Rebooting feminism?

It’s the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s

, 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,

, apparently advising women on how to have it all, version 2.0 (version 1.0 being of course Helen Gurley Brown’s
). 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 

– 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

, Kate Millett’s
, Simone de Beauvoir’s
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*).


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