1972 Interview

Barbra Streisand Believes In Women’s Lib But Also Sees Place For Mothering

By Bob Thomas

The harangue by a bearded revolutionary who looked like Fidel Castro was interrupted by a rebuttal from a Manhattan housewife who looked like Barbra Streisand.

Indeed it WAS Barbra Streisand, enacting a scene on location at the downtown Biltmore Hotel for her new film, “Up the Sandbox.” Fidel Castro was impersonated by an actor, Jacobo Morales.

The confrontation was part of the plot, in which Miss Streisand, as a professor’s wife and mother of two seeks her identity in a changing society.

Castro, supposedly on a visit to New York, argued that women should be liberated. Miss Streisand agreed, but countered that the Cuban was trying to cast women in male roles.

During a break in filming, the Oscar-winning actress paused for a rare interview in which she commented on the women’s rights movement.

She is for it— with reservations:

“Once the New York Times surveyed some prominent women for their opinions of Women’s Lib. I happened to have been reading something by Voltaire and a quotation stuck in my mind. I can’t repeat it exactly, but it went something like: ‘When we demand equality, we give up our superiority.’

“Most of the things about the movement I agree with. Equal job opportunities – yes. The fight against traditional roleplaying—yes. Abortion—yes; women should hold the right to say whether or not they want babies.

“But there should also be a time for mothering. Many women today are in conflict with their role in society. They feel they should be allowed to do more, yet they still have that primal urge of mothering …

“Most of all, a woman should be allowed to do what she wants to do. And if she chooses to stay home and be a wife and mother, she shouldn’t be put down for that. You should strive to do a good job in any field you choose, and a good mother is a fantastic creation.”

Was she ever the victim of male chauvinism?

“I still am,” Miss Streisand answered promptly. “One of the aspects of our society is that women’s ideas are immediately negated — because they originate from women.

“That has been the source of my frustrations in motion pictures. I had ideas, and I expressed them. But because I was a woman, I was disregarded. There is this prejudice against actresses. They’re supposed to look pretty and read their lines then shut up and go home.”

As the film world discovered, Barbra Streisand is not a girl who will merely shut up and go home. Starting with her first film, “Funny Girl,” she made her opinions known to producers and directors.

Now she is in a position to make her opinions stick. “Up the Sandbox” is her first production for First Artists, in which she is partner with Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier and Steve McQueen.

With producers Robert Chartoff and Irvin Winkler and director Irvin Kershner, she has been active in all matters including script and even budget. “I looked at it and got sick to my stomach,” she said.

“My strength is in instinctive things,” she remarked. “For instance, I can detect false lyrics in a song and can find ways to get around them.”

Besides having more control, Barbra likes the new project because it affords a chance for her to earn some big money.

“Everybody thinks I got 10 per cent of the gross of all my pictures,” she said. “They’ve earned about – $60 million? So I ought to have $6 million – right?

“Wrong. The first picture I had 10 per cent of is ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ I pleaded with producer Ray Stark to give me 10 per cent of ‘Funny Girl,’ but he wouldn’t. So he gets $3.5 million and I end up with ‘bubkiss.’” The latter word she translated from the Yiddish as “nothing.”