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"Second Sex No More"

Below is an interesting book review for Gail Collins’ “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present”.

I’ve had a couple of conversations lately on how quickly (i.e., within the lifetime of one generation) things changed, in the United States and some portions of the rest of the world, for women.

In the late 1980s, when I first moved to LA, I was looking around for a new eye doctor. I went to one place and filled out their “new patient” form.

The receptionist looked it over and asked for my husband’s name. I said: “Not married.”

She then asked for my father’s name. I said: “Dead.”

She told me she needed the name of a “responsible male” before they could take me on as a patient. I suggested my brother, and informed her he was unemployed at the time, and living with me. When she wanted his phone number, I pointed out she already had it – because he was using my phone number, which was already on the application.

I internalized for *years* that concept that I would never own a house, because – with, I understand, rare exceptions – single women weren’t considered suitable property owners. It took me years for it to finally sink through that, yes, things had changed; yes, single women that I personally knew had bought houses, and yes, I could actually buy one myself. There was a lag time of several years from intellectual knowledge to gut understanding.

There’s a lot of wanking among certain older women that “young women just don’t get” what things were like “back in the day”. But you know what? I’m glad they don’t “get it” on any sort of gut level. Let it remain intellectual. Let them know at their core they are full human beings.

A good portion of the rest of the world has a great deal of catching up to do, alas.

The review:

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-ca-gail-collins15-2009nov15,0,343927.story

PS: It's more than a bit jarring, when I clicked on the link to make sure it worked, that one of the sidebar ads on the LA Times website for this article said "Meet sexy Asian women online..."
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Comments

Yup, I agree. Never let them know what it feels like to be limited by their vaginas. I remember after my parents divorced, JC Penney took my mother's credit card away because she was a bad risk.

Oh, the state gave her us kids, but a credit card?? Never!

gah!
>>>Oh, the state gave her us kids, but a credit card?? Never!

Boy, doesn't that say it all - money or children. We can see where the kids rated in the scheme of things...

I applied for a Sears card in the 70s and was turned down because they didn't get them to single women. I was able to get one from Montgomery Wards, no problem. Guess who got my business? (Well, until they went out of business.) Guess which store I never entered again? (Well, except when a friend dragged me there, but I didn't buy anything.)
But we still have so far to go. Sexism is still alive and well...just more hidden (just like racism). For example, why is listening (particularly, passive listening) considered a 'female' trait? Why are young girls not encouraged to do science, while boys are? Why are women considered the gate keepers during sex? Why are women who are dominant still deemed 'unfeminine'?
These are all things that ppl think but don't say but the attitudes still exist.

Still--yes, I agree that my generation has it so much better that yours. I can't even believe that you were asked for a 'responsible male' or that you couldn't get a home loan. That is just unthinkable today.
>>>But we still have so far to go. Sexism is still alive and well...just more hidden (just like racism).

Yes, indeed, equality is very much a WIP, and we have a long, long way to go. Particularly when there are movements like "Quiverfull" going on:

http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2009/03/14/joyce_quiverfull/

>>For example, why is listening (particularly, passive listening) considered a 'female' trait?

It's just the same old "sit down and shut up" with a nicer name.

>>Why are young girls not encouraged to do science, while boys are?

I don't know much about the state of science education right now, but I recently read that girls have achieved math parity with boys.

I have heard so many times, from women, that "women just aren't good at math", which doesn't explain the fact that every corporate accounting department I've encountered over the last 30 years was full of women. Except for the department head, who was usually male.

>>>Why are women considered the gate keepers during sex?

Sadly, more consequences, which is why a lot of guys seem to think they have a "free pass" as far as responsibility is concerned.

>>>Why are women who are dominant still seemed 'unfeminine'?

Quite a long ways to go. Look at the mostly male heads of Fortune 500 companies and corporate boards of all kinds, state lagislatures, etc., etc.

I am very familiar with a situation which occurred at a corporation in the late 90s. The new male divisional head was very threatened by the presence of a number of female executives, and over the course of a year forced all the higher-level women out of the company, and several at the mid-management level. For his discriminatory ways, he got promoted.

>>>These are all things that ppl think but don't say but the attitudes still exist.

And when they think you're not listening they say them out loud, too.

WIP indeed. And things can backslide so easily.

Edited at 2009-11-17 04:23 am (UTC)
The Quiverfuls make me go 'GRRR!'. I grew up with those same values and I was always the odd girl because I never wanted kids. I can't stand kids (except my own, but only one and only ever this one-no more).
Yeah, they are never going to understand. I didn't take my husband's last name when I got married. I was told I was immoral, and that my marriage probably wasn't even legal. OTOH, I had credit cards in my own name.
Several women I know told me the same thing - they kept their birth name and got all kinds of grief for it, including/especially from "officialdom".

Recalling now... I worked at one place where I maintained the client database. A female client got married, and I added the husband's name to the database, after hers, like this:

Mary Jones and John Smith.

I was told I had to reverse it; that the male name *always* came first, i.e.:

John Smith and Mary Jones.

I did it, but wasn't happy. She was the original client, after all; changing the order seemed to be subordinating her to a lesser position.
That is standard practice. Even now. It really annoys me, too.
I followed your link to the Quiverfull article. Shudder.

I spent years raising my two daughters trying to explain that the movement for women to achieve true equality was on-going, and that there was still a lot to do. Neither of them believed me. Until... They went out on their own. Now they see the truth of it. My older daughter has founded two "Women in Physics" programs at two of the universities she's attended, and the women there are unbelievably grateful. They need the help.

Great post!
Love,
Jenna