2010-11-18 / Local & State

Steinem: Notion Of Women ‘Having It All’ Is A Myth

By JoannLoviglio

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Women grappling with the overwhelming pressure for perfection that can wreak havoc in their lives need to realize that the notion of “having it all’’ is largely a myth, women’s movement icon Gloria Steinem told eating disorder clinicians at an annual meeting Friday.

Women have made huge strides in the workplace over the past several decades, but with no reduction in their amount of responsibility for child-rearing and household duties, she said. All the while, she said, they expect themselves to keep their youthful figures and faces – and consider themselves failures if they do not.

“If we’re going to change the ethic where a size zero and plastic surgery is the admirable norm, then the rest of us who aren’t part of the admirable norm have to say so,’’ said Steinem, keynote speaker at the annual conference of The Renfrew Center Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Philadelphia treatment facility dedicated to advancing education and research about eating disorders.

“What it takes is women standing up ... it’s breaking the silence,’’ she said.

Steinem told the group of several hundred attendees, many of them psychologists, physicians and nutritionists, that women cannot “have it all’’ unless and until men have an equal role in rearing children. She said while it is largely accepted that women can do many of the jobs that men can, it is not yet accepted that men can do as good a job bringing up children and caring for the home.

“Women are told they can have it all, that they can do anything, as long as they also keep doing everything else they were doing before,’’ she said.

Asked what she would change about the women’s movement in its nascent stages four decades ago, she said early feminists should have been more commanding.

“We were too nice,’’ she said. “We’re women. We were trained to be nice. We weren’t direct enough.’’

The Renfrew Center says it is the country’s first residential treatment facility exclusively for women with eating disorders and has treated more 55,000 women since it opened in 1985. It is based in Philadelphia and has facilities in eight other states.

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