Has anything changed since the feminist movement of the seventies, or are we still fighting the same battles?
In my view, it’s a mixed bag. Women in the West are generally more economically independent and have more varied career opportunities than were available 40 years ago (though most non-western women are not so fortunate). On the whole, I think women are less willing to accept sexist behaviour from their partners and expect them to pull their weight more on the domestic front (though there’s still an imbalance in the division of labour, with women taking more responsibility for housekeeping and childcare).
On the other hand, I feel that we’ve gone backwards when it comes to the objectification of women’s bodies. Back in the seventies we complained about things like the Miss World contest and ads with women draped over cars and motorbikes, but in retrospect that was really tame stuff compared to the commodification of the female body that goes on now. It makes me feel like a prude (and I’m not), but I feel shocked at the way women’s liberation seems to have resulted in sexual images of women being used to sell everything from shoe polish to chewing gum. And the claim is that it’s all an expression of women’s freedom. And don’t get me onto the subject of fashion – especially girls wearing cripplingly high heels and bum-hugging skirts and bare midriffs in deepest winter. And I don’t see much in the way of feminist critiques of all this, so maybe feminism’s moved on and I’m just stuck in the seventies.
What are the issues for todays' feminists?
The myth that men do not pull their weight at home has been shown to be false. Studies showing that women perform more housework did not control for the fact that the men in the studies worked more hours of employment, on average, than the women. The studies also counted traditional "women's work" such as laundry and dishwashing, but did not count traditional "men's work", such as auto repair, lawn mowing, etc.
For instance: A 2002 University of Michigan Institute for Social Research survey found that women do 11 more hours of housework a week than men but men work 14 hours a week more than women.
Furthermore: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2004 Time Use Survey, men spend one and a half times as many hours working as women do, and full-time employed men still work significantly more hours than full-time employed women. Census data shows that a quarter of married women with children under 18 do not hold a job outside the home, and less than half work full time.
Considering these facts, it is not surprising that men do not spend as much time on housework as their wives, on average. What is surprising is that they do not receive credit for the hard and often dangerous jobs that they perform.
I watched a National Geographic documentary last night about men working as paid security in Iraq. One man mentioned that he does not tell his wife how dangerous his job his, how many of his co-workers have been killed, in order not to worry her. No doubt, though, he is not doing as much housework as he should.
Contrary to your statement, there is not now and never was a "imbalance in the division of labour". There is a difference in the division of labor, but it is not an "imbalance". It is long past the time when we should have stopped portraying hardworking dedicated fathers as lazy and useless at home. This unfair and unsupported stereotype is offensive and belittling, no less than the stereotype of the dumb blonde or the fat housewife who spends her day watching soap operas.
Yeah, the problem I see here is that there's a lot to be said for simple, social inertia. It doesn't matter if you truly have equal opportunity within society, if you still have previous generations indoctrinating their children into gender roles. Even worse, it muddies the issue. You have to figure out which is the case. It's silly to fight for legal equality if you already have that or are at least close to that, if parental indoctrination is the greater issue.
That's where I think that Bruce has a point, in the thread we have about pay inequality. I don't think his final conclusion is sufficient, but I think it highlights the need to explore why paychecks are still unequal. Placing it all on overt sexism from the management and calling it a day doesn't get us much closer to a solution.
I'm not even addressing the issue of whether the choices people make are innate, or conditioned. Smarter minds than any of us have wrestled with that question and have not come to any consensus. But it is simply false and disingenuous to claim that any current pay disparity in western countries is due to endemic employment discrimination.
This insistence on blaming the so-called "patriarchy" for one's own failure to attain personal goals is, frankly, pathetic. The strong, successful, career women that I know took responsibility for their own lives.
I dunno, man. Have you spent much time in the southeast?
Yes, and the weaker, less-assertive men got a leg up by the system, while the weaker, less-assertive women got screwed by the system. You can't judge the equality of the system by the top contenders in each category.
How so did the weaker, less-assertive men get a leg up by the system? I've already shown that employment in western society is based on capitalism and economic forces, not gender stereotypes.
You will have to explain what you mean by "getting a leg up", especially in light of today's situation where our education systems produce more female graduates than males. The very articles that Wombat cited stated that single, child-less women OUT-EARN their male counterparts by 8%! Why, I wonder, do we hear nothing in the news about this particular gender gap....
I'm speaking of, among others, the women whose careers have been sidelined by taking off time from their careers for raising children. Perhaps we should be helping them out, because of the cultural indoctrination of being the one to raise the family. Many men won't step up to the plate, because of the same cultural indoctrination issue.
I see a parallel to racial equality. It's not enough to promote legal equality. You've got to balance the scales a bit to compensate for the generations of racial oppression.
Okay, so a huge percentage of the African American population is raised in poverty. Once they get their Ivy League education, they'll be allowed to have the same career as the white guy whose family slipped him in the back door of one of those schools, with its legacy policy, so that's okay.
No, not even close. It's like Chris Rock says in one of his standup routines, "I'm not saying that a black man should get a job over a white man who's much more qualified, but if it's close, fuck 'em."
The contrast might not be quite as stark along sexual lines, as it is along racial lines ... but it's there, and it needs to be addressed.
Not something as direct as that, no. I wouldn't be opposed to some sort of special treatment to help mothers get back to work in a comparable position that they left, though, after they take a few years off to start raising a child. They could do some extracurricular work, on the side of raising their child, to help improve their position when they come back to work. Unions tend to work similar clauses into their bargaining for other groups.
Can't help you on your last question. That's one of the areas that I have some issues with some feminist ideologies. I haven't seen all feminist groups pursuing that sort of thing.