Women tend to need the healthcare system more because we bear children. Insurance companies -- not all of them, but many of them -- "gender-rate." Women may pay 40% more for their health insurance than men do. [Companies] are not allowed to [discriminate] racially anymore, but they still do it on gender. They say the reason they get to charge more is we have children. I would say having children is a socially useful act. Being female is not a preexisting condition.
Because it's been demonized by the right wing. Every time I can bear to turn on Rush Limbaugh, he's talking about femi-Nazis. It has been distorted, just as "liberal" has.
Do we need the Equal Rights Amendment?
Yes we do. But it's going to be quite a long time. Discrimination based on sex is still not a suspect category in the way that race or national origin or religion is. Not only do we still have laws on the book that need changing, but capricious legislators could make another law based on sex. So we still do need it.
Some young women, like some young men, are having casual sex, putting
embarrassing pictures of themselves on Facebook, drinking and fighting like men.
But that's not a downside of the movement -- that's a downside of the culture. If men could get public notice by taking their clothes off, they would be taking their clothes off! The culture still rewards women for certain types of behavior, and it's not surprising that when [they're] young, they think it's in their interest and don't realize that employers for 30 years are going to be looking at this Facebook page and not hiring you.
You wrote critically about Sarah Palin for The Times in 2008. What do her political persona and Hillary Rodham Clinton's say about us?
She is, as I said in that column, a young Phyllis Schlafly. There'll always be a Clarence Thomas, a Phyllis Schlafly, someone who goes against the majority needs of their group. We create jobs for them too. If it weren't for the women's movement, there wouldn't be anything to sell out!
I do think Hillary Clinton's candidacy changed the atmosphere. I never for a moment thought a woman could win. It's too soon. But I do think that her candidacy made it possible for many more people to imagine a woman president. How she got up every morning and took that much punishment, I don't know. She was so strong.
Is there a pendulum to social movements, progress and backswing?
I think we make progress and we have a backlash. If we hadn't had a front-lash, we wouldn't have a backlash. We were ownable, like this table. All women, and men of color -- we were owned like tables and chairs. We spent a hundred years getting a legal identity as human beings. That's a big thing. So now we're trying to get social and legal equality.
Who's at the forefront of the women's movement now?
Now it's pretty much everywhere. The reason people know me is because there were so few of us. We were, like, 12 crazy women, and now there are all kinds of leadership going on. If I could have one wish for the women's movement worldwide, it would be to have feminist groups everywhere. We're communal creatures. We need to gather together once a week or once a month and discover that we're not alone, and to be able to tell the truth together.
Is Hollywood mending its sexist ways?
I'm an outside person watching, but I would say we have made some age progress. Marilyn Monroe was profoundly depressed at turning 30. Now we have women at 40 and 50 who are sexual beings in movies. We have Meryl Streep, age 60, playing a lead in a romantic comedy. But we still have older men with much younger women, rarely the other way around, and when it is the other way around, they call them "cougars." When it's older men with younger women, they call them "men."
Do you have a favorite movie we'd call a chick flick?
To me, one of the greatest ever made was "Antonia's Line," which won an Oscar for best foreign film in the 1990s. It was written and directed by a Dutch woman.
We've now had women prisoners of war, and women have been cleared to serve on submarines; when are we going to have women officially in combat?
It's pretty academic, actually, because warfare doesn't have neat combat zones anymore. But what it does do is keep women much less likely to be promoted and much less likely to be in command of [the] U.S. military, which happens to be the largest managed economy in the world.
What does having women's history month mean anymore?
It means that every other month is men's history month. At least we have one month!
firstname.lastname@example.org. This interview was edited and excerpted from a longer taped transcript. An archive of Morrison's interviews is online at latimes.com/pattasks.