Nation: Who's Come a Long Way, Baby?

  • Share
  • Read Later

(2 of 10)

In her book, Millett defines politics as the "power-structured relationships" by which one group—in this case the male elite—governs others. Patriarchy is thus limned as the institutional foe. Labeling it as the "most pervasive ideology of our culture," she argues that it provides our "fundamental concept of power." Women are helpless, in other words, because men control the basic mechanisms of society. Her solution is drastic: demolish the patriarchal system. Until this is done, women and men as well will "remain imprisoned in the vast gray stockades of sexual reaction. There is no way out but to rebel and be broken, stigmatized and cured."

Her anger is echoed by Dana Densmore, a radical activist, writing in No More Fun and Games: "No more us taking all the blame. No more us trying to imitate men and prove we are just as good. Frontal attack. It's all over now." Martha Shelly, poet, says that "the average man, including the average stu dent male radical, wants a passive sex object cum domestic cum baby nurse to clean up after him while he does all the fun things and bosses her around —while he plays either big-shot male executive or Che Guevara—and he is my oppressor and my enemy." Another example of that oppression: Audrey, a student at San Fernando Valley State College, thought her male roommate was very enlightened because he urged her to get involved with the movement. To her horror, she is beginning to suspect that he's spending the time she is away fooling around with other women. "It's just possible," she says, "that all men are male chauvinists on some level. It just may be that the Lysistrata idea is the only way to get any sanity across."

That idea dates back to circa 415 B.C.; the movement in the U.S. goes back little more than a century. The first major effort, led by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, culminated in 1848 with the convocation of the Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, N.Y. For that convention, Stanton drafted a Declaration of Sentiments, stating in part that "we hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal," and demanding the right to vote, to equal educational and vocational opportunities, and to an ending of legal discrimination against women. Except for suffrage, those demands have yet to be met.

The status of women—America's numerical majority at 51% of the population—remains today as relentlessly second class as that of any minority. A third of the American work force is female: 42% of the women 16 and older work. Yet there is only one economic indicator in which women consistently lead men, and that is the number living in poverty. In 1968, the median salary for full-time year-round workers was $7,870 for white males, $5,314 for non-white men, $4,580 for white women and $3,487 for nonwhite women. The median wage for full-time women workers is 58.2% of that for men. Translated into educational levels, women make half of what men do; on the average, a woman needs a college degree to earn more than a man does with an eighth-grade education.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10