Rebooting feminism?

It’s the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s [amazon_link id=”0141192054″ target=”_blank” ]The Feminine Mystique[/amazon_link], which has led to some interesting reflections on the achievements or otherwise of feminism.Here’s The New York Times view, here is Salon, and here is the Guardian book club discussion.

[amazon_image id=”0141192054″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Feminine Mystique (Penguin Modern Classics)[/amazon_image]

My goodness, what a timely anniversary reminder that there’s a long way to go still. Yesterday over breakfast I stumbled on this extraordinary ad for Microsoft software:

Women too stupid for computers, or just too busy doing the housework?

Today I read Maureen Dowd’s bitter review of the new book by Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, [amazon_link id=”0753541629″ target=”_blank” ]Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead[/amazon_link], apparently advising women on how to have it all, version 2.0 (version 1.0 being of course Helen Gurley Brown’s [amazon_link id=”0283989866″ target=”_blank” ]Having It All[/amazon_link]). And also a report in the Observer of the past progress of women in public life in the UK going into retreat.

[amazon_image id=”0753541629″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead[/amazon_image]

It makes me think that perhaps the gains made by the feminist movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s were one-off, that they helped one or two cohorts of women only. The economic evidence that the labour market is stacked against women is pretty strong – there is a large earnings penalty for having children, and then some. One of the most depressing books on the subject is Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever’s [amazon_link id=”069108940X” target=”_blank” ]Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide[/amazon_link] – the good news is that men do ask for more pay and women don’t, so a woman who does ask will earn more. The bad news is that her male colleagues will think her a ball-breaker for doing so.

I hope younger women will re-read Betty Friedan’s book, and some of the other classics – Germaine Greer’s [amazon_link id=”0007205015″ target=”_blank” ]The Female Eunuch[/amazon_link], Kate Millett’s [amazon_link id=”067170740X” target=”_blank” ]Sexual Politics[/amazon_link], Simone de Beauvoir’s [amazon_link id=”009974421X” target=”_blank” ]The Second Sex. [/amazon_link] And I hope women of all ages will roll up their sleeves, and reboot the struggle – when the washing up is done and the man has finished with the computer, of course (*irony*).

2 thoughts on “Rebooting feminism?

Comments are closed.