General Question

Yetanotheruser's avatar

Was the feminist movement really liberating?

Asked by Yetanotheruser (14827 points ) January 15th, 2013

I recently given The Myth of Male Power by Warren Farrell to read, and although I do not totally agree with his assessment of masculine/feminine roles in society, one of his premises is this: The feminist movement sought to provide women with opportunities for careers outside the traditional “womanly” careers, such as home maker, nurse, secretary, etc. While there has been much progress made in this area, as the old saying goes, there is a long way to go, especially in providing equal pay for equal work.

This is the evolution as I see it:

The Old Standard: The man would typically have the career outside the home providing enough income for the family to be upwardly mobile; the woman would stay at home, raise the kids and manage the home.

The Ideal Standard: The man and/or woman would have a career outside the home, each having the same opportunity to provide an upwardly-mobile lifestyle; home-making duties would be split up and/or outsourced to nannie/daycare/etc. This would provide a choice for the couple.

The New Standard: The man and the women have jobs (not necessarily careers); economy has evolved to require the incomes of both parents. Outsourcing of childcare is a requirement, not a choice.

What is the cause of the change from the Ideal Standard to the New Standard?

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35 Answers

flutherother's avatar

β€œA liberated woman,” said Karl Kraus, β€œis a fish that has fought its way ashore.”

tom_g's avatar

I haven’t read this book, but my first reaction is that it doesn’t seem to take class into consideration (or does it?). The last stats I saw had women at 47% of the work force. It was nearly 30% around 1950. I don’t think this change is as drastic as the 3 buckets are portrayed. For example, did the “old standard” apply to all socioeconomic classes? This smacks of an analysis of white suburbia. Note: I could be dead wrong in everything I just typed. Just asking questions…

KNOWITALL's avatar

I think we have a long way to go as women in the workplace still aren’t offered as much pay or managerial positions, in my area at least. Remember the whole Wal-Mart scandal about them not promoting women?

You said it yourself in your Q, the economy has changed which requires both parties to work. My husband and I simply decided not to have children, for financial as well as personal reasons, but it cut our stress dramatically.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Was? It isn’t over.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir It won’t be over until Hillary’s in the White House- Woot Woot! (that’s my mom’s voice)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@KNOWITALL Wouldn’t be over then, either. One outlier does not a reality for every woman make. Obama’s presidency doesn’t change the everyday reality of racism for many people.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I know, I was joking around because my mom and all her hippie friends are always saying that when we talk about feminism. :) Peace.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@KNOWITALL Well, to be sure, lots and lots of people (including feminists) believe that’s the idea, that that’s the end goal. Like when normative gays think gay marriage is it and mark progress in that way. I suppose if that’s what makes people feel liberated, that’s good. It’s just not what makes others feel so and the work is endless.

Coloma's avatar

Well…being the first post feminist generation ( I was a young teen in the heyday ) my experience is us guinea pig girls got fucked, coming and going. lol
We were expected to look like centerfolds, make money, and still be responsible for the bulk of the domestic scene. Most men were just paying lip service to the whole thing but really, they still retained the old school, man as the king of his castle trip, and the woman should serve him at whim.
Whether you chose to stay home with the kids or work the male attitude of a womans stereotyped “duties” remained a beast in the cellar.

It placed a heavier burden on many women as we were now expected to be fucking superwoman while the men pretty just did what they always had done, kept one job and relied on a woman as a surrogate mommy. Bleh…I felt cheated. haha

It was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t proposition IMO.

bookish1's avatar

Global capitalism and shifts in the global economy since the 1970s.

This isn’t about feminism, but some of the tenets of second wave feminism have indeed facilitated the transition to a Western society where it is practically impossible to raise a middle class family on a single income.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Coloma Great post! Nothing makes me more angry than to work all day and my husband not, then he expects me to cook and clean up. He eats a lot of cereal on those nights after I stop screaming at him…lol, j/k

JLeslie's avatar

I question the stats about equal pay. Are they actually evaluating equal pay for equal work? Or, are they using averages? Average money a man makes vs a woman? Two very different stats.

