Betty Friedan, equality, feminism, Germaine Greer, NOW, Women's issues, women's movement, women's rights
As I started to think about the role of women in the world, prompted by the article I will presently link you to, I realized that in the 800 odd posts I’ve made to this blog, nary a one has been dedicated fully to feminism. And that is truly odd.
Does it mean I think that things are so swimmingly good that it no longer needs a voice? Surely not. But I imagine it signifies a certain complacency that things aren’t so terribly bad either. I got what I wanted in other words.
Germaine Greer, icon extraordinaire, has done a lovely job of reminiscing about the past 40+ years and kinda of giving us an update. It is not called the long revolution for nothing. It should be noted that this link comes via 3quarksdaily.
What we see mostly nowadays is a yearly assessment of pay scales, women always falling somewhere short of men for doing the same work. It seems rather flat these days, with little change over the past few years as best as I can tell. Occasionally there is a report on how women are making inroads into more and more boardrooms and a profession here and there, but frankly little else.
As Greer points out, almost as soon as real progress was made, there were women who claimed that they were unfulfilled in the work place and yearned for a return to the home. Whether that expresses true desire or only the worn out pleas of women expected to do everything and still smile is perhaps unknowable.
Read the article, which is both long and entirely rewarding, especially on the state of women’s advancement toward equality in Africa, India and Asia. Some things change, and then some change again, or never, it seems.
I look back upon my own life and marvel at what I assumed as a child. I was a girl child, destined, in my mind to be wife and mother, yet feeling oddly estranged from that whole thing most of my preteen and teen life. By graduation, I felt it was not likely for me.
I entered college with the intent of becoming a top rate secretary. How very 50’s of me, wouldn’t you say. A great instructor who shook me up with questions, turned me to a more serious pursuit of education and bigger horizons. Yet, even then I dismissed medicine, flying jets, or any number of otherwise “male” pursuits. I had absorbed my lessons well.
I admit most assuredly that law school would not have been possible for me had it not been for a ton of great women from Greer to Friedan and hosts of others who broke this ground. In fact, by the time I applied, law schools were trying hard to fulfill quotas for women.
I met many loud and demanding women in law school, and many who were not. Men were contemptuous and they were supportive. After a few years of practice in the law, it all seemed essentially normal. I had won my piece of the equality pie.
Yet, I never perhaps grew out of my upbringing. Emotionally and psychologically that is. And that is a shame. Born to a woman who never read a book that I ever saw, never read the papers except for ads and coupons, was a Republican but had no idea why, and so became a Democrat because her husband told her to, that was my upbringing.
“You gotta suffer to be beautiful,” she used to say, as she sashayed through the house in tight petal pushers and “shell” tops, off to work in the factory, producing the proverbial widget. A hair appointment once a week, nail polish and toe polish required, eye shadow and mascara, and perfume completed the picture.
It never occurred to her to try to move up to management, or to ask for a raise. It never occurred to her that her daughter being a lawyer meant anything other than a new tool in her bag of “top this one” among her friends.
My father was no better, and perhaps hated women deep down. Surely my lawyering was of no import as he told me I had no idea what I was talking about when I tried to explain the vagaries of search and seizure regarding automobiles to him one day. So much for all that money and time expended poring over law books.
I got lucky in the end, marrying a superbly supportive, non-sexist man. My retreat from the law business came not from a desire to return to the hearth, so much as I just hated the damn subject matter. Been there done that. How many hundreds of concealed weapon cases can one have before it ceases to peak an interest? After a few thousand I reached my nadir.
I’m a typical housewife these days. I do most of the cooking and most of the cleaning, but not all. And the Contrarian does all of the car maintenance and all of the wood work and all of the repair stuff. So we play our roles as expected. Yet, we don’t feel, either one of us, that they are assigned roles, just ones that we are most comfortable in, and well, to a degree, like better than alternatives. I don’t wish his work, and mostly he doesn’t wish mine.
The only place I find resistance to feminism, is in the wacky world of the right wing. In the usual pick and choose fashion, the male believer of the fundamentalist persuasion just loves him some of that Timothy and other pseudo-Paul doctrine to give him a arrogant step to his walk. The world is still safe, or would be, if men were in charge. (Picture the historical wrongness of that doctrine for a bit!)
Dang!! I had no idea that you were a lawyer. What’s the difference between a lawyer and… …um… never mind. 😉
Seriously, in the early seventies, I promoted a woman as sales manager in charge of a sales staff of five men. Four of the men quit rather than work for a woman. The gal was amazed at my choice. Such things were not done back then. She asked me why, so I asked her if she deserved it. She said she did, so I said, “You see? I picked you, because you’re the best man for the job.”
At least I was an equal-opportunity male chauvinist pig. 😀
hahah, good story. Isn’t it amazing how far things have progressed? Still there are pockets of resistance and well, my view: plenty of men still think of themselves as superior, it’s just not politic to say it. Same with racism. The African America haters went underground, and this horrific ugliness directed at Mexicans is just a lot of repressed hatred of blacks given a permissible outlet. It’s even more so regarding Muslims and Arabs in general. We still have much to do alas.
And I have heard every lawyer joke around…lol…
Then you heard the one about the difference between a dead lawyer in the road and a dead dog in the road? 🙂
Something about skid marks up to the dog but not the lawyer?
You got me. 😦
Sherry, I think the biggest issue preventing feminist progress–as well as racial and, more lately, gay progress–is the “establishment’s” contentment to pretend they’re moving forward rather than actually doing it.
My work takes me in and out of the corporate corridors, often in the higher reaches, where there’s next to no effort to disguise the tokenism. And, my oh my, if a candidate (qualified or not) covers two or three “diversity” categories, bring her/him in! (Right now Eastern Indian women seem to be the rage.)
The problem, of course, with promoting people because they’re “different” rather than able goes beyond mediocrity in the workplace. It actually calls out the difference, and creates animosity in those who are better qualified. On the other hand, blaming equal rights in the workplace for one’s own mediocrity is just too easy. (I imagine that was a big part of TomCat’s story; promoting a woman who’s more capable than her male colleagues, then and now, sets off all kinds of reverberations, some of which can be, well, emasculating–though rightly so.)
We say we promote and pay on merit, but we don’t. If we did, a lot of these preconceptions would have been long gone. By now, we would have elected a woman President and been far more comfortable with stay-at-home dads.
Tough subject here–and tougher to discuss, because almost anything you say about it gets a rise out of somebody. Good going!
Tim, I so agree with you. You always get this discussion when like a supreme court opening is up. A woman and a Latina? wow, two for one! It’s all rather stupid. they are going at Kagan because she hired mostly white men at Harvard. But if she hired the most qualified at each instance what is so wrong? Though I agree with affirmative action at middle levels, I think after that merit must be only consideration. It will work upward if the bottom and middle are addressed affirmatively. Least that’s my thinking.