Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Newsweek articles on feminism

Since I'm doubting any of us has finished the last chapter yet, here's some easier and more current reading on feminism.

Are we there yet? - The headline article about sexism working at Newsweek, in 1970 and now. They bring up the disturbing point that women make 80 cents for every dollar men make (although they didn't cite the study, which always makes me a bit skeptical). I was intrigued by the following two quotes:
"We know what you're thinking: we're young and entitled, whiny and humorless—to use a single, dirty word, feminists! But just as the first black president hasn't wiped out racism, a female at the top of a company doesn't eradicate sexism. In fact, those contradictory signs of progress—high-profile successes that mask persistent inequality—are precisely the problem."

""The U.S. always scores abysmally in terms of work-life balance," says the WEF's Kevin Steinberg. "But even here, [women] still rank 'masculine or patriarchal corporate culture' as the highest impediment to success." Exhibit A: the four most common female professions today are secretary, registered nurse, teacher, and cashier—low-paying, "pink collar" jobs that employ 43 percent of all women. Swap "domestic help" for nurse and you'd be looking at the top female jobs from 1960, back when want ads were segregated by gender."

Feminism or bust (Why young women need feminism) - The author claims that people of her (and my) generation are over feminism and feel that we don't need it (true), but that we do still need it. Unfortunately, she doesn't say where or why, just that sexism is "harder to pinpoint" and when women enter the workforce they feel like "outsiders in a male-dominated club." (I suppose this is because she's assuming you read the previous article.) Personally I've never experienced this, but I've never been outside academia.

My parents' failed experiment in gender neutrality - Though Jesse's parents wanted to raise her genderless, girlie-ness prevailed.
"Since then, of course, countless studies have shown that men and women think and behave differently—to the point that it's not the existence of these differences, but the source of them, that is the subject of any debate." 
I'm always floored when you come across people who haven't realized this.
"Looking like a sex object but also claiming the rights of women who are not sex objects—that's tricky." 
Yes it is! This actually gives me hope, when traditional* feminists and new feminists can agree on problem areas.

So in an attempt to spur discussion (without having to read the articles necessarily), why do you think pay discrepancies still exist? Do you think women are in more "pink-collar" jobs because they like them more, because they are more family-friendly, both, or something else? Have you experienced sexism, particularly in the workplace? Is it possible to completely eradicate sexism? What areas do you think contemporary* feminists and new feminists can agree?

*I'm not sure of the right word to reference feminists who aren't radical but still follow the old-school (that is 70s-80s) platform. There are just so many strands of feminism!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Having it all

I confess, I had a busy weekend and haven't read the next chapter yet. But I just read two articles by Kate Wicker about feminism that I thought might be more interesting to us than the book right now.

I Am Woman was her original article, and she followed that up with a blog post Some Further Thoughts on Feminism, Motherhood, and Having It All.

My favorite quote from the first article was the following:
When we "liberate" women from the "menial" tasks of motherhood, when we suggest a woman loses her life and her identity if she stays home with the kids all day, when we say that women must be fiercer in the workplace or become more "rational" and physically and emotionally "stronger" like their male counterparts, what we're really saying is that men and the male role in society is superior to our own, and we must do everything in our power to become more like them.

Check 'em out and come back with comments!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


In the comments on my last post Elizabeth asked whether anyone else had noticed the man-bashing. Given the level of discussion, I suspect that many of us are not finding the book worth reading. So here is the short version from pages 155-157 for those who would like to chime in.

Black or white, married women agree that, more than occasionally, the men they most love are, well, just plain impossible. More than once, out of the blue, a woman has said to me, "You know, the trouble with men is that they always want to be with you." And it matters not at all that she is echoing an oft-heard complaint that men file against women.
But then, I would have trouble thinking of a woman I know, of any age, class, color, or ethnicity, who has a family and does not consider time alone in her own house a luxury. An old friend of my mother blurted out that her dream was to be alone, pull the shades, strip off her clothes, and eat a pint of ice cream without interruption. Michale, like many other husbands, wants companionship and attention at home--just to have Martha sit next to him to watch the news or something like that. "He really needs that." His desire for her company makes it difficult for her to just shut herself "in the other room and do schoolwork."
Martha recently confessed that one of her pet peeves was Michael's tendency to interrupt without apparent thought to what she might be doing: "It just kills me. I'm busy in the kitchen and he'll see something on television and he'll say, 'Hey, Martha, come here,' as if I'm not doing anything." But if the tables are turned, if he has work to do, "then you've got to leave him alone. You can't go near him." And I have yet to meet a woman of any race at any level of income or education who does not agree. Men just never seem to understand that women need privacy as much as they do.
For as long as anyone can remember, women have had their lists of the ways in which men who claim to be serious adults behave like thoughtless boys. Martha Miller thinks her husband even shops like a boy.
Countless women in all income brackets, like their grandmothers and mothers before them, patiently and impatiently share complaints about men's incorrigible thoughtlessness: Men talk through women's silences as if women had no private thoughts; men never assume their full share of domestic responsibilities; men flip the television channel in the middle of something you are watching. But like the many other women who complain knowingly of men's predictable failings, we could not wait to get home, and, to many people's amazement, each of us expected to have dinner waiting for us on the table.
What do you think?

