Women now comprise half the work force and have made impressive gains in some professions. An essay by Joanne Lipman in the NY Times on Saturday notes these data but makes a compelling case that they are misleading. Making up half the work force is not the same as having equality. Women still make less money than men, are not taken as seriously, and are not treated with respect at the same level as professional men.
I liked the essay, but one thing about it surprised me. Near the beginning, Lipman wrote:
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.
I am of her generation of professional women, but my college friends and I never took equality for granted. We were not derisive about the women's liberation movement, and I don't know (well) anyone my age who was.
To my friends and me, the women who came before us and fought for equal rights are heroes.
We believed that people who bought into the stereotype of feminists as strident, humorless, shrill women were ignorant. My Republican uncles thought of feminists that way. And my postdoc supervisor, who used to tell jokes about feminists who were strident, humorless, and shrill, and then when I didn't laugh, he took this as proof of at least the humorless part.
These were older, conservative men. None of my friends felt this way, though I must admit that I don't know anyone who has worked at The Wall Street Journal as did Lipman. My friends and I thought Gloria Steinem was (and is) smart, glamorous, and cool.
It was interesting to read an essay by a successful woman who is similar in age and educational background (I looked up where she went to college) and who has been surprised at not being treated with as much respect for her talents and accomplishments as she would have been as a man. I have not been surprised by similar professional experiences in my own (much more modest) career, but we've ended up with the same opinion, writing about similar topics.
6 months ago