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Steinem Hits 'Sexist' Law School

By Carol R. Sternhell

"The humanization of Harvard Law School is inevitable," Gloria Steinem told a group of Law School students, faculty and alumni Saturday at a closed banquet of the Law Review. "Part of living the revolution is that the scales fall off our eyes a little bit every day."

Speaking at the Sheraton Plaza Hotel-"probably so I wouldn't have to come in the back door of the Harvard Club," she said yesterday-Steinem sharply criticized the Law School for its insensitivity to anti-female biases. "I am here to talk about the half of the human race that is women," she said. "The first problem for both men and women is not to learn, but to unlearn."

"It is very odd speaking before so powerful a branch of the white male establishment," said Steinem-a New York writer and prominent spokeswoman for the women's movement-addressing her speech to "friends and sisters."

"It is clear we need courses in women's studies just as we need courses in black studies," she said, speaking of "the first 5000 years of human history when women were treated as equals. Were worshipped, in fact, because of childbearing, as paternity was not yet discovered."

The discovery of paternity, Steinem added, necessitated "locking up women to make sure who the father was-the beginning of marriage. We were the original means of production."

Speaking yesterday before an informal discussion group in Harkness Commons, she commented, "It was a strange experience for me. Suddenly I found myself speaking about penis-envy and menopause as a symbol of oppression before the Harvard Law Review. "

"The penis-envy theory of Mr. Freud," Steinem told the Law Review, "I had stopped talking about. Then I found that a professor in the Business School still tells women students, 'You're only here because you want a penis, and you'll never have one.'"

"Women are the outs too," she said, comparing the oppression of women with the oppression of blacks. "They are suffering from the same myths: a childlike nature, smallerbrains, naturally passive, that they lack objectivity (which a few Harvard Law professors are still saying), and that they lack the ability to govern themselves, God forbid to govern white men."

"I'm not attempting to equate the suffering of the two groups," she added yesterday at Harkness. "Women lose their identity, while black people lose their lives."

"The generalized differences between two groups-male and female, black and white-is so much less great than the probably physical and temperamental differences between two women, or two white men," Steinem said. "It's time we based all job requirements on individual ability."

She called on her audience to use their power, "as students and faculty and alumni and friends of the Law School," to work for social change. "The problems of the Law School in changing society for the better become your problems, too," she said.

"I was trying to convince them that as students and faculty they had influence," she explained yesterday. "I'm not sure of the effect."

At the banquet, Steinem presented the Review audience with a series of demands, discussed last week in a private meeting with women Law students. They include:

Recruitment of women students, with a goal of 50 per cent in mind, "carrying at least the weight that geographical distribution is already given";

That qualified women be sought out immediately for positions on the Faculty;

That existing courses be reviewed, and a course on women and the law be added for credit;

That the Law Review take on women seriously as writers, and produce articles relevant "to the legally-oppressed majority";

That firms suspected of discrimination against women in hiring and promotion be investigated, and denied use of the Law School's placement facilities if discrimination is found;

That the "comprehensive insured medical care" now offered by the Law School be expanded to include gynecological facilities for women;

That child-care facilities be available to all students and employees; and

That the Law School "become a place for human beings, not a work-obsessed skillbank for big firms."

"I can begin to understand how a woman feels at Harvard Law School," Steinem said. "She is lonely; the only staff people who look like her are secretaries and maids. She begins to spend a lot more time getting mad as hell."

She criticized the Law School curriculum for ignoring legal problems relevant to women, saying "In Constitutional Law there is no mention of the Equal Rights Amendment, in Family Law there is no mention of how women lose their civil rights when married, and Labor Law doesn't mention the protective legislation that applies to women."

"Just last night," she added, "an eminent professor of Law admitted he didn't know what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was. The same man replied to the demand that a female full professor be hired by saying that this would cause too many problems on the Faculty because of sexual vibrations.'"

Calling for "the humanization of the work pattern," Steinem said, "The idea that masculinity depends on the subjugation of other people has gotten us in almost as much trouble here as in Vietnam."

"Maybe if we live this revolution," she said in the conclusion of her speech, "put it to work in our daily life, language, and attitudes, maybe this will be a suitable end to the second 5000-year period.

"Maybe the historians-legal and otherwise-will look back at this period as the first time in history that the human animal stopped dividing by physical differences, and started to look at our real potential," she said.

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