Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How far have women come?

Was just taking a look at a great piece by Joanne Lipman from the New York Times last week.

Lipman addresses some of the key points of The Shriver Report, like women being the breadwinners in 40 percent of American families. With a female speaker of the house and secretary of state, it would seem that the dawn of a true woman's world is upon us. Feminism, it would seem, serves no real purpose in the modern day.

Well, it would be pretty silly of me to be blogging about feminism then, wouldn't it? To quote from Lipman's article:

The truth is, women haven’t come nearly as far as we would have predicted 25 years ago. Somewhere along the line, especially in recent years, progress for women has stalled. And attitudes have taken a giant leap backward.

I never expected that we would be in this predicament. My generation of professional women took equality for granted. When I was in college in the 1980s, many of us looked derisively at the women’s liberation movement. That was something that strident, humorless, shrill women had done before us.

It goes beyond the larger, overarching issues, of making 77 cents to a man's dollar, or the discouraging number of female Fortune 500 CEOs. It's about individual perceptions, our daily conversations that make it okay to treat women as less than equals. In this day and age, it's easy to see. Just take a look at the recent conversation about Meghan McCain's suggestive Twitpic. Or, consider Lipman's experience:
Recently, before a TV appearance, I did an Internet search on one of the interviewers so I could learn more about her — and got a full page of results about her breasts.
It's doubtful that you'd find a similar page of results dedicated to a male interviewer's private parts.

It's all about the conversation, the respect we get as women in our everyday lives. I'm grateful that I've had the opportunity to get an education, live independently and make my own decisions without being beholden to a male caretaker. But when I'm called "sweetie" by a server my own age, told that something is "girly" compared to something else or reminded by a well-intentioned colleague that giving birth is an inevitable part of every woman's life, second-class citizenship is reinforced.

I'll conclude with more from Lipman, who puts it much more eloquently than I ever could:
If we can change the conversation about women, the numbers will finally add up. And that’s what real progress looks like.

Posted by: melissa

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