Friday, April 18, 2008

Feminism: Have We Come A Long Way, Baby?

I have been a feminist my entire adult life. My mother was one of Utah's pioneering feminists. In the sixties she started the Utah chapter of the National Women's Political Caucus. She was famous for organizing marches and demonstrations protesting the Mormon Church's treatment of women and it's strangle hold on the political life of Utah within the state and in the nations capitol, through it's elected representatives. Maggy won many awards for her work on behalf of women and for giving voice to women's issues. She was the legislative aid to Francis Farley, our first female Utah State Senator.

At one of the award celebrations, sometime in the 1980's, while all these powerhouse women were congratulating one another on the great strides they had made toward equality for woman, I stood and asked the only question of any real relevance regarding the progress that had been made for women--"Why is it that women are making less today in relation to men's pay than they did in the 1940's?" I was not real popular that day. It was not an issue anyone was willing to address when they were so happy to talk about Karen Shephard's election to the Untied States House of Representatives. She served one brilliant term, and then was replaced by the incredibly mediocre Enid Green, the Mormon republican who opposed her. A woman, yes. Progress, no.

So now here we are, almost thirty years later and nothing has changed. Women are still making sixty some odd cents to every man's rapidly shrinking dollar. And now while still making sixty some odd cents to a mans dollar, women have a new hoop to jump through in order to be hireable, and promotable. It is the Beauty Quotient. For an insight into how far we are going backwards, baby, read Naomi Wolf's book, The Beauty Myth.

One last point while we're on the subject--every young woman I meet and then get to know a little, when asked if she is a feminist, says, "No, I'm not a feminist, but I do believe in equal rights for women." Where is the progress in this fear of the label "feminist?"


Kentucky Rain said...

I have to disagree with you Utah. Things have changed a great deal over the last thirty years. Women are in positions of trust and responsibility, e.g CEO's, U.S. Representatives and United States Senators. There is a woman running for president of the United States. Women in law enforcement are no longer shunned and relegated to the record room or dispatch. As a minority they are given advantages men do not have in the workplace with regard to discrimination, harassment, hiring and etc. Is it perfect?. No! Is there room for improvement? Of course. But please don't use the sad old whine often heard from other minorities that they are not getting their fair share. One minority group makes up about 17% of the population and wants 50% of the jobs. that constant whine fills us all with a sad and lazy despair. Progress is being made on all fronts. It is not going to happen overnight and minorities should not think themselves deserving of more than the majority.

Utah Savage said...

I hate to remind you of this Mike, but we are not a minority. We are in fact a majority. And though we have fought damn hard for those jobs in the first responder category, the military, industry of all kinds, we still make sixty some odd cents on the dollar. Your sad and lazy despair about the whine of minorities fills me with a sad disgust. It is the despair of the entitled.

Life As I Know It Now said...

I absolutely agree UT. We are a minority but compose 51% of the population. Most of the work we do, outside of the workplace, is unpaid and unapprieciated. And btw, I am proud to be called a feminist. That book by Naomi Wolf is kick ass and I encourage everyone to read it.

Anonymous said...

The progress is slow. Some days it feels like regression as we have young women afraid to call themselves feminists while battling for respect in a professions where they are expected to "take it like men," but look like little girls.

Not to be too bitter, but I'd like to see a man take it like a woman hours into labor, no drugs, pushing another human being out of a very small hole. Which reminds me, can we start a language movement? Instead of using the term "balls" to convey courage or moxie, can we say "uterus?"

As in, come on, woman up, get yourself a uterus and go for it!

Oh no! I sound like a...a....a..feminist!!! The horror.

Kentucky Rain said...

Women are considered a minority by the Fair Labor Standards people. It has nothing to do with numbers. As to your made my point. Why are you entitled when I am not? Because you are a woman? Because you are black? Because you are Asian? Because you are Hispanic? Give me a break. You are not better than I simply because you are a woman. Stop whining.