Monday, March 1, 2010


We're now more than half-way done with the book and I am still not sure about the point. A few chapters ago I wanted to tear apart E F-G's use of "natural law" as entirely inconsistent with the generally accepted philosophical meaning. The next chapter I wanted to rip into her portrayal of history since she seemed to imply that privileged women having sex before marriage was somehow the result of the feminist movement and sexual revolution. Now I have gotten to the point where I wonder whether the stories in the book even seem real to anyone outside of the Northeast. If the point of stories is to have them resonate in a different way than pure argument, why not tell a wider variety of stories?

But I am trying to see beyond my quibbles to read E F-G's deeper points.

She thinks that the reality of women is captured neither by radical feminists nor the conservatives.
Fair enough.

She thinks that women "never outgrow the need for stories about women's lives" (150). Certainly.

"Feminism is not the story of our lives, but neither is full-time domesticity" (152)

Women are individuals with different hopes and dreams.
Hence the fact that there is not a cohesive story of "our" lives.

Of course I still disagree with E F-G on little points: "Men just never seem to understand that women need privacy as much as they do." (Actually my husband is very good at giving me space) And big ones: sexual freedom contributes to women's danger (then why is it that you were just telling us the stories of the danger in past generations when women had to sleep in separate rooms from their *husbands*?!).

But I can agree with her that marriage and mothering will always be central to women's lives when taken as a whole. So I guess that if that is the point of the book, then I will be more likely to agree than to disagree.

What do you think about the book so far?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Identity, Work and History

Though I'm a bit behind in my reading, the post before this gave me something I wanted to say that was a little too long in comment form. So here's my two cents about Women, Identity, Work and History.

What I think EFG is overlooking is that while the domestic sphere was historical the woman's "vocation" that did not mean a good majority of them did not work. Even 100+ years ago women in families in the lower classes (economic wise) worked even if it was as sewers or lace-maker from their homes. Middle class women were often expected to help out in the family business if that business, sometimes even working away from their husbands or fathers if multiple relatives owned businesses and need assistance. Even if a woman wasn't helping directly, day to day in the stores it was common to find ways to assist the business. As an example even a farmers wife (of which their are many examples from my family) was expected to do a number of chores and before the advent of fast food one of her many "jobs" was to help provide the multiple meals to the men working the fields. Upper classes women often had to run large homes, essentially they were in management - in charge of cooks, butlers, and servants, etc. and that was a job in and of itself (and part of a young woman's training if she was expected to marry to such a life). Also for those in the above the upper classes a woman was not just expected to stay in the home all day cleaning and cooking, especially as the industrial revolution gave her more gizmo's and gadgets to make that part easier. She was expected to be active in her community and church and not be idle.

And lets just admit it, it is easier in the day to day tasks to run a household post 1950's than it was pre-1900's. It just doesn't take as long to wash clothes, run errands or even to cook (though please note I'm not trying to say that homemaking is still an easy job by any means, especially when children enter the picture), so if women have the time to help out financially by working, why should we stop them? I think it's wrong to say that pre-feminist movement (about 1900's) women did not have the desire to have jobs or even careers, but that the facts of day to day survival did not encourage this and we take this for granted because we can do laundry in a couple of hours rather than having to take an entire day, food can be stored in the freezer rather than stored methodically through canning and preservation, clothing come pre-made, etc. etc.

Essentially what I'm getting at is I question if EFG has truly checked all her sources when she starts to make statement that boil down too - "Before the feminist movement a woman's sole sphere was the home", because the history just doesn't back it up when before the advent of cubicles the home was often an integral part of the families business and livelihood and that simply put "women worked" - if we didn't work before the feminist movement why was "equal pay for equal work" such a large component of the earlier feminist movements?


And as a last note about women "Believing they must pursue a non domestic career if they expect to be taken seriously" - she is again seems to be ignoring the dualism for modern men, who are made to believe, by our society, that the only worthy vocations are those that are big, important and come with hefty pay checks. How many times have we seen a man looked down upon because they choose an unglamorous vocation that doesn't require a four year degree minimum? God forbid a man who works with his hands be an educated, well intentioned boon to society. How many of us have seen a farmer or a factory work looked down upon and stereotyped as uneducated or low-class even in modern times?


