To the Inequality of Men and Women

Comments

14 comments posted
Apples and Oranges, Maybe?

Nice post. But the reason the subject line is "Apples and Oranges, Maybe?" is that what I get from your post is that your are treating legal or constitutional "equality" with the cultural concept of gender roles. In fact, you mentioned in your entry that "[s]exism was so ingrained in the culture that if the ERA got passed, men would use it when it suited them, while maintaining business-as-usual the rest of the time."

There's a fine line between "are men and women equal under the law?" and "are men and women treated equally?" The former is clearly a legal issue that is - for the most part - easy to ascertain. The latter is tricky because if the answer is "no" - and I personally think that's the state of our culture today - it begs the question why?

So, what I get from your entry is the ongoing struggle to get the cultural mindset of society to attain the same gender neutrality that the law, for the most part, affords men and women.

Now, as far as voting for women first - or for whatever class or group first - would you vote for a pro-life woman over a pro-choice man? If you answer "yes," well, you're a fanatic in my book because it's inconsistent with what you want to attain. But if you say "no" then it should become clear to you that the main thing is to vote for candidates that best reflect your beliefs and priorities and not for any particular gender, race, or political affiliation.

Roberto's picture
Posted by Roberto (not verified) on 9 March 2006 - 9:23am
Good points to ponder

I agree with you. Equal Rights under the law and a quasi-social equality do not always square. That goes back to some 1972 writings where men worried, "if she's my co-worker, do I hold the door open for her." Or if it's two people from work having lunch, "should the man pickup the check?"

When it comes to dating, in a world of equality, are women equally bound to ask the man out - and to split the check?

We waded through this in the 1970s and in work situations decided that politeness all around made sense.

You speak of inequality outside the strictly legal realm,

The latter is tricky because if the answer is "no" - and I personally think that's the state of our culture today - it begs the question why?

Exactly my question, too.

My point insofar as voting: there are not enough women in the halls of power and until that changes, I don't think we will have equality. I will say that if there is a pro-ERA man - like my hero, former Senator Fritz Hollings - interviewed on 60 Minutes, I would vote for him over an anti-ERA woman.

But let me give an example of what I mean. If half the population is female, then it would stand to reason, four or five of the Supreme Court Justices would be women - not one in nine.

I think these women would understand the realities of the Constitution and a woman's right to choose. The only way we can get a shot at changing men's institutions is getting more women into these institutions - even women who do not always agree.

We have had 30+ years of electing (mainly men (even sensitive ones)) and this has got us nowhere. The best way to get the attention of politicians is to stop voting for them and shift our votes. Granted, some wing-nut women are out there, but in aggregate, my voting is going to be for women candidates, just like Kos is for Democrats as a rule of thumb.

So, okay, you got me on that, Roberto. In the extreme, I will not vote for an anti-woman mouth-piece for the far right. But I think mostly it will be easier than that. At the local level and on up, I will support the woman candidate first (above exceptions still standing). Then if it is two women, I will vote for the progressive one. If both are progressive, I will go along with the Kosians and vote knee-jerk Democrat.

But I am tired of being taken for granted and I am annoyed that ERA is no longer part of the agenda.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 9 March 2006 - 10:23am
Contradiction?

Matsu, I see your points and I generally agree with you - not so much on abortion/choice, but it's for totally different reasons that are not really relevant to your post. But I will go on record as saying that although I'm uncomfortable with abortion on demand, I believe women should have that choice (hopefully, I'll avoid some barbs, for now).

The concern I see is that, on the one hand you're frustrated because women are not treated equally but on the other hand you're suggesting that only women can fix that problem. In a sense, you're suggesting that equality between men and women is impossible and that the best possible solution is a 50/50 - or 51/49 - power-sharing agreement.

I totally understand your point about women having a "better understanding" of womens' issues than men. I was raised by a single woman. Most of my closest friends are women, including my very best friend. And I'm happily married - to a woman. But I can't say that women would be any better - or any more effective - than men at effecting the changes you have in mind.

