Looking for a family of equals
Excerpts from the 1988 Wellesley College commencement address, delivered by Gloria Steinem. I am honored to share this day with all of the Class of 1988, and I will always remember it. On the other hand, you may not remember it at all. To insert a note of realism here, I don't remember one single thing about my commencement speaker, or what she said, or what he said....
Instead of one theme that might exclude many people, I'm going to be diverse in the hope of coming up with a sentence or two that might be more useful to more people. About equality
Men care for infants as much as women do.
It will take many changes to make men equal in the home, just as it is taking many changes to give women equality outside the home. But it can be done. For instance, parental leave, not just maternity leave, so that fathers can be at home when new babies arrive. Changed work patterns so that both parents of infants and small children can choose to work a shorter day or shorter week....
Children will be pleased, because they will be growing up with a father instead of too much mother, and too little father. They will know that men can be as loving and nurturing as women can, just as they know that women and men can be equally honored in authority outside the home.
Therefore, whether they are boys or girls, they can grow up with all of their human qual-ities intact. They can grow up as whole people.... About politics
The family is the microcosm of the state. Isn't that what they told us in political science classes? So how come they never figured out that we will never have a truly democratic state until we have a democratic family?
In other words, politics isn't just what goes on in the electoral system or in Washington, politics is any power relationship in our daily lives. Anytime one group is powerful over another, or one individual over another, not because of talent or experience, but just because of sex, or race, or class, that's politics. So when children have only their father's names, that's politics. And when men have one job and women have two, one outside the home and one inside it, that's politics. And when students and faculty of color are present in smaller proportions on our campuses than their proportion in the population, that's politics.
So we can have a serious revolution about words and naming, about child care and cooking, about one group deprived of their own culture and another group deprived by living in a white ghetto. We can have a revolution about these things. Indeed, we are.... About violence in society
Violence is never an acceptable way of solving conflict. And indeed the most violent societies are the most sex-role-polarized ones. And the few societies without institutionalized violence have the most flexible sex roles. Males are not told that they must be aggressive, violent, or victorious to earn masculinity. And females are not told they must endure or support aggression in order to be feminine. In uprooting sex roles, we may be rooting out a major paradigm of violence on this fragile spaceship Earth, where we can afford violence no more.
Now I know people will scoff at these futuristic goals, just as they did at educated women 113 years ago. They will say that men will never raise children as much as women do. ``Give me a break,'' they will say. Or that racism and violence is in our genes. But these same people accept male mastery of unknown technologies and their ability to travel in outer space. So they can master the known and rewarding process of child-rearing and voyaging in inner space.
Men have been deprived of their whole selves, too. If we accept micro and mega computers, space umbrellas, and cracking the mystery of the human cell, why can't we accept things as small as changing the way we pay each other, honor each other, work together, and raise our children?
Our hearts and our hands go with you. And one more thing: Whatever your best self wants to do - do it now....