Thursday, December 29, 2005

Heirs of Feminism

It is possible that her capitalist solutions were only the second most offensive thing about that Linda Hirschman article. Because she began:

I found that among the educated elite, who are the logical heirs of the agenda of empowering women, feminism has largely failed in its goals.
Now there are a number of things I want to unpack around that, starting with the idea that feminism had goals about women. Feminists have goals for women, about men and society.

But even most importantly again and again Linda Hirschman acted like feminist gains were mainly held, not just by middle-class women, but by the elite. She seemed to believe that women who had had their weddings in the style section of the New York Times would be the people most likely to be reaping feminist opportunity.

I would say that these were the main achievements of the 1970s feminist movement in New Zealand:

1. A chance for financial independence from men (equal pay legislation and the DPB)
2. A chance to control when and whether you have children (it was not just abortion that feminists won access to, it was unmarried women's access to contraception as well)
3. Some protection against male violence (The situation is horribly bad now, but it was jaw-droppingly worse 30 years ago)
4. The availability of some options, besides total responsibility for your children until they started school (although the feminist demand was for free-child care, there was virtually no childcare at all available in 1970).
5. Overt sexism is illegal and less socially acceptable than it was.

To me these basic changes, not the opportunity to make partner at some fancy law-firm, is the legacy of the last feminist movement.

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