What Women Want

Less than one week to go…Polls suggest that the gender gap will be decisive.

Speaking of the “women’s vote,” on the hundredth anniversary of the expansion of the franchise to women, Pew fielded a survey to see just where we females see the movement for gender equality–how far have we come, and how far do we still have to go?

Among those who think the country still has work to do in achieving gender equality, 77% point to sexual harassment as a major obstacle to women having equal rights with men. Fewer, but still majorities, point to women not having the same legal rights as men (67%), different societal expectations for men and women (66%) and not enough women in positions of power (64%) as major obstacles to gender equality. Women are more likely than men to see each of these as a major obstacle.

Many of those who say it is important for men and women to have equal rights point to aspects of the workplace when asked about what gender equality would look like. Fully 45% volunteer that a society where women have equal rights with men would include equal pay. An additional 19% say there would be no discrimination in hiring, promotion or educational opportunities. About one-in-ten say women would be more equally represented in business or political leadership.

I look at the charts and graphs that put numbers to these observations, and I certainly have no disagreement with the essential observations. Women are still not treated as equal in either business or political life, and the obstacles are pretty much what is portrayed.

Maybe it’s because I’m old, or maybe it’s because my own insights have been formed by personal experience–I was among an early cohort that deviated from traditional expectations for women– but I think achieving genuine equality is more complicated than such surveys suggest. Modern laws and fair-minded judges will only take us so far (and needless to say, we’re having enough trouble achieving that).

Social change is slow and difficult.

Science and technology have been huge contributors to a world in which women can be equal. It is hard to overstate the impact of the birth control pill, for example; when women could reliably control their reproduction, they were suddenly free to enter the working world. It was no longer necessary to choose between motherhood (or a sex life) and a career. You could plan for both. Meanwhile, technology has remade the world of work, making brute strength far less important than mental acuity, and opening  new career possibilities for which women’s skills were well-adapted.

Social acceptance of these changes has been much slower than the changes themselves. When I graduated from law school, male attorneys were reluctantly adjusting to the newfangled emergence of what many called “lady lawyers.” Retail establishments and banks were still limiting the extension of credit to “male breadwinners.”  Social expectations ingrained over generations don’t turn on a dime.

Some people welcome change. Most don’t. My students, who have grown up in a world no longer dominated exclusively by white Christian males have a very different approach to gender equality (not to mention racial equality and sexual orientation) than the old white men who were socialized in a very different time.

White men now in their 70s and 80s were born into a world that promised them a certain status, and a significant number of them–thankfully, not all– deeply resent the “uppity” women and minorities who they believe have denied them their rightful place atop society. Their misogyny gave us Donald Trump, among other things.

That generation is dying off, and my granddaughters live in a much more equal world than the one in which I grew up. It isn’t perfect, but it’s much better.

Recognizing that attitude change is generational is certainly no reason to accept discriminatory laws, or to shrug off offensive sexual behaviors, or to stop pushing for fundamental gender fairness.

On the other hand, keeping our expectations realistic helps keep our blood pressure down.

Meanwhile, we need to vote!


  1. Your security certificate expired yesterday so browsers aren’t letting people visit your site. You need to update your https certificate.

  2. “Social change is slow and difficult.”

    So, so true and not understood by “progressives” regarding many of their desires.

  3. There are many America’s now, perhaps more than ever before, and they each have distinctly different cultures. That could be a good thing but tensions between them have been stirred up because it’s a particularly profitable form of entertainment and social media. This election is between several of them and each culture has particularly strong support for one of the two candidates so political tensions now add to cultural tensions even though politics and culture are in normal times not particularly interconnected.

    It seems self evident to me that one candidate will help ease those cultural tensions and the other makes them more rigid at every opportunity. That’s a political choice in itself. I’ll bet almost everyone would guess the same as to which one is which.

  4. “…my granddaughters live in a much more equal world than the one in which I grew up. It isn’t perfect, but it’s much better.”

    One area where I see little change in attitudes of males (and sadly, women) regarding women in the work field is on the home front. Most women are still the primary homemaker, laundress, grocery shopper, cook, child care provider and often still maintain the family budget. Does this make us more equal or have no polls been taken on these issues? Asking for my daughters-in-law, granddaughters and great-granddaughters 🙂

  5. For the younger women in the group. In 1972, I could not get a credit card (when Barnett Bank extended one to me, I remained faithful until it was swallowed up by larger entities) nor could I obtain a bank loan; if I wanted the house painted, the contractor insisted on a man’s signature; and when applying for auto insurance, we were told unmarried couples could not be insured. Times really have changed, not enough, but we cannot let go of the progress we’ve made.

