Friday, April 15, 2011

Yes, Sex Discrimination Did Happen and Still Does

Mrs. G. thought my last two posts were insensitive to the actual discrimination experienced by women we know, especially in our mothers' and grandmothers' generation. So, just to be clear, I of course know that sex discrimination was not just rampant more than a generation ago, it was official policy. And I know that sex discrimination still goes on. There are women right now who are paid less because they are women.

BUT we have had a sea change since the 1970s in how we think of men, women, and work. The aim of both kinds of feminism has been to open all choices to women. In this endeavor we have been hugely successful. Not completely successful, but hugely successful.

And the main point of controversy between egalitarian feminism and difference feminism is whether, given a choice, men and women would choose each option at the same rate or not. I believe the unfolding facts increasingly support the difference feminist view. The goal of having all choices equally open to men and women remains, and remains vital. But equal opportunity will not, I am convinced, produce equal outcomes.


ceemac said...

Was pondering a bit about the high powered jobs and well paying jobs that tend to attract men and not women.

Those jobs tend to demand a lot of time especially as one works their way up the ladder. I am wondering how much of that time is actually related to learning how to do the job well? And how much of that time is actually more like the hazing of an initiation ritual into a fraternity.

Kerri said...

As a semi-professional woman, I can say that I have experienced personal sex-based discrimination (positive and negative, interestingly...). It tends to be generational, though-- I have a much harder time earning the respect of my older male colleagues than I do of those closer to my generational cohort. It seems that once I've earned it, I've earned it completely, but it's still an extra hoop to jump through.

But I do generally agree with your conclusion that, these days, women just tend to be in those jobs that pay less. I do think that the extent that socialization plays a role in those career decisions is still being hashed out, but I am increasingly inclined to think that women are just more service-oriented--and that our society and economy reward the public service professions with fewer dollars than we do the private ones.

And that discrepancy, in itself, is a distinct and pressing policy issue.

Susan Perkins Weston said...

I think it's completely appropriate to have an entire generation reenact the key battles of the generation before in symbolic rituals.

As in, a man whose dad served in the Pacific in World War II can make it steadily clear that he won't buy a car made by Mitsubishi.

As in, a woman proud that her Southern aunts and uncles were on the right side of the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 can make regular snarky remarks about a school that decided in that very year to call its sports teams "the Rebels."

And as in, I vote to remember on how ugly the world was how recently to women with talent every single time this subject comes up.

I understand the argument that current pay gap data does not, by itself, prove pervasive gender discrimination.

I also believe in aggressively, explicitly, holding onto historic grudges for a minimum of half a century.

Michelle said...

Mr. G., looks like Mrs. G. wears the pants in the family.:)

I'm not sure holding grudges really a good idea, but to each his own.

Jonathan said...

I think there's a difference between holding a grudge and racism. For me, hating the Japanese on behalf of your dad for a war that ended 67 years ago (and expressing this by hating a car company? How about if you just never buy any technology again, since most electronics have parts from Japan) seems a bit over the top, especially when that country was nuked, then permanently disbanded its army, and subsequently has housed our troops and been among our strongest allies for almost three generations.

I'm losing the point here. I get the need for historical memory and contemporary caution, but the grudge part seems less helpful. I can't tell the difference between a grudge and hate or racism.

Gruntled said...

Let me be clear that I do not hate Japan or the Japanese - quite the opposite. I do have a visceral negative reaction to Mitsubishi specifically for the Zero that attacked my father. I know that is not entirely rational. We own Kentucky-made Toyotas. My disaffection with Mitsubishi is held within tight bonds. Also their ads are obnoxious.