Sunday, July 11, 2004

Thirty Years Later

Several posts below, Blog Sister Brooke Biggs asks for input -- 200 words or less. Well, I couldn't do it in even twice that many. But here it is, anyway:

It was 1975 and the first Stepford Wives movie had just come out, Ms Magazine was three years old, the book Fascinating Womanhood was getting big play, and the Vietnam War had just ended. I was a vocal feminist, a disgruntled housewife, a struggling mother, a war-protestor, and I thought that Gloria Steinham should rule the world.

Along with thousands of other women, I marched and argued for women’s rights – to choose, to earn salaries equal to men for equal jobs, to be treated with respect and collegiality, to share family chores with our spouses so that we could also pursue our career dreams. We were the ones who read Ms Magazine and stopped wearing bras. Some of us even burned them. We gathered together in what became known as "consciousness raising groups" as a way to explore ways to help ourselves and each other.

We couldn't understand why so many of our "sisters" were against our vision, our values. But plenty were. Not exactly Stepford Wives, but almost.

It's just about thirty years later. A new version of the Stepford Wives is out, with the villain, this time, a woman. Women against women.

Women are still trying to get equal pay for equal work, still fighting for the right to choose. Code Pink is out there marching and arguing and exploring ways to help ourselves and each other. But there’s also the strong media-enforced "Fascinating Womanhood" message of The Swan and all the women who watch and wanna be. Because that’s what they’re told men want. And the message we keep getting is that we can’t have a man and our true selves at the same time. It's an old message. It hasn't changed in generations.

What we still have not done right yet is convince enough women to turn away from buying into the values that historically have enabled male leaders to get and hold power. There are still too many women against women. What we have not done right yet is convince enough men that there are other and better ways to govern and relate and succeed. There are still too many men happy with their Stepford Wives. Too many women afraid to step off the pedestal, no matter how damaged and precarious they know it is. They are the ones who vote conservative.

I think we need to find a really good public relations firm to market our cause. Maybe we need to co-opt the tool of our successful antagonists and use it against them. And maybe we need a whole lot more Gloria Steinhem types.

Finally, some great Steinhem one-liners that, sadly enough, are still true thirty years later:

I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.
• We've begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.
• Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.
• Most women are one man away from welfare.
• A liberated woman is one who has sex before marriage and a job after.
• I don't breed well in captivity.
• A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space.
• If the shoe doesn't fit, must we change the foot?
• The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.
• Women may be the one group that grows more radical with age.

Certainly the last is true of me.

(cross posted on

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