Gloria Steinem at Smith: Cooperation, Not Domination

Gloria Steinem gave the commencement address today at Smith College. Steinem’s efforts to call attention to the exploitation of women in America began soon after graduation…

Steinem’s lifelong career as a writer and journalist began when she graduated from Smith in 1956. Her early freelance articles include an investigative piece for Show magazine on the working conditions of Playboy bunnies. By the 1960s, Steinem had gained national attention as the outspoken leader of the women’s movement. In 1971, she co-founded Ms. magazine, which became an influential forum for feminist issues. Around that time, Steinem and several other leading feminists — including Betty Friedan, Smith Class of 1942–also founded the National Women’s Political Caucus…

Excerpt from Ms. Steinem’s commencement address (full text):

…which leads us to the big question of violence… Until the family paradigm of human relationships is about cooperation, and not about domination or hierarchy, we’re unlikely to be able to imagine cooperation as normal and even possible and commonplace…

…there are more slaves in proportion to the world’s population–more people held by force or coercion without benefit from their work–more now than there were in the 1800s. Sex trafficking, labor trafficking, children and adults forced into armies: they all add up to a global human-trafficking industry that is more profitable than the arms trade, and second only to the drug trade. The big difference now from the 1800s is that the United Nations estimates that 80% of those who are enslaved are women and children…

The wisdom of original cultures tells us that it takes four generations to heal one violent act. But it’s also true that, if we were to raise even one generation of children without violence and without shaming, we have no idea what might be possible….

While we’re at it over the next fifty years, remember that the end doesn’t justify the means, the means ARE the ends. If we want joy and music and friendship and laughter at the end of our revolution, we must [have] joy and music and friendship and laughter along the way. Emma Goldman had the right idea about dancing at the revolution…

For now, just measure the distance from my graduation to yours–from my class with only one student of color to your diverse class; from my era of no women’s history to yours that has been strengthened by women’s history. You can match or surpass that distance that we have covered.

See also:

Steinem on Flynt: “This pornography is as different from sex as rape is from sex”
[Steinem] asserts that Flynt “has not only the right to say these things, but a lot of money to say them. I’m saying we don’t have to support it. I’m just making the radical suggestion women are human beings… The point of the movie [“The People vs. Larry Flynt”] is to be seductive, and that’s what’s dangerous about it. It’s an extension of the pornography-industry campaign, that if you oppose pornography you oppose sex–and that’s a lie. This pornography is as different from sex as rape is from sex. They’re trying to preclude opposition by saying [anti-porn arguments] endanger the First Amendment. The porn industry has succeeded in positing two alternatives: pornography or censorship.”

Letter to the Gazette: “Addressing prostitution, promiscuity in war on AIDS”
Most sex workers in developing nations are more like slaves than they are like the “D.C. Madam”. Trafficking in women is a human rights violation that self-styled progressives like Garrett should oppose. Moreover, heterosexual women in the Third World, who lack the social power to enforce safe-sex guidelines in their relationships, are being infected with AIDS at an alarming rate by husbands who patronize prostitutes.

Realities of Teen Prostitution Mock Notions of ‘Sex Work’, ‘Sex-Positive’, ‘Freedom’ and ‘Empowerment’; Media Glamorizes Pimps
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that between 100,000 and 3 million American kids under age 18 are involved in prostitution and they’re often targeted by sexual predators…

Salon: Atlanta’s underage sex trade
The problem isn’t restricted to so-called Hotlanta; Herbert notes, dispiritedly, that “the overall market for sex with kids is booming in many parts of the U.S.” But the city’s role as a convention and travel hub has given it a particular boost. And advocates say that the prevailing preference for ever-younger prostitutes — fueled by “the cultural emphasis on the sexual appeal of very young women and girls” and “the widely held belief among johns that there is less risk of contracting a disease from younger prostitutes” — has pimps and sex traffickers recruiting more at-risk kids than ever before.

Video Presentation: A Content Analysis of 50 of Today’s Top Selling Porn Films (explicit language)
Ana Bridges: “…I’m going to begin to talk about what it is that we found after looking at these 304 scenes in these 50 top selling pornographic films. In total in the 304 scenes we coded a total of 3,376 acts of aggression. That ends up averaging…to an aggressive act every minute and a half. The scenes on average contained eleven and a half acts of verbal or physical aggression…”

Bridges: “We also coded for, what…we’re calling loosely in this talk, ‘extreme acts’ (of sex acts). The only sexual sequence that we coded, which is…when one thing follows another, was something called ATM…’ass-to-mouth’. This literally involves anal penetration followed by oral sex…she is literally eating her own shit. That occurred in 41% of the scenes that we coded…

Bridges: “So how many scenes didn’t contain aggression? About 10%.”

A New Category Debuts: Love and Beauty
There is so much that’s wrong with today’s porn that it’s easy for anti-porn activists to be in a bad mood most of the time. As Andrea Dworkin freely admitted, “I represent the morbid side of the women’s movement.” The public sees the anger and frustration, and many turn instead to the porn industry, which is much better at selling itself as glamorous and fun.

Our new category, Love and Beauty, will show how sex, love, relationships and people can be so much more than the narrow, blinkered version that porn offers. Watching porn instead of seeking a loving relationship with a real person is like being given a gorgeous race car that can go 200 miles per hour, only to drive it backwards down the highway at a crawl and scrape it against railings and bridge abutments.

A beautiful act can be astonishingly persuasive…

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