Perhaps this is the reason why the distressing idea is gaining popularity that one cannot expect any better from a woman than from a man. A skeptical "Let's be realists" is heard more and more often from women themselves. The fact is that a deliberate refusal would be better than compromise — for compromise is, in the final analysis, a repudiation of responsibility, it is saying "Don't make us any more accountable than they are."
Where, then, is the moral imperative of feminism? What does feminism have to offer if it is to distinguish itself from the patriarchy? What is the point of our struggle? For thousands of years men have not been ashamed to assert their superiority, so why have we been so frightened by new alternatives that have opened up after a ten-year battle? Imagine an athlete or scientist who says "I'm not a bit better than any one else". Will he be able to break a record or make a discovery? Will a person be of any general benefit if he patterns his behavior on the negative or the mediocre? If he tells himself "Just keep up, don't lag behind, but don't even think about overtaking them"?
When I was asked whether I agreed with the words of Mahatma Gandhi, that the essence of woman is more altruistic than that of man, I replied (even after my contradictory experience in the international women's movement) that I believe in woman.A new path lies ahead of her, but the habit of enslavement which has been instilled in her for thousands of years has not been overcome. Yet there are in women reserves of strength, unknown to the world, and resources of energy, still hidden, that are capable of enriching humanity. Men have already demonstrated their possibilities, but women have yet to reveal theirs.
The University of Michigan, 1986
Translated by Sydney Vetter