Intellectual fuel for modern feminists

There is one welcome side-effect of the unspeakable online threats made to Caroline Criado-Perez over her successful campaign to get Jane Austen on the next £10 note. It is the realisation that feminists, male and female, still have a lot of work to do.

Over at the Teen Economists blog today Viva Avasthi has reviewed Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, still a timely essay. The classic feminist text that opened my eyes in the 1970s was Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex.

Recently Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, work and the will to lead has gained a lot of attention. It’s quite good but puts all the onus for improving women’s economic standing on their individual actions; it omits discussion of the institutional barriers women face to progress at work and in society.

Another fairly recent book, startling in its findings, is Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. It reports research showing that part of the reason women’s pay is lower than that of comparable men is that, indeed, individual women need to ask for promotions and raises. The trouble is that when they do, they are disliked – it’s unfeminine, aggressive to put yourself forward, and male colleagues and bosses find other ways to punish women who do ask.

Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide

Other books include Arlie Hochschild’s The Second Shift on the burden of unpaid domestic work, especially childcare, on working women; and Susan Faludi’s Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women – old now but the backlash seems fiercer still now; and of course other classics of the 70s and earlier such as The Female Eunuch, The Women’s Room, Sexual Politics etc.

There is of course also a large scholarly literature in economics on gender discrimination such as Claudia Goldin’s research, Heather Joshi‘s, Betsey Stevenson’s, and much more. Enough to know that it’s time to act again.

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2 thoughts on “Intellectual fuel for modern feminists

  1. Quite sad to have this most unpleasant feeling of deja vu- I think a lot was achieved in first wave, but now anti feminism seems more ugly and aggressive. I feel for my daughters ( 17 & 19 ). But they are strong girls, so lets be hopeful.

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