I guess my point is you should vote for a candidate's brains not a candidate's body.

Roberto's picture
Posted by Roberto (not verified) on 9 March 2006 - 11:06am
Can women fix a broken political machine?

I may not have been as clear as I wished to be.

I am not advocating that there be some sort of quota - formal or informal - but it stands to reason that if women are equal, they will be equally represented.

You have gone right to the heart of things with your comment and observation,

I guess my point is you should vote for a candidate's brains not a candidate's body.

But turn that sleeve inside out. Are men being elected because of their bodies and not their brains?

Unless women truly are mentally inferior to men, or incapable for some reason of leadership and governing, why aren't women represented in government proportionate to their number?

That this is NOT so is a very valid question, Roberto, and one that I would like to understand. I suspect it has to do with institutional sexism. Perhaps I am wrong.

I would like to see an honest discussion of this.

I only participated in such a discussion, once - and it was not in the Women's Movement.

In graduate school, our Professor "locked" the door and the 90 minutes we were allowed to speak honestly about sexism. The class was a mix of men and women and we were allowed to say it as it is. In was one of the most enlightening 90-minutes I have ever heard on the subject - of what men thought of women and women of men.

One of the things the men said was that lots of decisions take place on the golf course, playing racquetball, or just going off and watching "the game," essentially in the locker room where women aren't present and they predicted that women would not easily, soon - if ever - be able to get into that inner circle.

There is an inner circle and even many men are excluded from it, but few - if any - women I know are part of that inner-most of the inner-most circles of power that are male.

In part, the men don't think women can truly play the power game ... at least not that one.

Maybe one day again, I will see what people think (31 years later) if a similar, honest, discussion was undertaken.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 9 March 2006 - 11:42am
Comment and Question

I looked up a definition of "sexism" to make sure we're referring to the same "point of departure" so to speak. Sexism is defined as:

(a) discrimination based on gender, especially discrimination against women; and (b)attitudes, conditions, or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender.

When you say that "[women not being proportionally represented in society] is NOT so is a very valid question, Roberto, and one that I would like to understand. I suspect it has to do with institutional sexism. Perhaps I am wrong." I agree with your use of sexism if you mean it to be part (b) of the definition above.

Pennywit hit the nail right on the head when noting that it has not been that long since women have been able to explore the same opportunities as men, so it will take time for that balance to emerge.

But the issue regarding stereotypes and gender roles is important too. The "good ol' boy" network will change as soon as it becomes clear that the way they're doing things is adversely affecting their interests. That doesn't mean they'll do anything different. They may. But if they stick to the racketball/golf/ballgame routine, women will be included.

Your point - as I perceive it - is that it is not happening fast enough. I agree. But the better question is whether it is happening as fast as it can happen. For centuries, women were supposed to do or be responsible for some things and men were responsible for others. These "stereotypes" are not going to change overnight, over a decade, or maybe even over a generation. But, like Pennywit said, they are changing.

As to whether we choose men because of their brains, I would say yes . . . but then there's Bush so, who knows?

Roberto's picture
Posted by Roberto (not verified) on 9 March 2006 - 1:06pm
About SCOTUS
But let me give an example of what I mean. If half the population is female, then it would stand to reason, four or five of the Supreme Court Justices would be women - not one in nine.

I disagree slightly. A spot on the Supreme Court generally goes only to individuals who are at or near the apex of the legal profession. The apex of the legal profession comprises attorneys and judges who graduated with top honor from top schools, were partners at top law firms, and have written top-flight legal research for top law journals. But more importantly, the apex of the legal profession comprises individuals who have practiced law a long time -- two decades or more.

It's a fairly exclusive club, and it's not necessarily going to reflect the demographics of the general population. And right now, I certainly don't think that there's a 50/50 male/female split at the apex of the legal profession.