I think the feminist movement made incredible strides for women in the workplace and in their personal lives. My dad taught sociology back in the early 70’s and one of the topics he remembers talking about with his students was articles he had read regarding women eventually holding down careers equal to men and getting equal pay. He remembers some of the college students not believing anything close to that would ever happen, and one young man in the class faught my dad hard, he seemed almost pissed off.

I was born in ‘68, raised in the suburbs of NYC and DC, and I never felt like women did not have the same chance at education or career.

My husband has worked as a compensation HR guy for many years, and companies evaluate their payrolls periodically to make sure minorities (women are included as minorities) are being paid equally, that there has not inadvertantly been some sort of significant pay discrepancy. So, that is why I question the stats about women’s pay v. Men. Women are still more likely to take part time jobs and jobs that can accommodate taking care of children. Or, breaks in career to care for children. Especially certain parts of the country and certain social classes are more likely to have stay at home moms.

To me the women’s movement was to give women independence, financial independence, which in the end is power. Many women, if dependent on their spouse financially feel stuck, no way out if they are in a bad situation. Laws have also evolved to protect women if they are financially dependent to have ownership of property even if their name is not on the deed, and entitlement to wealth gained during the marriage.

Also, men have had to evolve also, helping more with the housework. I think both spouses needing to work to make ends meet is a problem in America though. Everyone working more, means more stress in the household. If both work, then they should be able to employ a maid at least once a week, or something to take some of the burden off. I think what caused the need for two incomes for the most part was the keeping up with the Jones’ attitude in America. I find it a shame. It has whacked things out of sorts in my opinion. Have to live in the expensive neighborhood to live where there are decent schools and less crime, etc., etc. A little moderation would have been better in my opinion.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

@JLeslie I was in college when your dad was teaching sociology (although I don’t know that he was my professor! wouldn’t that be a synchronicity!). I remember the disparaging hoots that came from some of my male classmates when I stated I would be willing to take on the duties of homemaker if my wife had better potential in the workplace.

JLeslie's avatar

@Yetanotheruser He taught at Hunter in NYC. He at one point when I was very young considered moving the family to Australia, but worried women had less opportunity and less equality there at the time, and his children were two girls. I was suprised someone in a NYC classroom would have been so outspoken about women being kept down. My grandmother had a masters, and most of her girlfriends had college educations. All the women around me in my family worked or had worked. Many did take a break when they had children though.

burntbonez's avatar

The feminist movement made some progress. Then more progress was made. Then things moved backwards. That’s where we are now. We need new energy and enthusiasm to begin moving things forward again. I’m not sure where it will come from, since young women seem to think everything is fine. They are liberated as they need to be. I think we still have a ways to go.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@burntbonez I’m working as hard as I can to teach the new generation – next semester Intro to Women’s Studies and Women’s Sexualities are the courses I’m teaching. There are palpable impacts made in the classroom. It’s all small thing but there are indications that not all young women (and people of other genders) have been duped. Well, that, and a dozen other efforts taken by my peers and myself. I think raising feminist children is key, as well.

HolographicUniverse's avatar

Any significant sociologist will prattle on in regards to the disparities between men and women professionally, academically and socially because there are measurable differences. What civil rights (for minorities and feminists alike) served for were to even out such inequality, just like all other major changes in society this requires gradual adaptation and so while it is entirely complete, there was a significant change.

The major cause for the transition between the new and ideal standards was because of the expense on our economy to incept these changes

Crashsequence2012's avatar

No sexist movement can be truly liberating.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Crashsequence2012 I can assure you that the majority of feminisms and feminists, as far as I have studied and experienced, believe in equality between people of all genders and are interested in pointing out how sexism works, rather than espousing it. Besides, there are several definitions of sexism. As I always say, if you use it to mean systemic sexism, that only goes one way (men to women, in this society). If you’re talking about individual sexism, that can be done by an gender against any gender.

