Gloria Steinem, Feminism and “Living the Revolution"
This lesson challenges students to explore the evolving feminism of the 1960s by examining two texts, The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan and the speech “Living the Revolution” by Gloria Steinem. These texts, combined with a four corners activity and debate, quote analysis, and an interview transcript provide students with the tools needed to evaluate the ideological origins of second-wave feminism and then determine the extent to which their goals were achieved today.
Two 60-minute periods.
1.Students will be able to analyze primary and secondary sources to better understand and feel historical empathy towards second-generation feminists and their struggle for equity.
2. Students will be able to analyze and synthesize primary and secondary sources to better understand the experience of women in the 1950s and 1960s.
3. Students will be able to explore and define Gloria Steinem’s concept of “Living the Revolution” and apply it to today.
Students should be able to contextualize second-wave feminism in the context of the broader Civil Rights movements of the 1960s and be aware of first-wave feminism and the fight for suffrage.
- 4 signs which say Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree posted on printer paper
- Handout #1 - Transcript of discussion between Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem (excerpted)
- Handout #2 - Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (excerpted)
- Handout #3 - “Living the Revolution” by Gloria Steinem (excerpted)
1. Direct students in pairs or groups to create a word web or semantic map with the term “feminism” in the center. Students should be asked to come up with ideas, terms, people, events, and causes that relate to this idea. Ask students to present their word wall. As groups present, a teacher or a student should create a word web for the class based on similar themes.
2. Use the barometer activity from Facing History and Ourselves to help students get a sense of how they defined feminism and what it looks like in practice. Read several statements out loud and ask students to move to the appropriate corner of the room (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree). Ask students why they placed themselves in each corner of the room when appropriate. When doing this activity, it is important to remind students of classroom norms and guidelines for civility in the classroom.
Statements for barometer activity
All women should aspire to be feminists.
Sexism impacts women in the same ways
You cannot be “pro-life” and a feminist.
Feminism should focus on issues that directly impact women like reproductive rights and economic injustice.
Feminism should include all issues that impact women, including environmental justice and immigrants’ rights.
The feminist movement should include men and other groups on the gender spectrum.
We don’t need feminism anymore.
Feminism failed because it was divisive and exclusive
3. Students should read aloud the transcript (located below) between Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem. This should be framed as a reflection on the struggles of women in the 1950s and 1960s. After reading the transcript, students should discuss the following questions in groups and then as a whole class.
Discussion Questions for Small Groups
What was it like to be a high achieving woman in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s?
What roadblocks did women encounter in higher education and in their careers? What message do you think society was sending? Do women still see these roadblocks today?
In spite of these messages, these two strong women persevered. What do you think pushed them to keep fighting?
4. In pairs, students will read an excerpt from The Feminine Mystique. As they do, students should complete the following questions in their notebook. Teacher should check-in with students as they work (this assignment could also be completed in advance as pre-reading if the teacher is pressed for time).
Questions for Check for Reading
What is the problem that has no aim? How has it impacted women in the United States?
According to the text, what is the traditional conception of being feminine? What are the consequences of this?
Who is Friedan writing for (the audience)? How might a sociologist criticize here conception of women in America in terms of race, class, and gender.
5. Students should be placed in groups of four. Each student will be responsible for approximately 8-10 paragraphs of independent reading and then sharing out with their small group. After the small groups have shared out, the whole class question for competition is “What is the Revolution, as Gloria Steinem envisions it?” Before students begin, teacher should ask, “how does the context of the speech, a commencement address at Vassar College, shape what Steinem might say?”
Question for Paragraphs 1-8: What problem does Steinem confront about American education, what we learn and the impacts of it?
Question for Paragraphs 10-17: What myths does Steinem challenge about gender and how does she critique them?
Question for Paragraph 18-27: What is liberation? What does liberation look like for all genders?
Question for Paragraph 28-35: How does Steinem consider the impact of intersectionality on the broader revolution?
6. Exit Ticket: In the commencement speech “Living the Revolution” Gloria Steinem states, “first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn but to unlearn.” What does this quote mean? What do you think we need to unlearn about gender today? How is that similar or dissimilar to what Gloria Steinem was fighting for?
7. Following the Exit Ticket, the teacher should assign the homework below. This assignment intersects with current events and allows students to flush out their understanding of Steinem’s speech, but also apply it in the setting of gender in America today.
Based on what you have learned today about Gloria Steinem and “Living the Revolution” answer the following prompt:
Consider the world that Gloria Steinem stood for and still fights for today. To what extent have we achieved her envision? In what ways have we reached it, surpassed it, or failed to achieved it?
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.2 Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness, or beauty of the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.
D2.His.3.9-12. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to assess how the significance of their actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context.
Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.