s still a problem, but if it’s equally divided, it’s at least not a political problem.

COURIC: All right, you’re gonna have to explain that to me later. I can’t believe, Gloria, that you’re 76 years old.

STEINEM: Yes, I can’t believe it either.

The Feminist Movement Going Forward

COURIC: As you look back on your goals for the feminist movement, on what you really wanted for girls and women in this country, how do you feel about where we are today?

STEINEM: Because I travel much of the time, I have the opportunity to see how far along we are. To hear women, and men too, telling me their stories and how much their lives have changed and so I’m just constantly nourished by that.

I do think that many of us underestimated the force of the opposition. I kind of thought growing up that we had a democracy and if we got a majority support for issues we would win the issues, which turns out not to be the case, because we’ve had majority support for issues for a long time and we don’t have them embedded in our government. You know sometimes people ask me “What are you most proud of in your life?” And I always say I haven’t done it yet. I mean I’m living in the future actually. I’m encouraged by Jehmu. I’m encouraged by you. You will be here. You will be here when I’m not. And that feels good.

COURIC: What are you most disappointed about?

STEINEM: I think that we haven’t made a dent, as you see in that article’s title “The End of Men,” in the idea that somebody has to win. We’re still living in an “either/or” culture, not in an “and” culture. We’re still ranking instead of linking. We still have a sort of hierarchical view of life instead of a circle. And actually for most of human history, we’ve lived the other way. It’s been about linking, not ranking. The circle was the paradigm of society.

I’m most disappointed that it’s not part of discussion. That, for instance, the media still views objectivity as being even‐handedly negative. And doesn’t really report that much on solutions. And especially reports on things that are equally divided.

I noticed that in Japan they discuss important issues with at least three people. And that’s like a drink of water in the desert to think there are three different views, instead of only two views fighting with each other. And in the case of most issues, there are seven sides or 14 sides. And I’m disappointed that we don’t have the imagination of cooperation, equality, community. That we’re still in this old paradigm.

COURIC: Do you think that’s because the nascent feminist movement was in some ways based on anger, outrage and the desire to help women progress that was threatening, so threatening, to the status quo that it almost positioned the sides against each other instead of a more conciliatory movement? Is that just the way movements are born?

STEINEM: No. If you asked me what we did wrong I would say we were much too nice.

COURIC: Really?

STEINEM: Because we were trained to be nice and plump pillows. We’ve been much too nice. And the idea of our being threatening doesn’t come from our being threatening, it comes from the idea that a normal male‐female relationship is 70‐30 or 60‐40, so 50‐50 feels threatening. We’ve always been talking about 50‐50.

GREENE: What inspires me and gets me up every morning is the fact that there are more people, young women, men who identify as feminists today than did back in 1970. And that, in and of itself, shows that we are continuing in the right direction. And also the fact that this next generation, actually I see it as an “and” proposition versus the “either/or.” And they are the future leaders; the future heads of corporations; the future media experts. We can all look forward to an opportunity to move away from the combative style to showing that it is all about pro‐equality and it’s not about one side winning over the other.

 

Editor's note: This interview was lightly edited for continuity and repetitiveness.

 
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