  6. @JoAnn – My kids (21 and 23 yrs old) are flabbergasted at the notion of “Women’s work.” My wife and I divide up the work based on what we’re good at. She’s good at sewing drapes. I’m good at mowing the lawn. She’s good at helping with homework. I’m good at laundry. She’s good at making menus. I’m good at grocery shopping and cooking. She’s good at tidying up the kitchen. I’m good at cleaning the floors.

  7. Yes, I know that social change is slow!

    But when you measure slowness in centuries, that’s pretty much ridiculous!

    Advancements in enlightenment? Not really! The white Christian male is basically a troglodyte with troglodyte opinions and troglodyte conduct!

    Of course there are always exceptions to that rule, you can’t paint every single portrait with the same broad brush.

    That being said, many still think of women as a possession rather than a partner, a birthing factory and receptacle rather than an intellectual equal, a scullery maid and slop shoot operator rather than a business owner and employer. A subordinate rather than a symbol of justice and authority.

    The misogynistic and racial inequality plastered throughout the Constitution, shows, this document cannot be based on its original writings but must be allowed to grow and even evolve with society. And, there is really no logical reason why it has to move in such slow motion with as much resistance from the white Christian headwind it constantly faces.

    There will always be political lackeys that inject not so latent religious dogma to promote inequality, and running them out on a rail tarred and feathered should be a realistic possibility.

    Let’s face it, there are many examples of this very thing around the globe and throughout history, when philosophically infused religious dogma morphs into fascistic nationalist authoritarianism, to promote misogyny, racial inequality, and specific beliefs forced on those individuals who don’t share them. There really is no reason why society moves this slowly!

    For the most part, a person’s conscious tells them accurately that there is wrongness and unfairness concerning certain beliefs.

    “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing this you will heap fiery coals on his head.”

    “If you come upon your enemy’s bull or his donkey straying, you must return it to him. If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has fallen under its load, you must not ignore it and leave. You must help him release the animal”

    “You must not accept a bribe, for the bribe blinds clear-sighted men and can distort the words of righteous men” You are not to pervert the judgment of the poor one among you in his legal case.” “Have nothing to do with a false accusation, and do not kill the innocent and the righteous, for I will not declare the wicked one righteous.

    ‘Beat your swords into ploughshares and your spears into pruning hooks.’ ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’ Love your neighbor as you do yourself. Those who follow these precepts begin no wars, commit no crimes.

    It seems Scripture has been well ahead of the curve when it is interpreted appropriately. Way ahead of the civil societies curve. Unfortunately, religion has been used by those same authoritarians as a bludgeon to to manipulate the Self Entitled Aggrieved and ignorant.

  8. There is news this morning to the effect that the King Midases of our world, the oligarchy, counting the shortages in their mountains of gold coins that have been amassed by tax codes rigged in their behalf, are figuring how our social state is going to handle their applications for bailouts.
    Voters, what do you think about welfare for the greedies arming to milk the system while Momma is struggling to stretch the food budget and the USA is already quadrillions in debt?

  9. A book I have has a section on today’s topic. The author defined a “gender gap,” that is the difference between male and female health, opportunity, and participation. There is an interesting correlation between the value of the gap and a country’s economic standing. When the gap is low, the average incomes are higher, and vice versa. The implication is that when women are healthy, have equal ( or near equal) opportunities as men and are able to participate in a variety of activities and jobs, the country is much better off.
    The title of the book is “The Story of Hope, and the author is Hope Jahren, a prominent geologist/biologist.

  10. There are many studies showing that women leaders in industry and government get better results in a better way.

  11. To Anita, I haven’t heard Barnett Bank mentioned in a very long time. I started my banking career with Southeast Bank in Orlando, Florida. It was a wild ride in the late 80s through the late 90s.

    Sheila writes, “Social change is slow and difficult.”

    Buddha’s teachings couldn’t be more relevant to the world than right now. He wrote, “All things in the world are impermanent.”

    Change is constant, and with technology, it’s speeding up.

    As several have pointed out, those who don’t accept change suffer. They cling to the way things were or had always been for them. This clinging is what we must turn loose or surrender. It’s the cause of all suffering.

    The problem with our country right now is we have too many oppressors. Real leadership requires truth-seeking and sharing. It requires ethics, principles, moral leadership. It comes from the people. It’s honest and transparent. It’s a dialectic.

    We don’t have real leaders – we have manipulators who oppress the people. The people know it because they sense deep down that something is wrong.

    We are talking about “what women want” during a time when organizations with ulterior motives with lots of money manipulated unscrupulous politicians to position Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They couldn’t be more opposites for the rights of women.

    That would have never happened if our systems were functioning properly. It would have been shut down immediately. The people would have never accepted her if they knew the truth about her and who she is working for and will be working toward for her lifetime on SCOTUS.