Ghost Dansing said...

i was looking up feminism one time Utah and i found this wikipedia and i thought the discussion of first, second and third wave feminism was interesting......

"First-wave feminism refers to a period of feminist activity during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century in the United Kingdom and the United States. Originally it focused on the promotion of equal contract and property rights for women and the opposition to chattel marriage and ownership of married women (and their children) by their husbands. However, by the end of the nineteenth century, activism focused primarily on gaining political power, particularly the right of women's suffrage. Yet, feminists such as Voltairine de Cleyre and Margaret Sanger were still active in campaigning for women's sexual, reproductive, and economic rights at this time.


sexual dimorphism creats the basic biological substratum for sociological discrimination, i'd say...... well sometimes....

Stella by Starlight said...

Mike, you know I adore you, but Utah's right. And I have to disagree with you. Sure women have made strides, but Catalyst reports only 5.2% of top-earning corporate officers in the Fortune 500 are women. Corporate line officers number 5.2% as of 2002. Here are the facts.

The Metrics 2.0 figures are grim. On the basis of the number of women CFOs and the number of other female executives with high-level line positions (that is, with direct profit-and-loss responsibility), the authors estimate that the proportion of female CEOs will increase from the current level of about 1.7% to about 4.9% in 2010 and 6.2% in 2016.

"Even though 6.2% is more than triple the current percentage," comments professor ConstanceHelfat, "it doesn't seem very impressive when one considers that by 2016 it will have been about 40 years since women entered corporate management in force."

The National Committee on Pay Equity shows that women make 76.9% on the man's dollar. Given that women run 80% of single head of family households, there's a real problem here. During the Clinton years, the average pay was 75%. Spongebob's Gary the Snail moves faster than that. Women's rights? Too little equality for too long.

I agree with Utah, we are the majority. There are more women than men in this country: I believe statistically we are 52% female to 48% male. So, since we're the majority, why aren't we running the country?

Further, although I revere LBJ for his outstanding accomplishments in civil rights, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, did not provide equality for gender:

Notwithstanding the general prohibition of employment discrimination, covered employers are allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion, SEX or national origin (but not based on color or race) where religion, sex, or national origin is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise.

And to which "occupational qualities" did society constrain women: teachers, secretaries, and housewives. For that reason, it was a necessity for America to pass the ERA. As you know, that legislation never came to fruition. Accordingly, the message I—and probably many other women—receive from this country is we are not equal citizens. I feel the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title VII clearly states that companies have a right to discriminate against women and others, of course?

Believe me, I've personally dealt with extreme discrimination in the workplace—even from other women (and that's a whole other topic...) I've had men talk to my boobs and I've had to tell them, "If you want to talk to me, my face is here."

When it comes to birth control, we are clearly sliding backwards. Brazil refused family planning money because Bush wanted them to outlaw abortion and not teach women about birth control practices. The right wing has had an huge impact on a woman's right to choose. In this area, we are clearly going backwards with Roe v. Wade close to being overturned.

This is a huge issue. If women are forced to have children, they either must hold down two jobs: caring for the family AND going to work every day (for less money than a man). Part of this problem deals with the sociology of this country, and holding women down as caretakers. If we are not allowed the right to abortion, then ipso facto we will have less and less opportunity to become independent people. Ultimately, we will have to take care of those children.

As far as a woman running for president or senator, other countries that seem externally more conservative than the U.S., already have women as head of state. Iceland was the first in 1960; Golda Meier, Israel; Angela Merkel, Germany (whom Bush fondled rather than respecting her as a head of state); and Benizhar Bhutto, to name a few.

We are the majority. Accordingly, we should be running this country, yet there are only 16 women serving as U.S. senators. How fast did men boot out Gov. Richards in favor of the little shit? Boy, there's a smart move.

So, according to your logic, and I agree with you, 52% of the population wants 52% of the jobs and 52% of the responsibility running this nation.

