Seldom Seldom do do Utopias Utopias pass pass from from dream dream to to reality, reality, but but it is often an illuminating exercise to predict what could happen if they did. The following very personal and partisan speculations on how the world might be different if Women's Lib had its way were written for TIME by Gloria Steinem, a contributing editor of New York magazine, whose journalistic curiosity ranges from show business to Democratic politics. Miss Steinem admits to being not only a critical observer but a concerned advocate of the feminist revolt,
ANY change is fearful, especially one affecting both politics and sex roles, so let me begin these Utopian speculations with a fact. To break the ice.
Women don't want to exchange places with men. Male chauvinists, science-fiction writers and comedians may favor that idea for its shock value, but psychologists say it is a fantasy based on ruling-class ego and guilt. Men assume that women want to imitate them, which is just what white people assumed about blacks. An assumption so strong that it may convince the second-class group of the need to imitate, but for both women and blacks that stage has passed. Guilt produces the question: What if they could treat us as we have treated them?
That is not our goal. But we do want to change the economic system to one more based on merit. In Women's Lib Utopia, there will be free access to good jobs and decent pay for the bad ones women have been per forming all along, including housework. In creased skilled labor might lead to a four-hour workday, and higher wages would en courage further mechanization of repetitive jobs now kept alive by cheap labor.
With women as half the country's elected representatives, and a woman President once in a while, the country's machismo problems would be greatly reduced. The old-fashioned idea that manhood depends on violence and victory is, after all, an important part of our troubles in the streets, and in Viet Nam. I'm not saying that women leaders would eliminate violence. We are not more moral than men; we are only uncorrupted by power so far. When we do acquire power, we might turn out to have an equal impulse toward aggression.
Even now, Margaret Mead believes that women fight less of ten but more fiercely than men, because women are not taught the rules of the war game and fight only when cornered. But for the next 50 years or so, women in politics will be very valu able by tempering the idea of manhood into something less ag gressive and better suited to this crowded, post-atomic planet.
Consumer protection and children's rights, for instance, might get more legislative attention.
Men will have to give up ruling-class privileges, but in re turn they will no longer be the only ones to support the fam ily, get drafted, bear the strain of power and responsibility.
Freud to the contrary, anatomy is not destiny, at least not for more than nine months at a time. In Israel, women are drafted, and some have gone to war. In England, more men type and run switchboards. In India and Israel, a woman rules. In Sweden, both parents take care of the children. In this country, come Utopia, men and women won't reverse roles; they will be free to choose according to individual tal ents and preferences.