This past weekend, Gloria Steinem joined Jane Fonda and Sheryl Sandberg to speak at the first International Conference on Masculinities here in New York. Steinem’s speech was an impassioned reminder that both men and women will benefit from gender equality: She employed a highly effective rhetorical tactic, listing all of the perks that await men who stop being sexist, misogynistic, etc., and embrace feminism. Laughter was one of them, as was the following:
Men have been lonely without partners who share interests, and without that kind of closeness. In the 1950s, the kind of Mad Men — listen, I lived through the ‘50s, way worse than Mad Men — and men were lonely. They were being told essentially to marry housekeepers with whom they may or may not share interests, and their lives became instantly different in the home and outside the home. The conversation and closeness and comradeship was very, very difficult. Each one was a trophy for the other, but not a person, not a whole person.
If a compatible life partner isn’t enough, Steinem also makes the strong case that embracing feminism and eradicating destructive masculine tendencies will in fact lengthen a man’s life:
Men’s life expectancy increases by three to four years if you deduct from all the reasons that men die those that could be reasonably attributed to the masculine role. Death from violence, death from speeding, from tension-related diseases. If you deduct all that, then men would live three to four years longer.
She adds, “What other movement can offer men three or four more years? It’s not a bad offer.”
Reporting by Allegra Hobbs.