What has the women’s liberation movement of the sixties got to do with mature women? In my
opinion, just about everything. Lately, I’ve been wondering about what happened to the march
toward equality between the sexes facilitated by Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan. For some
time now, the momentum of that movement has been halted because most people think women
have reached equality. That is far from true.
Cecilia Hyunjung Mo is assistant professor in the department of Political Science at Vanderbilt
University and a 2010-11 Graduate Dissertation Fellow at the Clayman Institute had this to say
about disparity between men and women in an online article, entitled, “What? Me Sexist?” The
article deals with why so few people will vote for a female president. Monday, November 5,
2012 – 12:00am she said:
“While Gallup polls and high-profile female political leaders give the perception that men and
women have reached parity in society, other measures raise questions about how far women have
really come. For example, women make up only 16.6 percent of Congress even though they
comprise half of the population.”
“Such contradictions may suggest that what we think are big changes in attitudes toward
women’s leadership may instead be manifestations of political correctness. In other words,
gender bias may have gone underground–taken out of daily conversation but remaining
prevalent. These contradictions may also be manifestations of an unconscious and automatic
preference for male leaders. Many voters may not even be aware that they possess these kinds of
gendered preferences.” (- See more at: http://gender.stanford.edu/news/2011/what-me-
These biases still exist even though half the population is female!
More women are choosing to stay home to raise children because the burden of pursuing careers
in addition to being major caretakers of the family is overwhelming. That becomes a huge
handicap to reentering the workforce when children are more self-sufficient. Employers are
reluctant to hire those with big gaps in their work history. No credit is given to the enormous task
of raising children. Men with families climb the ladder of success with greater ease than women
because women are taking on the main thrust of domestic responsibility
So many times I’ve heard a man say that his wife just has to remind him to do his part of
household duties. And if he has to be told several times, so what? The problem is she becomes a
nag, maybe even like his mother, and how can romance coexist with a nagging mother? This
becomes a setup for disaster. Although much has changed, men, overall, still do not share equally in domestic tasks. Take for instance the man who complained to his hard-working wife when she returned home from work at 9PM that he had to wear swim trunks for underwear because she didn’t do the wash. He worked at home.
We like to point to much more repressive societies as it concerns women where they are not
allowed an education, forced to cover their faces and not even allowed to ride bikes. Speaking
out against the despicable female mandated behavior and you might get shot in the head or have
acid thrown in your face. But in our society there is a silent schizophrenia. Here, it is not politically correct to speak out against women, but that has created an underground standard, rife with excluding women from many careers or stopping the upward mobility in their jobs.
The berating from men that women’s liberation produced testosterone women helped create the
stagnation. I believe women became frightened at the public chorus of disapproval at those
pushing for true equality. Images of the vocal women’s libber described her as masculine and
overbearing. Being stripped of their femininity clashed with how women were wired by society
to be submissive and demure, especially in my generation. With public sentiment running against
the movement, we backed away from demanding our full rights. Our society validates the
tenacity of men fighting for a cause, even makes them heroes, but labels women who do the
same as overbearing, yes, even today. People will talk about Hilary’s thighs but rarely pot bellies
of men in the political arena.
The glass ceiling is firmly in place. Approximately 50% of medical students are women. When it
comes to the highest paid specialists or top departmental positions, women comprise 16% at the
top. This disparity is especially prevalent in top positions in the investment world, corporate
heads, mutual funds and high technology. In law, although approximately 50% of the students
are women, only 16% are partners in firms. Women still make 75 cents to each dollar a man
earns for comparable jobs.
This is what I’m suggesting to get the ball rolling again. We now have an older segment of
society with drive, energy, time and better health than ever before. Younger women, struggling
with family issues and full-time careers have little energy left to fight for causes. We oldies
should make the effort to tear down rigid roles for men and women. The era of grannies, sitting
in the background, effacing themselves into the wallpaper and doling out little bits of wisdom is
over. We must go beyond what is an artificially instilled mode of behavior for older women like
myself and meet the challenge head on.
This is what older women should push for (and I urge men to join):
- Government day-care programs throughout the country.
- Legal firms and hospitals offering child care on the premises so that female medical
residents can specialize in areas that require more time and study and female lawyers can
get on the partnership track. The same applies to big corporations.
- True equal participation between men and women in domestic responsibilities.
- Encouraging more women to enter jobs and territories still mostly reserved for males.
- Programs put in place that aid women in retraining in order to bring them up-to-date
when reentering the job market after a long absence.
- Programs for young children aimed at eradicating the artificial barriers between the
- Programs for leaders in industry, medicine, law, teaching etc., demonstrating how they
subtly discriminate against women, often unconsciously, and how to eliminate it.
Cecilia Hyunjung Mo also said, “…negative gender stereotypes, traditional beliefs regarding
gender roles, or authority beliefs that favor men unconsciously influence the decisions and
choices many people make. These unconscious thought patterns remain real obstacles for the
advancement of women in male-dominated fields like politics.”
Equality must be for all people. Once the element of male entitlement is removed, a more honest
exchange of ideas can flourish. Openness between the sexes may be one of the greatest benefits
to reviving the women’s movement. Women feel put upon when stuck with two careers –
working full-time and in charge of the family, the domestic goddess, if you will. This is not a
good atmosphere for couples. Studies showed that those men, who participate fully with their
partners, have better relationships with far less tension.
We older women have to raise our voices against under-the-radar restrictions imposed by
society. We must insist that the needs of women be considered. We can’t be beholden to age
appropriate behavior if we want the generation of women behind and in front of us to be met as
If we all contribute our energies to empowering women of all ages, think about the great lives
awaiting your daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters. On the other side of it,
sensitizing sons, grandsons and great-grandsons, will sensitize boys to grow into men with better
relationship skills as adults. Males will be brain-wired from an early age so that it will be easy as
adults to consider women on a par with men. No, I’m not on LSD!