Do we want the vanilla iced latte or vanilla bean frappuccino? The new Coach purse or next month’s rent? Heels or flats? Highlights or lowlights? America’s Next Top Model or Project Runway? Single or get married? Let’s look beyond the shoes, the purses, the jewelry, and the clothes. Look beyond the surface.
The reasons women started a revolution for themselves many decades ago are still true today. However, the extraordinary change and growth we have achieved in a single generation is astounding. In a 2009 study the Rockafeller Foundation did, in collaboration with TIME magazine on the battle of the sexes from the 1970′s to the present, Nancy Gibbs describes not only how far women have come, but also how our wants and needs have changed over the years.
In 1848, when Elizabeth Stanton first spoke up about her discontent with the American government and the limitations being placed on women at that time, including their freedom, thus began the movement where women would fight to no longer look to a man for approval. Women would take matters into their own hands, instead of asking for power, they took it themselves. The movement for social, political, and economic equality for both men and women has seen many changes since then, so where are we now?
Gibbs reported that “it is expected by the end of 2009, for the first time in history the majority of workers in the United States will be women. The growth prospects, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are in typically female jobs like nursing, retail and customer service. [However], more and more women are the primary breadwinner in their household (almost 40%) or are providing essential income for the family’s bottom line. Their buying power has never been greater- and their choices have seldom been harder.”
The question that is posed and consistently remains the theme of this article is: is the battle of the sexes really over? Other questions raised about this topic include:
How do men now view female power?
How much resentment or confusion or gratitude is there for the forces that have rearranged family life, rewired the economy and reinvented gender roles?
And, what, if anything, does everyone agree needs to happen to make all this work?
Some of us might know the answer, some of us could see part of the answer in reading this article, and yet the rest of us may never find the answer. But the point is that we agree these aren’t just issues we can sweep under the rug. We need to acknowledge that these issues are real and affect men and women each day.
Remember when you were little and you got all dressed up to go over to grandma’s house for the christmas family reunion? Everyone sat around eating cookies and telling stories about how things used to be “back in the day.” Grandma would say things like “take your education seriously, when I was your age I never had the opportunity to go to college” or “we were never allowed to wear those outfits anywhere, at school our uniform skirts were always measured to our knees, and elsewhere we always wore dresses that covered our arms and it was unheard of to show cleavage. Even at church, we wore dresses, stockings, gloves, and always had to have our heads covered with a Sunday hat or a small cloth that looked like a doilie.” For years and years we heard how our grandmothers, our aunts, our mothers, never had the same opportunities that you and I have today. If you’re like me, you always just responded with “yeah, yeah we know, you had to walk 10 miles to school each day, up hill both ways.”
But what was really going on at that time? What changes were women making, if any? Gibbs brings back the history for us in saying,
“At a time when American society was racing through change like a reckless teenager, feminism had sputtered and stalled. Women’s average wages had actually fallen relative to men’s; there were fewer women in the top ranks of civil service (under 2%) than there were four years before. No woman had served in the Cabinet since the Eisenhower Administration; there were no female FBI agents or network-news anchors or Supreme Court Justices. The nation’s campuses were busy hosting a social revolt, yet Harvard’s tenured faculty of 421 included only six women. Headhunters lamented that it was easier to put a man on the moon than a woman in a corner office.”
A lot of people have said, around this same time is when feminism started to die. That, it was no longer “cool” to be a feminist in our American society. The rallies and riots in the streets and the scenes of women on Capitol Hill burning bras were a thing of the past. (Ah! I so wish I could have been a part of that!) Many said, and still say that the Women’s Movement was a joke, that it was just a bunch of angry women who were constantly PMSing for a couple years and wanted everyone to suffer for it. Men and women, including feminists, have said that there is no movement. That a movement means there is progress, that the cause is “going somewhere,” but the women’s movement won’t accomplish anything, it is not and will not go anywhere.
“[Well] that was a cranky exaggeration; many changes were felt more than seen, a shift in hopes and expectations that cracked the foundations of patriarchy. ‘In terms of real power- economic and political- we are still just beginning,’ Gloria Steinem admitted. ‘But the consciousness, the awareness- that will never be the same.’”
If we’re being honest here, I agree that the awareness of feminism will never be the same as it was in the 1970′s. However, one stereotype we gladly fulfill, is that we will never go silent. Feminism still lives on, and we’re certainly not about to shut up about it! To all those that say feminism died a long time ago, and to those who constantly reep snobish remarks at women who publicly voice their thoughts of feminism- you may silence few individuals, but you will never silence the movement. Furthermore, as history has shown, we have the cold hard facts to shatter the thoughts and words of all those who said WOMEN CAN’T. The truth never lies my friends.