Gloria Steinem – “Equal Rights for Women – Yes and No” (1970)
Ms. Steinem writes this amendment to the constitution with the goal of rebutting “another myth, that some are already treated equally in this society. I am sure there has already been ample testimony to prove that equal pay for equal work, equal chance for advancement, and equal training or encouragement is obscenely scarce in every field, even those – like food and fashion – that are supposedly “feminine”.” Her job as a female journalist, in a male dominated society and job market, put her in the unique position of allowing her to have her voice heard by many more people than if she had conformed the the patriarchal norms of a stay-at-home mother and housewife. And she did just that; she forced her way into the limelight and loudly exposed the flaws in the patriarchy. Having a female uncorrupted by the power that men have been granted for so long would provide an interesting – and perhaps more moral – perspective on the issues that have plagued us for so long. As bystanders for thousands of years, there is an objectiveness that has been missing from the world scene. Women not only need to break out of the roles that have been forced upon us for so long, but realize that there is a much greater purpose generated for them; jobs need to be gender-neutral, and the stereotype that food and fashion are “feminine” roles needs to be dismissed as an old fashioned way of thinking, in order for people to be able to advance themselves.
Trade unions formed an Independent Labor party and nominated for mayor Henry George, the radical economist, whose Progress and Poverty had been read by tens of thousands of workers. George’s platform tells something about the conditions of life for workers in New York in the 1880s. It demanded:
- that property qualifications be abolished for members of juries.
- that Grand Jurors be chosen from the lower-class as well as from the upperclass, which dominated Grand Juries.
- that the police not interfere with peaceful meetings.
- that the sanitary inspection of buildings be enforced.
- that contract labor be abolished in public works.
- that there be equal pay for equal work for women.
- that the streetcars be owned by the municipal government.
In 1886, as a new mayor was being elected for New York City, the issues for workers were unfathomable if compared to the issues for workers in today’s society. Zinn highlights Henry George’s platform, and although considered a radical, these conditions accentuate how terrible and inhumane the factories were for workers, as well as the way that workers were treated. For instance, numbers three and six are particularly shocking, three because in this age, unsafe buildings are never, under any conditions, used in any way, and six for the opposite reason: women still do not, in many fields, receive equal pay for equal work, and that this is considered a radical idea along with the other items is surprising. Zinn is trying to place a clear connection between the so-called radical ideas of the late 1800’s and the widely accepted ideas of today. While a few of these ideas seem rather minor, they were instrumental to emphasize to make bigger changes, one little change at a time. Although George did not win the election, he place din second, and drew attention to his cause in the process.