YARNLADY's avatar

Many people who have lived in the modern time, after the so-called feminist revolution, have no idea what life was like before their time. I have also found this to be the case for many minorities who have no memory of what life was life before their time, and how much it has improved for them because of the work of those who went before.

bookish1's avatar

Strangely enough, Emma Goldman agreed with @Crashsequence2012 when it came to feminism.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@bookish1 Since her axis was class, sure.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

@YARNLADY said “Many people who have lived in the modern time, after the so-called feminist revolution, have no idea what life was like before their time.”

I assume it was louder.

burntbonez's avatar

You are doing important work, @Simone_De_Beauvoir. I hope your students learn much and are moved to become activists.

cazzie's avatar

I sort of resent the idea that the Feminist movement was something recent and short lasting. As if women, suddenly woke up in the 60’s and looked at eachother and said, ‘Hey, let’s do something for a few years and see what changes we can make and build resentment between the sexes.’ Study your history, people.

Mary Wollstonecraft did not write her books in a vacuume. She lived in the latter part of the 1700’s and was part of a movement back then of free-thinkers and progressives.

The fact that both people have to work today to support a family has more to do with the system of economics, not because the liberation of women has somehow ruined the ‘one income’ lore. The reason we look back and remember fondly those days is we are forgetting how they came about and what was life like before those days arrived. My grandmother and greatgrandmothers all had to work. They took in sewing and did lacemaking. They cooked and cleaned for other people to help support the family. They also had no automated washing machines, refrigerators or handy cheap take-outs to feed their families. Looking after any livestock the family had fell on the mother and the girls of the family.

My mother started her family after WW2 and she didn’t work outside the house because the economy changed. My father’s wages were enough. He served his country during the war and carried on do that for many years. Mom stayed home and kept having babies and started to enjoy the automated lifestyle that she had only seen in World Fair pictures when she was a child. When the economy tanked in the 70’s, Dad was out of the Army and was working two jobs to help support his enormous family. Things got expensive not because women joined the workforce but because of greater economic changes. Inflation was eroding the growth of the economy by the late 1960’s and then the Arab oil embargo happened mid-early 1970 and prices rocketed, and even after the embargo ended, prices stayed up.

Many, many, many things changed and they keep changing. Women have worked and will always work to help feed and clothe their families. I don’t know where that myth came that we didn’t. Too many bad historical dramas on TV perhaps?

In fact, in developing countries, they have learned that if you want to help a family, you give a starter loan to the woman of the household because you know, then, it will be used for the betterment of the entire family and not for the purchase of something to support the increase in the man’s ego.

No one puts me in a corner and says stay. No one better measure me for an apron. I’ll make my own, thanks, if I want one.

JLeslie's avatar

@cazzie Great point that women have been working and fighting for rights for a very very long time. Someone once said to me that the 1950’s and 60’s with the Leave it to Beaver family, mom at home, was really only that one moment in time in America in a mass way. I can’t speak for other countries and other cultures. It’s why equal pay for equal works sticks out for me more than any other part of the movement. Women were working, had been, just sometimes limited in what positions they could attain or what salary they could earn.

I believe women at this time in history are helping forge more flexible work hours and that taking a couple years away from the work force does not mean you lose how valuable you are in the work place. Men benefit from this too. In fact, I would have to admit that probably men realizing that more flexibitlity is desireable might be what finally brings many companies to go along with it. Tech companies were some of the first to allow telecommunting (work from home) or very flexible hours. Although, many agencies of the fed government in the DC area actually had maxi flex even back when I was a kid. My mom was able to arrive at work any time between 6am-9am and work her hours and leave accordingly. This helps women, especially mothers, immensely, but also, men and single wkmen no kids like it too.

mattbrowne's avatar

It was and still is. Just watch a movie set in the 50s or 60s.

