The New York Times published an article on gender equality to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique. The article suggests that the feminist struggle for gender equality has stalled since the 1990s and early 2000s, offering several sobering statistics to back up this thought (all of which point to the United States lagging behind other countries in terms of gender equality). But what causes these changes? The article suggests:
“Today the main barriers to further progress toward gender equity no longer lie in people’s personal attitudes and relationships. Instead, structural impediments prevent people from acting on their egalitarian values, forcing men and women into personal accommodations and rationalizations that do not reflect their preferences. The gender revolution is not in a stall. It has hit a wall.”
The article suggests that gender equality in part is stalled by out societies interpretation of an effective work-family balance. A structural and policy focus on longer working hours, less time off, lower hourly rates for part time workers vs. full time workers, and persistent lower pay and varying jobs for men and women puts families between a rock and a hard place. We are faced with choices which are made as a result of these polices, although the beliefs we actually have differ when not confronted with the work and political climate of our society. Therefore, women end up dropping out of the work force more often than men, our relationships and families suffer, and gender equality gets us no where. The solution to this problem?
“Our goal should be to develop work-life policies that enable people to put their gender values into practice. So let’s stop arguing about the hard choices women make and help more women and men avoid such hard choices. To do that, we must stop seeing work-family policy as a women’s issue and start seeing it as a human rights issue that affects parents, children, partners, singles and elders. Feminists should certainly support this campaign. But they don’t need to own it.”
Clearly making gender equality a human right’s issue makes blatant sense, as the effects of such inequality or equality influences more than the women themselves. The only negative I see in this article is it’s emphasis on marriage and child birth, as this only represents a particular part of the population. I think this was just chosen as the easiest example of how gender equality has hit a wall of political and structural hindrance, and suppose more fair work-family policies would allow for more expression and equality by both genders regardless of marriage or family status. This piece is obviously only part of a multifaceted puzzle, but it brings about a lot of questions and starts to move us in the right direction towards rekindling the gender equality fight (perhaps with a new face).
Written By Georgianna Reilly, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer
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