When Did You First Realize You Were Old?
Market Day

The Women’s Movement 40 Years Later

To go with the magazine’s cover story on Women and Leadership this week, Newsweek columnist, Anna Quindlen, ponders "Everyday Equality".

She covers the usual suspects juxtaposing Indra Nooyi, who just became the CEO of Pepsi, against the tiny two percent of Fortune 500 companies run by women, and comparing the victory of Katie Couric being appointed the first female sole anchor of a network news broadcast (now that hardly anyone watches those three programs) to the publicity image inanely Photoshopped to make her appear slimmer than she is.

Ms. Quindlen also writes that men now take a larger role in raising the kids even though every survey shows working mothers still do the vast majority of housework and earn about 70 cents for every dollar men do. She says sex crimes and domestic violence are now prosecuted while another story in the same issue tells us that a 2004 Massachusetts survey reported that “54 percent of child custody cases involving documented spousal abuse were decided in favor of the alleged batterers.”

While patting herself on the back for having lobbied The New York Times successfully to remove fashion notes from reports on the campaign of vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, the bland conclusion Ms. Quindlen draws from this is that women now live in a better world.

Well, yes, but only to a point. When the modern women’s movement began more than 40 years ago - 40 years ago - I expected a lot more equality than Ms. Quindlen’s list by the time I was 65 years old. Those of us who burned their bras or marched or lobbied our representatives are old women now, and I could not have guessed that 40 years after we first heard of Gloria Steinem, she and her friends would believe it necessary to found an all-women, talk radio network.

Israel, India, Pakistan, The Phillipines and Finland, among others, elected or appointed their first female heads of state decades ago while a CNN reporter-ette is still, in 2006, asking Senator Hillary Clinton if a woman can be elected president of the U.S.

When I took part yesterday in the first PhoneCon, organized and conducted masterfully for six hours by Jeneane Sessum, we noted at several points that unlike about 98 percent of in-person tech and blog conferences, women on the telephone were the majority. We should be far enough along by now that numbers of men versus women in attendance anywhere is not noteworthy.

I disagree with Ms. Quindlen on “everyday equality.” Progress on some big issues that required legislation have moved forward, but it is a sign of lack of progress in other areas that they are still remarked upon and held up as examples.

We have not nor will we have won equality – the everyday kind that is the measure of success - until it is not necessary to headline the news that a woman has been made CEO of a mega-corporation; until Blogher is considered sexist; until women like Ann Coulter and Nancy Grace, without comment on their gender, have as much right to be blithering idiots on television as men do.

It doesn’t help these goals to have a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist tell us the women’s movement is a success because:

“In 1970, 46 women at this magazine charged it with workplace discrimination; today Newsweek publishes an annual issue on women’s leadership.”

When there is an annual cover story on leadership – with no gender reference - then we will have everyday equality.


Agreed. But perhaps this is the narrow path to go through to get there. "When will we get there", is the question.
Years ago, while shopping for food, I passed a familiar worker and she was muttering to herself as we passed each other, "It's a great life, as long as you don't weaken." I've often spoken those words to myself, and sometimes others, since then.

I absolutely agree with you. I heard once that women are appointed to high posts when things have gotten so bad that even men don't want these positions. So your point about Katie Couric as anchor when few watch these shows anymore is an excellent one. Another example is the appointment of a woman to direct the Centers for Disease Control at a period in which we are verging on chemical warfare/bird flu epidemics/dirty bombs/TB and god knows what else.

Here, Here.
As women needed more flexibility, school hours seem to be less with more needed to supplement arts and language, t-ball and little league time grew, flexible hours haven't moved as much as they need to, teenagers go to school too early and health care is an issue.

The only thing that has sprung loose in a wonderful way is simple hairdos and widespread use of antibiotics and (chickenpox) vaccines so that moms can stay at work. Plus blogs. Truly.

Well put Ronnie!

Okay, so Newsweek has this big deal annual issue on women’s leadership, but how does it treat the clerical staff? Is there an issue on men’s leadership?

I agree that we will have arrived only when we stop mentioning the achievements of individual women or groups of women and congratulate them on their achievements alone without mentioning their gender. It will also be refreshing when a woman politician or journalist can be in the pubic eye without comment about her clothes, weight and hairstyle. Congratulating anybody for achieving something "as a woman" is patronising in the extreme.

I am proud and grateful for my sisters who have helped pave the way for me. Thank God for the extremists and the protestors. They have made the women who work quietly seem much more reasonable. I have always registered for voting without blinking. I don't even consider worrying that I would get less pay than a male counterpart who does the same job. This is due to the earlier battles won. I know that if ever I was not offered employment because of my gender, heads would roll. There are still plenty of cases where there is inequality of pay and women won't get hired because they are not men, just as we know that racial discrimination is still around. We also know that when it can be proved, justice will be served. We needed that hard fought-for legislation. That is all thanks to the people who have gone before. Until they stop patting us on the top of the head and congratulating us as women achievers, there is still a bit of work to be done.

Is it my imagination, Ronni, or have you gotten more radical (or sadder?) since you last wrote about this?

Anyway, you're so right about all of it. I'm constantly floored by what hasn't changed. And constantly confused about the right way to tackle it. I guess it's so basic, so hard, that there can never be one way; so complex that there is never any excuse for indulging our preconceptions.

To notdotdot. My late mother used to say, It's a great life if you don't weaken. I had completely forgotten that. Thanks for bringing back a loving memory.

I'm not sure what I find more objectionable: a pat on the head or a pat on the butt. I protest both. Oh, and I must insist that the elastic waistband is one of the most liberating inventions EVER!

"...I expected a lot more equality..." before I got to 70...
"...the everyday kind that is the measure of success - until it is not necessary to headline the news that a woman has been made CEO of a mega-corporation; until Blogher is considered sexist; until women like Ann Coulter and Nancy Grace, without comment on their gender, have as much right to be blithering idiots on television as men do."

...and until writers like Anna Quindlin, whose work I have enjoyed, and who has apparently benefited from some gains, can become less complacent and see what the majority of the women in this country experience ... and write meaningfully about it.

been putting off responding to this particular post because i believe the issues are more complex than can be argued here. feminism raised my consciousness even though i was an educated white woman who did well financially.

gloria steinem, like betty friedan, was an important voice at one time. her time has passed, same is true with most "journalist/feminists." what they know about women today is based on superficial interviews; they mostly talk to one another.

in her new york times critique of greenstone media, the steinem-fonda radio creation, ginia bellafante labelled steinem's take "convalescent feminism." how did it happen, ronni?

This is a strange comment, above. Sounds like Gloria Steinem's being taken to task simply for getting old. Since "her time has passed," does Ms. Bloom agree with the label "convalescent feminism"? Strange thing to find on an anti-agist blog.

I don't think women have equality. Now women have to do it all.

I am fifty-five. I feel fortunate to having been born in 1951 and to have been able to come of age during the early seventies.

That said- the equality deal is still way off balance. I taught high school for thirty-two years, and thousands of times I observed how bright young women continue to acquiesce to the males. They would pretend to be dumber and pretend to be less powerful.

Such sad bull.


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