I would like to end with an idea to put an idea out there, why can't we respect both aspects of the modern woman's life? I offer myself and a general description of many of the women I've met here as an example -
  • I will probably never be a SAHM/W, if I do it will be for a short period of time; in fact I've never had a true desire to be one.
  • I also do not see myself having a gaggle of children in which to focus 10-15+ years of my life on before they all would start to become self-sufficient.
  • My husband will never have a big income job; though he is working towards a well paying job that he can be proud of, that job will never pay a lot of money.
  • And I have non-domestic skills and talents (specifically when it comes to teaching and outreach to teenagers), which I like to think that God gave me to be used in a vocation outside of the home.
  • At some point in my life I will also be in charge of running a family farm, (I say I here because my husband really has no desire to be a farmer, and I have no intention on selling my families farms) so while I might not be working at a building, will I probably do some kind of work my entire life for a combination of reasons - but mainly out of a desire to do so, whether that desire is to allow my husband to follow a desire job-path without the stress of being responsible for a single income, or to use my talents in the best way I can, etc.
Many of the women here have expressed either here or through their personal blogs an innate desire to be a SAHM/W, to raise many children and to lead lives those kind of lives. Some of them have husbands with careers that can easily support this (if not now then in the foreseeable future) or if not who are willing to do what is necessary job/career wise to support this family life choice. They might use their educations in non-direct ways, perhaps through their churches or other non-payed volunteer type routes (I always say an education is never truly wasted). And, though I don't know for certain, it seems like I might alone in the inheritance of land or family owned-business, so they might never have something like that to constantly be in charge of.

So what I'd like to say is why can't we both be respected? EFG seems very intent on trying to figure out which one is superior to the other, and I say why can't we be equal? If I can see and respect the many benefits a truly dedicated SAHM/W can bring to the world, why can't women like me be given the same respect? Not all of us are meant to or have the desire to operate solely in a domestic sphere, but that does not mean we are any less feminine or any less of a woman.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Where do you derive your identity?

Women are taking genuine pleasure in their work, even when it is far from glamorous. They like to be working to get out of the house, to interact with other adults, to earn money they can call their own. ... For years, women got the same sense of accomplishment from presiding over a household and raising children. ... [I]ncreasing numbers of women have come to believe that they must pursue some kind of nondomestic career if they expect to be taken seriously. (pgs121-122)

I'm just throwing this idea out there, and would love to hear your thoughts on it, so please correct me if I'm wrong:  Women nowadays are more likely to work so they have a sense of identity than out of necessity.

Of course there are still a great many women working out of necessity. But I'm wondering if the ones that might not need to (let's say the middle and upper-middle class wives) still feel they must because they wouldn't know what else to do? After all, if they just have 2 kids and they eat out often and their husbands help out a lot around the house, they have fewer domestic duties. They feel like staying at home is a waste of their college education. And what would they say when someone asked what they do for a living?

I bring up that last question because it's really been a sticking point for me. I'm planning to become a SAHM. If someone asks me what I do, how exactly will I answer it? I'm afraid I will inevitably point to my advanced degree as proof that I'm good enough to do other things, but I have intentionally chosen not to. So my identity would be SAHM, with a PhD caveat. (Of course then comes the whole "what a waste of your degree" but I'm not worried about that here.)

So I guess my question is, where do you derive your identity? Is it through work? (I don't think that's an inherently bad thing, BTW.) Is it through relationships or religion? And I guess most importantly, are you happy with that? Do you expect it to change?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Food for Thought -- Carrie Bradshaw

I recently found the blog of Leah Darrow. She was a contestant on America's Next Top Model, and recent re-vert to the Catholic Church. She has a blog called Exposed. I would highly recommend checking it out.

The following article is called: "Carrie Bradshaw: A Relic of Feminism" and I thought it was apt for the subject matter of our little blog, so here's a snippet...

I am a 30 year old woman, single, living in the city, working a full time job, involved with volunteer work, social, outgoing, independent, big fan of mascara and lip gloss, frequently seen running through an airport to catch my flight for a girls weekend away in Mexico and have a committed relationship with all that encompasses “fashion” --- oh, and by the way, did I mention I am a faithful Catholic??
At first glance, it more sounds like a character description of Carrie Bradshaw from none other than Sex and the City but adding the catholic disclaimer is like adding a moral compass to Carrie Bradshaw – and no, this is not a necklace, broach or belt.


The space between Carrie Bradshaw and the Church Lady is the New Feminism role that all Christian women are being called to. This is not a theory or an ideology to remain in print and left on a shelf, but this calling is a lifestyle - one that can change the hearts and minds of men, women and children.

Go here to read the rest. She even mentions Helen Alvare, my new hero(ine).