How Long Till Equality?

American women take stock and step up the pace

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the need may be more acute now, but the situation is not new. "Even the most highly educated black women had no choice," says Wallace. "If they wanted their children educated, or if they wanted to buy a home, or just have a middle-class standard of living, they had to work! Young black women had working mothers, and they knew that would be their fate. This is new for white families."

Federal programs that would train women of any color for jobs have been cut back. Recession has hit the heavy industries, and experienced male workers are competing for jobs with women just entering the field. "It is not only that women and men doing the same work don't get paid the same," says Barbara Wertheimer. "It's that women are segregated into certain jobs where they are paid less. What we have to do is look at the value of the work to the society and determine pay based on that." What once was a cry for "equal pay for equal work" will, accordingly, become a demand for "equal pay for comparable work." How this will be measured and worked out is still a mystery—how does an hour at the computer keyboard prorate against the same time spent in the typing pool?

If the work equations are ever resolved, they may even help answer a question some men now ask only with amusement: "Have women's rights done anything for me?" It may have seemed funny and a little silly when feminists started talking about men sharing housework and wives began insisting to husbands that homemaking was a tough job all its own. But the joke may seem strained indeed to whoever is left in the kitchen. And, guaranteed, there will be more diapers and dishes in Dad's future .


First there are nine months before the baby is born. Then the baby is born. Then there are three or four months spent in feeding the baby. After the baby is fed there are certainly five years spent in playing with the baby. You cannot, it seems, let children run about the streets. People who have seen them running wild in Russia say the sight is not a pleasant one.

So many of the issues of the women's movement, from housework to abortion, were so basic to so much received wisdom that they seemed, by prospect or in perspective, either trivial or threatening. "Attention was finally being paid," Joan Didion wrote in a 1972 essay, "yet that attention was mired in the trivial. Even the brightest movement women found themselves engaged in sullen public colloquies about the inequities of dishwashing and the intolerable humiliations of being observed by construction workers on Sixth Avenue. ... It was a long way from Simone de Beauvoir's grave and awesome recognition of woman's role as 'the Other.' " Those examples can be trivial issues only to women who, in suburban snugness, no longer have to endure them. Their metaphorical weight—as symbols of the wife economy, and of victimization—should have been difficult to miss. Difficult, apparently, but by no means impossible. "Well, I wrote that in 1972 and I haven't really thought about it since then," Didion remarked recently. "I'm sorry. I've been thinking about other things."

For many other women, without Didion's intellectual range and without her literary privilege, it is still hard to think

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