What’s still missing is equal pay and equal representation in senior management. A simple method can fix this: make the bonus dependent on equal pay and equal representation in senior management. But there is a downside. Not all people want to be promoted. Not all people want a significant raise, because it often increases workload and stress too. I even know a case of a young talented woman who was promoted against her will, saying that she needed another year to feel confident about the new role. But senior management needed to deliver and meet the objective for number of female promotions. It’s all about KPIs.

rooeytoo's avatar

The Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the labor party just proposed an aboriginal woman for the senate. She has virtually no qualifications except as a well known olympic athlete and replaces a woman with 15 years experience and a reasonably good track record. But it will look good for labor to have been the ones who put the first aboriginal woman in the senate. If this is feminism, it is self defeating at this point. Perhaps she will prove able to do the job later, but right now it appears to be tokenism at it’s worst

mattbrowne's avatar

@rooeytoo – Was the aboriginal woman raised in the traditional aboriginal way? If yes, she could introduce cultural components that enabled her ancestors to survive the extreme changing climatic conditions for more than 40,000 years. Maybe qualifications depend on the point of view. Just a thought.

JLeslie's avatar

@rooeytoo Is it that she is a woman? Or, that she is aboriginal? It does sound like she is a token, and has a high enough profile that people will recognize her. However, there is a chance she is smart and can offer the aboriginal perspective. I know very little about Australias situation regarding their aborginal citizens. From what I have learned on fluther they tend to be undereducated and poor. Maybe she will have insight on what will help her people. I guess it matters what the hot topics are right now in your country. If there are other more immediate needs in the country than improving these cultural and socioeconomical issues, then she might definitely be the wrong candidate at this time in history. I do think one negative is getting there through sports does not encourage the path of education, which is a more sure fire way to improve ones life than hoping to be an olympic athlete or play in a national sport.

rooeytoo's avatar

In order to find a spot for this woman, the PM has removed the existing woman who holds the position. Interestingly enough, that woman is a strong supporter of Kevin Rudd, the current PMs biggest competitor. So she kills 2 birds with one stone, eliminates one enemy and gets her name in the history books. Also the aboriginal woman is not yet a member of the party, she had to agree to join the party first. The libs say you have to be a party member for 12 months before you can run for a seat, but labor does not have this rule, so join up and we’ll set you up if you promise to play the game the way we want.

@JLeslie – aboriginal people are like any other group, there are some highly educated, Noel Pearson for example, and some not. It is hard to educate those who choose to live in small groups in the middle of nowhere. To have a school for a handful of kids, many of whom do not attend regularly is not particularly practical. They cannot be forcibly sent to a boarding school for fear of creating another stolen generation. The same is true of health care. There is no simple solution to these problems. But I don’t think that placing one seemingly unprepared woman in a position where she can be controlled and manipulated by the powers that be within the party is a step towards solving those problems or the problems of the rest of the country

JLeslie's avatar

@rooeytoo With what you have presented, I would have to agree with you.

mattbrowne's avatar

@rooeytoo – So do I.

[Btw, in August my wife and I are traveling to Australia. Our nice lives in Melbourne. We’ll first go to Darwin, then on to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. I’m planning to ask a Fluther question about traveling tips pretty soon.]

rooeytoo's avatar

@mattbrowne – you are hitting most of the capital cities! Darwin is the one which most typifies aussie spirit and uniqueness. Let me know how long you will be there and I will tell you the best things to see. The others are full of wonderful sights as well but lack the exotic drama of Darwin and surrounding area!

mattbrowne's avatar

@rooeytoo – I will, thanks! We still have to book the flights from Darwin to Brisbane and from Melbourne back to Darwin plus the rental cars. Right now the flights are around $220, maybe it’s still a bit early.

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