We’ve come a long way, baby — but if you ask Gloria Steinem, the de facto mother of modern feminism, we still have a really long way to go. Last week, Steinem, speaking to a crowd at Franklin and Marshall College, said, “I don’t know how to break it to you, but it will take another century and a half” for women to gain equality with men.
While women have made many gains, argued Steinem, the fight isn’t over — and is actually in “the second stage.” “That’s when people tell you [feminism] used to be necessary, but it’s not anymore,” she said. Steinem, who founded Ms. magazine and the Ms. Foundation for Women, argued that feminism is still vital and necessary because women still have to ask themselves the difficult questions — like how can I have both a career and a family? — that men aren’t saddled with. And it’s a question that only goes in one direction: To wit, “many people now believe that a woman can do what a man can do. The problem is that they don’t believe a man can do what a woman can do, such as raise children.”
Steinem brings up a valid point: Women have made great strides since the onset of Second Wave feminism, but can we truly say that women enjoy all the social freedoms and opportunities men do? It certainly seems that many women — especially young women — believe that feminism is no longer really relevant or important. But while advocates argue that policies like Title XI (which legislates that women must have equal access to sports) and Title VII (a federal protection against sexual harassment in the workplace) have offered up a solid legal groundwork for women’s equality, in practice, women still daily face harassment and mistreatment in both the public and private sector.
And that’s not to mention that women outside the United States are still fighting for the most basic forms of equality in a very real way — often without the benefit of pro-woman legislation, social or cultural support.
Does Steinem’s argument ring true for you? What does equality mean to you — and do you feel that you’ve achieved it?