Why? Because women have only been accepted as attorneys co-equal with their male colleagues for a very short time. And that lack of acceptance created high barriers that only exceptional women could overcome. And the good ol' boy network even dismissed the exceptional women.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, for example, famously graduated top of her class at Stanford law in (I think) 1951 or 1952, but took on public-service work because no firm was willing to hire a woman attorney.

The thing is, with that good 'ol boy network in full swing until relatively recently, women were effectively barred from entering the legal profession and succeeding. And if they were effectively barred from the bar, they couldn't reach the apex of legal practice.

I do think that will change shortly, however. First, a number of women attorneys have reached the apex of the legal profession, and some law firms (including Biglaw) make an effort to promote women to partner positions. Second (and I say this with no data whatsoever to back me up), the level just below Supreme Court Justice -- appellate judges, District Court judges, state courts -- has, over time, become populated with more and more women who, if they are determined, will reach the apex of the legal profession and, I hope, take seats on the Supreme Court.

--|PW|--

pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit on 9 March 2006 - 11:14am
The old Catch 22

Why are men better astronauts? I had lunch - just the two of us - with a woman who later flew on the Shuttle. She spoke frankly. To be a command pilot, you had to have so many hours in high performance jets. Though technically a woman could have the required hours (if memory serves it was 5000 hours) the way opportunities worked out, women just weren't getting that experience.

Thus, to help women het their equivalent of "5000 hours," my knee-jerk vote will be for women to help them get those hours in and be real players and not window dressing.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 9 March 2006 - 11:46am
It's already changing ....

I don't have the patience to scour 50 state supreme courts or to hunt down the partner lists of all of the big law firms. But I thought I'd take a spin through the Appeals Courts (the level right below the Supreme Court in the federal system) and see who turned up on the bench.

I'm not counting senior circuit judges because they're retired. I'm also going to remain neutral on ideology. I'm only counting male vs. female. Names are cadged from the relevant Wikipedia entries. For the sake of convenience, I've omitted unoccupied seats.

  • DC Circuit: 9 justices sitting. 6 men, 3 women.
  • First Circuit

    : 6 judges sitting. 5 men, 1 woman.
  • Second Circuit: 13 judges sitting. 10 men, 3 women.
  • Third Circuit: 11 judges sitting. 7 men, 4 women.
  • Fourth Circuit: 13 judges sitting. 10 men, 3 women.
  • Fifth Circuit: 16 judges sitting. 12 men, 4 women.
  • Sixth Circuit: 14 judges sitting. 9 men, 5 women.
  • Seventh Circuit: 11 judges sitting. 7 men, 4 women.
  • Eighth Circuit: 11 judges sitting. 10 men, 1 woman.
  • Ninth Circuit: 23 judges sitting. 17 men, 6 women.
  • Tenth Circuit: 11 judges sitting. 9 men, 2 women.
  • Eleventh Circuit: 12 judges sitting. 10 men, 2 women.
  • Federal Circuit: 12 judges sitting. 10 men, 2 women.

In total, we have 162 judges sitting on the federal circuit courts. Of them, 122 (75%) are men, and 40 (25%) are women.

--|PW|--

pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit on 9 March 2006 - 12:29pm
Progress

Two thoughts occur:

1) Women are certainly active on the conservative side, and Republicans go out of their way to demonstrate that women can be leaders within their party. To me this indicates a form of progress. Strong women are seen not merely as an aspect of a "women's movement," but as an accepted, even needed part of political coalitions.

2) Proceeding from point 1, wasn't it inevitable that the feminist and/or women's rights movement would splinter in some way? After all, if the general population accepts the general thesis that women are and should be equal, then, I would think, that takes away the central issue that would bind together politically active women of all stripes.

--|PW|--

pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit on 10 March 2006 - 11:35pm
Women are certainly active
Women are certainly active on the conservative side, and Republicans go out of their way to demonstrate that women can be leaders within their party. To me this indicates a form of progress. Strong women are seen not merely as an aspect of a "women's movement," but as an accepted, even needed part of political coalitions.