This was a hard comment to write for me, Mike. Usually, I don't placate people in my posts, as you well know. So, let all us equals explore the facts more carefully together. There is certainly progress and significant regress with women's rights.

I apologize in advance for any misspellings and icky grammar.

Stella by Starlight said...

Oh, and while I'm at it...


Utah Savage said...

Stella, I have been waiting for you all day. Thank you for setting the record straight. I knew you would. I hate to call Mike patronizing....but I can't think of a better word for his comments. I don't like to piss the men off and drive them away, but there is a limit to the amount of bullshit I will listen to here.

Stella by Starlight said...

Utah, I don't think madmike's patronizing us. It's just that a lot of these facts aren't generally distributed. Women are, in fact, starting to make slow strides into positions of power. However, it's not fast enough.

Since 1789, only 1.85 percent of all Senators were women. Let's consider women Senators: As of the 2006 elections, there are 16 women (an all-time high) serving in the 100-person body, including freshmen Senators Claire McCaskill and Amy Klobuchar. The Senatorial representation of three states (California, Washington and Maine) is entirely female. California's current two senators (Boxer and Feinstein) are the first two women to be elected to the U.S. Senate in the same election (in 1992) from the same state. Six of the women currently serving as Senators have also been elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives—a distinction once held by only Margaret Chase Smith—Mikulski, Snowe, Boxer, Lincoln, Stabenow, and Cantwell.. [From Wiki—but they're usually good about these kind of stats.]

Then there's Helen Gahagan Douglas, who represented California in 1945-1951 and served as an appointee under FDR and Truman. She did a great job until Nixon came along and ran for her seat:

Mr. Nixon didn't confine his attacks to his speeches. His campaign included a variety of pamphlets. The most famous one, printed on pink paper, became known as the "Pink Sheet." [shades of Karl Rove] It compared his votes with those of Mrs. Douglas, especially on foreign affairs matters, to prove that she was "soft on Communism." To capture the latent anti-Semitic vote, a whispering campaign harped on the fact that her husband, the actor Melvyn Douglas, was Jewish.

I'm off the subject, but also making the point that just as Bush and Nixon were determined to keep Richards and Douglas in their place: you know, at home, barefoot, and pregnant. As well as a sexist, Nixon was a notorious anti-semite from all I've read.

The Nixon misogyny, if anything, decreased women's rights and he passed his nastiness to Rumsfeld and Cheney. With this ugliness, how do we attain equality? I still want ERA passed so I know the State sanctions me as an equal citizen.

But I ramble on so and am off point. This issue is near and dear to my heart and brings a multitude of thoughts, frustration, and the desire to effect change. I propose the next step is for all of us to figure out what we can do to make that happen.

Blank said...

Thanks to simpletons like Rush Limbaugh who have to oversimplify everything in order to understand it, the idea of feminism has been simplified to the point that people think feminist means one particular type of woman. That's bullshit. If I call someone a capitalist, does it mean he/she is a Robber Baron? Are there no variations?

I am a feminist. I am my own kind of feminist. Just like Rush Limbaugh is his own kind of effing backwoods asshole.

J McKiernan said...

I just had to put in my two cents here, simply because I want you all to know that as a man, I am not angered or turned off by anything said in or about this post other than madmike's ridiculous, ugly rants.

Utah, you said you would hate to call him "patronizing," but he's not being patronizing...he's being sexist and bigoted.

There are many ways to discuss how far feminism has come as compared to how far women really still have to go. The most intriguing pertains to the comment you made, Utah, about how the young women you talk to don't call themselves feminists. It's because our male-dominated society has demonized the word (sort of like they have demonized the word "liberal," too). Today's young women are put in an interesting position...they are sick of the male bullshit, but think the only way they can undercut it is to act masculine themselves. "Masculine" is the new "feminine." K and I talked about this in our paper in San Francisco...this "millennial" form of feminism is not really feminism at all, and it is not advancing the cause of women at all, either. It is masculinizing women rather than feminizing the culture. It's sad and it's reckless and I don't know where we are headed next.