  12. Todd – WADR – technology does accelerate change, but not social change. In fact, it actually increases resistance to social change by increasing fear.

  13. Our internal attitudes towards the sexes is what needs to change. I know family members and friends where the marriage becomes strained because the woman becomes more successful or makes more money than their husbands. The husbands struggle with this and then get upset—at some point they have to learn that they are in a partnership (as John referenced) and not in competition with their spouse or think of them as a possession.

    As a nurse it is frustrating to know male nurses still make (the last I saw reported) $5000 more than the female equivalent. They also get promoted faster. The nursing profession is still pretty much dictated by the medical field still predominately male but increasingly by females. I still see quite a few woman still attacking each other and not elevating each other. We are competing for limited access and taking each other out instead of helping. I see this acutely in the nursing field.

    I remember Dr.Kennedy commenting to me that she knows because of my personality–outgoing, direct, and having a sense of humor I intimidate both men and women and become a target to take down.

    Women who work in male dominated fields have told me it is a fine line to walk…if they show too much femininity or female assigned traits like empathy, sympathy, emotions they are seen as weak and if they take on the more male dominated traits and speak firmly, direct, and confident they are ‘ball busters’ or Bitches or they over compensate.

    Surveys do not capture the intricate complications we are all navigating under social pressure. It is so subtle and our bias start at birth when girls are to be dressed in pink and boys in blue.

  14. We had the Civil Rights Legislation of LBJ, which changed the law. Likewise Women’s Rights were expanded also at a glacial pace with plenty of resistance from as John put it “troglodytes”.

    You could change the laws for all but, not the hearts of all. The blow back from the Social and Culturally Reactionary Right was almost immediate. The GOP provided the Political wing to this movement. Reactionary Right Wing radio and later Fox News has pulled the GOP farther and farther to Right.

    The old GOP had their “Conservative Values” on government spending and regulations. An elected GOP woman could hide behind these “Conservative Values”. The “Family Values” was added to the GOP mix which brought in the bible thumper’s.

    John McCain found the intellectually challenged Sarah Palin. Palin was the perfect parrot for the New GOP, a corporatist woman, who could speak to the Social and Culture Warriors in the GOP. Trump found in Pastor Pence the male version of Palin.

    The Trumpet did not seize the GOP it was there waiting for him. ACB was the perfect choice for The Trumpet and Pastor Pence for the Supreme Court. She will adhere to Male-Macho-Authoritarianism. She will be an excellent corporate shill and will be supportive of voter suppression.

    It may be difficult to believe that a woman like ACB and others in the GOP fold who have benefited from the expansion of Women’s Rights could be so Medieval in thoughts. How could a woman be bought off like this??? Well Custer had Native Americans as scouts – Money, status, power or fame are powerful forces and some will succumb to it.

  15. Lester – give me an example of that scenario outside of the Boomer population who can’t keep up with technological progress.

    Micro-level changes are occurring rapidly and all contribute to speeding up macro-level changes. It used to be 10 years we’d witness new tech becoming obsolete, then 4 years a couple of years ago. Not sure what it is now. That is happening regardless of whether we can keep up with it.

    Not even two years ago, most major businesses didn’t even want to discuss remote work. It wasn’t socially acceptable. Now, it’s not only acceptable, but they are looking to implement more of it because it lowers their costs – actually shifts costs on to the worker. Whole new systems are being built to accommodate. I’d hate to own large commercial real estate properties.

  16. Todd – let’s just take what you cite – yes, “socially acceptable” (gimme a break, is there a choice??) The effect on women has been disastrous – more have lost/left jobs as they still expect/are expected to take care of kids/home and their husbands make more money/have the healthcare, they have to deal with remote learning….

    You try to make the complex simple…it ain’t

  17. Lester – I talk to women all the time and they wouldn’t call remote work, “disastrous.” There are many who love it and even love it when their kids do remote schooling.

    And, there are many positions which can’t be done remotely like essential workers, so yes, there are choices involved.

    These are all micro-level changes leading to macro-level outcomes. It’s a very complex weave of patterns. Your resistance to it is called fear. Trying to control it causes anxiety. All your suffering is due to resisting change.

    The men and women behind #ACB may find their regressive plans may backfire in their faces just like supporting Trump.

  18. I am a Boomer. Back in 2008 I was offered the opportunity to work remote from home. No problem as far as I was concerned. No more commutes, through nasty weather. No more more snow days off though.

    Some companies adhered to the notion that a supervisor or manager had to watch their employees working. I suspect these companies had the attitude that workers were lazy and had to be watched at all times.

    I would say this working at home came with a “social cost” gone was the social interactions with my co-workers. I went from working in an office with over 100 people to just me. My immediate manager was over 900 miles away. I felt like an astronaut in a one person space craft circling the earth.