Interesting how these women -- as well as most of the "minority" spokespeople for the so-callled "conservative" movement -- never are part of the visioning of the future, but rather about attacking "them evil libruls."

Why aren't these women painting a vision of the future? I look at the big-name conservative women, and I see Condi making excuses and Coulter going off on killing people and Hoff Summers on some fantasy of evil academics lording it over (um) adults.

Is there room for women's equality in convervatism? Is there room for racial equality in conservatism? The former seems unlikely. The latter seems so far fetched as to be a ludicrous proposition.

Proceeding from point 1, wasn't it inevitable that the feminist and/or women's rights movement would splinter in some way? After all, if the general population accepts the general thesis that women are and should be equal, then, I would think, that takes away the central issue that would bind together politically active women of all stripes.

Do people believe that women are equal? The conservative push for forced pregnancy seems to belie that. Anyone who is for forced pregnancy does not believe in sexual equality, no matter what they may say.

The passive-aggressive reaction of many prominent "liberal" males re feminism is also revealing.

So really, how many people really do believe women are equal? And how many just say so because it's expected? How much is South Dakota just a revelation of what people really think of women?

Is America ready to face up to that?

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 11 March 2006 - 12:04am
Strong Negros

What do you mean. "strong women?" Like "strong" Negroes? Not like those sambos.

Such a male construct, "strength," at least in the way you say it.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 11 March 2006 - 12:06am
Strength

I speak chiefly to strength of personality, with the ephemereal something that causes other respect and/or be willing to follow that person as a leader. Gloria Steinem, Susan B. Anthony, Christine Todd Whitman, Condoleezza Rice, and Sandra Day O'Connor would qualify, I think. I also speak to strength of mind or strength of character.

I don't think there's any sexism inherent in my comment.

--|PW|--

pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit on 11 March 2006 - 12:46am
If Steinem Wants To Demonstrate...

...some truly meaningful strength, she should call for a Feminist Party. It's never too late. Otherwise, I am inclined to continue dismissing her as a figurehead more hung up on stardom and franchise protection than in fighting for us. Forget her.

alsis39.5's picture
Posted by alsis39.5 (not verified) on 11 March 2006 - 10:14am
The Media and Gloria Steinem

I respect Gloria Steinem and she has worked hard for Women's Rights, but the Women's Movement - more than most Movements - does not have a hierarchical (patriarchal) structure.

Gloria is not its leader. She more or less was thrust into that role because she is photogenic and went was a Playboy bunny and came back with quite a story about how women are objectified. She broke the preconception that Feminists are all crones.

Yes. I would stand up for Gloria. Surely she could be a rallying point - but the Women's Movement came first ... then Gloria. She did not "found" the Women's Movement. There were many others and she was an important voice, but not the only one.

Female Liberation started when women had had enough.

There is a National Women's Party and we worked through the regular party machinery - hoping the Dems and people who were pro-woman would rally.

A leader needs people to lead.

The way it started in the 1960s was with "Consciousness Raising Groups," CR-Groups, where women shared their stories and feelings.

Until women come to grips with the cost of sexism, they will not stand behind even the best leader.

For me, blogs are a way to reignite consciousness.

And yet, Women's Rights have ridden the crest of war and social upheaval.

In World War One and World War Two, women realized they could be more - and government needed women to help win the war while the boys were away.

During the Vietnam War, progressive causes and progressive thinking hit a watershed. First came the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-War Movement and then Women's Liberation. The Gay Liberation Movement more or less happened at the same time.

I use the original words. It was Female Liberation ... not the "Women's Movement." We saw this as a profound struggle.

Do women feel they need to be liberated these days?

When they do, a leader will arise. Until then, she'll have few, if any, to lead.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 11 March 2006 - 11:10am