Elle coverNovember 1992

Since this has been called the year of the woman, l'd like to take the liberty of addressing the women in the audience. Of course the men are allowed to read along if they want to.

Women have come a long way. Not too long ago we were called dolls, tomatoes, chicks, babes, and broads. We've graduated to being called tough cookies, foxes, bitches, and witches. l guess that's progress. Language gives us an insight into the way women are viewed in a male-dominated society. For instance:

A man is commanding, a woman is demanding.

A man is forceful, a woman is pushy.

He's assertive, she's aggressive.

He strategizes, she manipulates.

He shows leadership, she's controlling.

He's committed, she's obsessed.

He's persevering, she's relentless.

He sticks to his guns, she's stubborn.

lf a man wants to get it right, he's looked up to and respected.

If a woman wants to get it right, she's difficult and impossible.

lt's been said that a man's reach should exceed his grasp. Why can't that be true for a woman?

Streisand by Firooz ZahediAll this to say that, clearly, men and women are measured by a different yardstick and that makes me angry. Of course, I'm not supposed to be angry. A woman should be soft-spoken, agreeable, ladylike, understated—in other words, stifled.... Come to think of it, there are a lot of things that make me angry.

I'm angry that the right of a woman to control her own body is even being questioned.

And l'm really angry that there aren't more women in politics. Hopefully that’s changing. It's about time!

Women represent 52 percent of the country. The absence of women in government means that over half the population is unrepresented. Until there is a critical mass of women, whether it be as senators, CEOs, or film directors, we're not going to be able to make a difference, to effect any real change. Can you imagine the difference it would have made if our female Democratic senator, Barbara Mikulski, were sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Clarence Thomas?

I'll never forget the picture of the seven women representatives who marched over to the Senate demanding that Anita Hill be heard. lt was one of the clearest demonstrations of the power of women united in a common purpose.

We are a remarkable breed. We are the “girlz 'n the 'hood"—sisterhood, that is. We contain the power of the feminine: intuition, a deep wisdom. Nature designed us to be creators, to give life. l think we have an obligation to reflect that in our work. Speaking for myself, l feel a deep commitment to making films about positive transformations and the unlimited potential for human growth.

And l look forward to a society that is color- and gender-blind, that judges us by the value of our work, not the length of our legs. That accepts the fact that a woman can be many, many things: strong and vulnerable, intelligent and sexy, opinionated and flexible, angry and forgiving, deep thinking as well as deep feeling. They can get Ph.D.s and manicures, they can contain the masculine and the feminine. Of course, all of this applies to men as well.

Even in light of some setbacks—some back-lash—we must never pass up an opportunity to celebrate. We are making our voices heard. Just look at the unprecedented number of women running for high office in the country today. Make your voices heard in the ballot box in November. And let's use our collective female energy to reflect our nurturing instinct and put that out into the world, because the world surely needs it.

(This text is adapted from a speech given by Streisand for the American Academy of Achievement last summer.)


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