Escaping Control

Gloria Steinem, “Escaping Control:  Linking Gender, Social Movements, and Democracy
Bioneers conference, June 29, 2012


“I’m talking about the division of humanity into the cults of masculinity and femininity, into false divisions that conceal both our shared humanity and our individual uniqueness…..We are trained in this division very young, usually in our own families, and it normalizes later divisions into:  leader and led, subject and object, rich and poor, even conqueror and conquered.

“After all, if we will accept in our own families the idea that there are some who eat and some who cook, some whose education or words or acts are more important, even some who control by right and by violence, then how much easier is it to accept ideas of birth-based differences of race and class and ethnicity that are just as invented? 

“There’s no competition of tears here.  Only the individual knows what’s hurting, and why, and in what combination, but it is very often gender which offers the first pattern.  In fact, you can see from looking around the world that the countries with the least democracy in public life have the least democracy between males and females in so-called private life.  And the countries with the most autocratic and violent systems of governance have them from birth.  Yet, few people tell us the simple truth:  you can’t have a democracy without democratic families.  Or even:  you can’t have a democracy without the female half of the country.  That’s because our educational and intellectual life is also divided into so-called feminine and so-called masculine courses.

“Of course, yes, it is possible to change.  We need not be childhood determinists.  But it’s very difficult, because we are like Russian dolls, with all our earlier selves nested within us.  On the upside, it also means that we have no idea what might be possible if we raised even one generation of children without violence and with faith in both that individual’s uniqueness and our shared humanity.

“It is simply not possible to be a feminist without also being an anti-racist…”