Gloria Steinem asked her audience to envision a society free of rape.
"We have to have a vision of change," she said, before such a change can happen. "Our imagination and our dreams must go ahead."Speaking in Salt Lake City Friday at a fund-raising luncheon for the Rape Recovery Center, the feminist and author addressed a crowd of about 400.
"There are cultures in the world in which rape is not a problem," Steinem said. For the most part, these are indigenous cultures. "The single common characteristic seems to be that the sexes are not polarized."
In such cultures, girls are not taught to be submissive and boys aren't taught to be dominant, she said. During the last generation, girls have been taught to take on the assertive personality traits that were once thought to be masculine. Steinem says it is now time to try to change society's picture of masculinity, to teach boys to be compassionate, patient and flexible.
"I worry when we talk about the number of women who are raped rather than the number of men who are rapists." Steinem said men who are non-violent, the majority of men, should take on the task of ending male violence.
"We know it is a cycle. Men who are raping were abused as children. They have been treated violently themselves." But only one-third of abused boys grow up to be abusers themselves, she said. She seemed curious to know how the other two-thirds had healed themselves.
At various times during her speech, Steinem asked men to speak up, "men who have known what it is to fear other men," which must be common, as well as men who have been raped. Steinem said it will be difficult for men who have been raped to talk about it because the rapist has been another man and homophobia in our society is just too great.
She also talked about teenage pregnancy, citing a 1992 study done in Washington state that said girls who are sexually active at a young age are more likely than other girls to have been sexually molested when they were children. Steinem said it might be interesting to try to replicate the study in Utah to see if there is a connection between sexual assault and teen birthrates.
On the occasion of Steinem's speech, the Rape Recovery Center (formerly the Salt Lake Rape Crisis Center) celebrated 20 years of service in the Salt Lake Valley.
Steinem concluded her address by talking about her checkbook. Twenty years ago, she was busily telling reporters that the only way to assess our nation's values was to assess the federal budget.
She began to wonder what her budget said about her own personal values. So she looked at her check stubs for the previous month. "I wasn't so pleased." And since then, when she pays her monthly bills, Steinem asks herself if the way she is spending her money reflects her own values.
Steinem asked the audience to give money to the Rape Recovery Center not just once a year but once a month as a way to let their giving reflect their moral beliefs.