Gloria Steinem, “Testimony Before Senate Hearings on The Equal Rights Amendment,” Teaching-Learning Materials

Classroom Activities

A. What were Steinem’s goals in this speech?Discuss what phrases, arguments, or images influenced your response.

B. What evidence does Steinem offer to support her claims?Did you find her arguments
convincing? Be prepared to discuss your response.

C. How does Steinem’s ethos or credibility affect her speech? Would this speech have been received differently if delivered by another speaker? Be prepared to discuss your response.

D. Steinem refers to the phrase “masculine mystique.” What does she mean by this? Try to locate a copy or summary of The Feminine Mystique. Who is the author? What is her argument? What information can you find out about the reception of this book?

E. Steinem compares women’s experiences of discrimination to those of other minority groups. Which groups does Steinem mention? Which experiences of discrimination does she say these groups and women share?

F. What does Steinem mean by “sex based myths”? Create a list of other “sex based myths” that you think exist today and explore the implications of each on women and men.

G. How would you describe the style of Steinem’s testimony? Is it ornate, simple, or a
combination of the two? How does Steinem’s speaking style affect the persuasiveness of her message? Should she have presented a more or less ornate speech? Be prepared to discuss the reasons for your response.

H. When speaking about women’s employment opportunities, Steinem mentions that the food and fashion industries are considered to be “feminine.” What does she mean by that? What other fields of employment, college majors, social activities, or social problems might be considered as more “feminine”? How might the perceived feminization
of a job, major, or other example shape one’s perceptions about women and their
abilities?

I. Reread Steinem’s speech, paying particular attention to paragraph 2, the only comments Steinem had not prepared in advance. Do you think that these comments contributed to Steinem’s overall argument? Why or why not? Would her speech have been as effective if she had just read her original testimony as planned?

J. Do you think that the ERA would have helped or hurt women? Do you think that the ERA would have helped or hurt families? What reasons and evidence influenced your response?

Student Research 

A. Read the text of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the U.S. Department of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website (http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/vii.html). What is Title VII? What was it designed to do? Why might Steinem have mentioned Title VII in her speech? For what reasons might Steinem and other ERA proponents have argued that the U.S. needed an equal rights amendment in addition to Title VII?

B. Visit the Library of Congress’s American Memory Project and read about the National Women’s Party (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/suffrage/nwp/history.pdf). What was the National Women’s Party? What was its mission and goals? Who were some of its leaders and members? Why might they have supported the ERA?

C. Using an on-line search database, a website, or a book, locate discussions of the first, second, and third “waves” of feminism. Why are these periods referred to as “waves”? What distinguishes one “wave” from another? What remained the same throughout all the “waves”? Which “wave” did Steinem represent?

D. Research the current status of the ERA in Congress by searching Thomas.gov (http://thomas.loc.gov/) using the search terms “equal rights amendment.” What recent actions have congressional representatives taken on behalf of the ERA? Which lawmakers currently support the ERA? Perform a similar search in Thomas.gov using the search terms “equal rights.” What other equal rights initiatives are currently before Congress? What do some of these initiatives seek to do?

E. Research the Constitutional Equality Amendment (CEA). What is it? What does it propose to accomplish? How is it different from the ERA? How is it the same? What is the
current status of the CEA? Do you think that the U.S. needs the CEA?

F. Compare and contrast Steinem’s “Testimony Before the Equal Rights Hearings” and her speech at Vassar CollegeWhat similarities can you identify between the two speeches? What differences exist? What factors may have contributed to the differences between the speeches? (Consider Steinem’s purpose, audience, occasion, and goals.)

G. Locate one of Steinem’s more recent speeches using an Internet browser. What issues does she discuss in the speech? What does she ask of her audience? How are these issues
and requests similar to and different from those she discussed in her ERA testimony?

H. Obtain a recent issue of Ms. Magazine at your school or local library or search some back issues at Ms. Magazine Online (http://www.msmagazine.com/). What are
some of the articles’ titles? What issues, topics, or themes does this issue address? How are these issues, topics, or themes similar to or different from those Steinem discussed in her testimony? Be prepared to provide a brief summary of your findings to the
class.

I. What is your definition of feminism? After establishing your own definition, look up “feminism” in a dictionary and in a book or scholarly article about feminism. How
is your definition similar to and different from the views expressed in the publications? How have those views strengthened or weakened your own definition?

Citizenship Resources 

A.Explore three of the following websites: www.now.org; www.naral.orgwww.feministsforlife.org; www.plannedparenthood.org. What are some of the general concerns expressed by these members of the current women’s movement? What issues are of concern to these groups? On what issues do these organizations agree?On what issues do they disagree? Locate the website for another women’s rights organization. What makes it different from the others?

B. What similarities existed between the goals and demands of the women’s movement and the civil rights movement from the 1960s and 1970s? What differences existed between their goals and demands? Does current U.S. society still need both
movements to ensure equality?

C. Research the status of U.S. women today in education, income, employment, or healthcare and discuss how, if at all, things have changed for women since Steinem delivered her speech. Ask one of your family members to discuss how the status of women has changed since she or he was young. Be prepared to share his or her comments.

D. Interview at least two female family members or older female friends. Ask them to talk about what, if any, challenges or set-backs they have experienced as a result of
their gender. Be prepared to share their comments with the class.

E. Interview at least two male family members of older male friends. Ask them to talk about any gender discrimination they may have experienced or witnessed. Be prepared to share their comments with the class.

F. Is gender equality still a concern for U.S. women today? What examples, evidence, and reasons could you use to support the answer “yes”? What examples, evidence, and reasons could you use to support the answer “no”?

G. Watch one of your favorite television shows or movies. How does the show or movie
portray women? Does it perpetuate any of the sex based myths that Steinem discusses? What other current T.V. shows or movies portray women positively? What
other current T.V. shows or movies portray women negatively? How do these depictions shape your own perceptions of women and their abilities?

H. Identify a local special interest or political group in your community that addresses women’s issues. What women’s issues concern them? What policies or plans does it promote? How do your views on these issues compare and contrast with the organization?

I. Locate a campus organization that deals with women’s issues. What group(s) does it represent? What are its goals? What strategies does this group employ to raise awareness about their issue? In what ways could you contribute to this group?