The perfect book on this subject is "Female Chauvinist Pigs," by Ariel Levy, which chronicles feminism's descent into, essentially just another form as masculinity enacted by the female gender. It is brilliant and eye-opening, the perfect antidote to any argument made by madmike or the countless other men (and even women) who want to make themselves feel better by trying to talk about how far women have come while they are actively trying to suppress women at the same time. Such rants expose an ultimate fear of true equality, and I, for one, will have none of it.

Kentucky Rain said...

This will be my last word on this sensitive subject:

I said women have made progress in thirty years. It doesn't matter if it is .01% or 100%. The fact is progress has been made. As a result I win the argument. It was not my intent to offend in my original post. I am sad that some took it in that manner. A person is made up of their experiences, whether learned as a result of their environment or a result of formal learning through education and training.

As to Mckiernan and his characterization of me being "sexist and bigoted" and "ridiculous and ugly" he can think what he wishes. I have no care for him one way or another so what he thinks is of no value. His small minded and cruel appellations demonstrate to me that he doesn't have the intellectual wherewithal to disagree without resorting to sordid name calling. He doesn't exist for me.

Utah: "Patronizing" for telling the truth? The truth: women have made progress in the last thirty years. That was the thrust of my argument. I am disappointed.

Stella: I always appreciate your sober approach to these most pressing and timely issues. The fact is, even though women are in the majority where the population is concerned, they are still concerned minority hires in the public sector. I didn't invent that. I was the commander [a few years ago] for the support services division for a very large law enforcement agency. Part of my area of responsibility was overseeing human resources. We were continually and aggressively recruiting minority groups and women [in law enforcement and public service fields] were considered minorities. I can only speak to my experience. As you doubtless know I do care what you think of me and if I offended you in any way please accept my most heartfelt apology.

Utah Savage said...

Madmike, The point of my little piece is that, while women are slowly moving up, their salaries vis a vis men are not. I don't want entitlement for women so much as I want equal pay and equal treatment in the work place.

J McKiernan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J McKiernan said...

Well, I suppose I should've expected a response like that, madmike. I can deal with that.

I will say, however, that I never name-called in any way. I said that the comments you made came off as sexist and bigoted. Never said you were a sexist bigot...I said the comments made it seem that way. When you attack several minority groups and tell them to just "stop whining," it is offensive. It sounds sexist and bigoted. And to me, words that sound sexist and bigoted come off as ridiculous and ugly. Would you not agree? I don't have to be lacking intelligence in order to merely point that out. Whatever your intentions, it sounded pretty ugly.

How else is one supposed to take comments like "Why are you entitled when I am not? Because you are a woman? Because you are black? Because you are Asian? Because you are Hispanic? Give me a break. You are not better than I simply because you are a woman. Stop whining."? If someone can explain how those comments don't come off as sexist and bigoted, I'd love to hear it.

I could've also said that for someone going on and on about entitlement, you sure sound very self-entitled yourself.

Nothing comes as close to name-calling, by the way, as when you say I am "small-minded" and "cruel," and that what I have to say is of "no value" to you. And nothing is as small-minded as using raw statistics without any context whatsoever and then saying "I win the argument." Issues like this are far more complex than that. Because for whatever "percentage" women have progressed in the last thirty years, there have been several other factors to reverse that progress, most notably the masculinization I mentioned in my first comment. This was never a numbers argument, and never will be.

You can say whatever you want about intellect, but when you go on a rant telling all these "self-entitled minorities" to "stop whining," that raises my ire. It made me angry, because I don't think it is right for someone to be so brazenly rude. I expressed my anger. Then you trashed me, too. In retrospect, that makes a lot of sense.

TomCat said...

Perhaps the reason that the term feminist turns some people off is that that the right, with tacit MSM support, has equated feminism with man-hating. I know better.

J McKiernan said...

Well-said, Tomcat.