    Todd, I would agree with you, “I’d hate to own large commercial real estate properties.” I can see the big commercial office spaces looking like our abandoned Mega-Malls. Corona has without a doubt accelerated the move to remote. It will have ripples. The restaurants and cafes that depended on the lunch crowd will see a decline in sales.

    The unfortunate result of remote working maybe more silos as people lose socializing with others and the skills that go with socializing with others.

  19. I am currently reading Virginia Woolf’s ” A Room of One’s Own”. She is talking about women and literature. She goes through a history. She asserts that due to wealth inequality and the work of caring for children and the unpaid domestic work of women, that in the 16th century only noble women had opportunities to write poetry. Women used a male alias i.e. George Elliot to get their literature published. There’s a quote that states “Anonymous was a woman.”

    Even now wealth inequality and the threat to access to birth control and abortion, threaten the gains we have made and the access to formerly male dominated professions, not to mention the white male tribalism exemplified by the current occupant of the white house.

    Country music is still dominated by male musicians. Women are starting to confront this and are developing support systems.

    I was able to build a credit score thanks to the fact that CTS had a credit system where I could charge my tuition costs in the late 70’s. As a single woman I faced difficulties with getting loans or a mortgage in the 70’s. I was able to get a sizable mortgage in 1997 and was able to pay it off 21 years later when I retired.

    Trump’s attempt to be an invulnerable alpha male has turned many women off, especially suburban women. He’s afraid of Virgina Woolf.

    We have come a long way since the time of Virginia Woolf but still have much to do before we have wealth equity and equal representation with positions of power and leadership.

    Still, I believe that in time that we will continue to move forward as demonstrated by the increased political engagement of women since Trump’s election.


  20. Although not a college graduate my mother was a feminist and often quoted her unshakable belief that “I’m as good as any damn man that ever walked the earth.” In addition, my high school class included at least a couple of dozen young women who could have easily become brain surgeons, rocket scientists, or anything else they chose to. Then I attended a top university where the ratio of men to women was 7 to 1, so just to achieve admittance, the girls had to be off the charts intellectually. Eventually I worked for a company (and with several hundred thousand employees currently has a woman as CEO) that shared my positive views of women workers, most of whom could have qualified for any listing of the best and the brightest. Thus, I’ve never had a problem with being around bright women, and have often pondered why any woman should feel career limited. But boys, who understand the dynamics of power if nothing else, will be boys.

    On a separate matter Sheila says that: “Some people welcome change. Most don’t.” Since I unshackled from my Republican heritage, I’ve been struck by how the chief determinate of one’s political party is the willingness or refusal to keep an open mind, and to re-evaluate issues and opinions when new data becomes available. Even before my conversion, it seemed to me that critical thinking was the common skill that differentiated adults from aging children. That’s a trait that also has a lot to do with how interesting a person is, since once you’ve heard from a rock-bound conservative on a particular subject, there’s no need to ever ask for an update.

    Twenty-five hundred years ago Heraclitus observed that “You never step in the same river twice.” When I read that as a teenager it pretty much sealed the deal for me as far as the role change plays in our lives. Some of my contemporaries never had the good fortune to come across that quote. It’s a game changer.

  21. Fundamentals…
    Who always ends up with the power? The powerful.

    The powerful are the strongest among a population, which is true even during the cave dweller era, the Rennaisance, the Industrial Revolution, today, and tomorrow.

    WHAT REALLY CHANGES IS WHAT PEOPLE THINK STRENGTH IS. People will always value Strength, no doubt about that, but what constitutes Strength is changing and will continue to change.

    The social value as well as the market value of not just old white males but all male strength–physical, intimidating, strategic, leveraging–is falling, while the value of female strength–emotional, detail focused, memory, empathy, nurturing, etc.–is rising. And that relative value changes not because people change other people’s minds but because events, technology, and the needs of Capitalism change their priorities.

    The value of Female Strength rises not because populations change their attitude about females but because societies change their definition of Strength, and that change occurs organically. It grows out of a seedbed of societal needs. Society has evolved to the point where it now needs empathetic, nurturing, detail-oriented leaders, (e.g. Female Strength) as much as it needs Male Strength.

    And the evolution gains speed tomorrow and the next tomorrow. In the natural order of things, women do not have to fight for equal rights, because they will come to women as an organic outcome of societal evolution. But women do have to fight those–mostly men of all shades and ages–who are determined to impede that evolution.

    It would be far more expedient and effecient, and better for our nation, if men would learn and acquire Female Strength, instead of trying to halt History. And as women get beyond the artificial impediments and rise in the power structure, it will also get them better results if they put away their misandrous instincts.

  22. Monotonous,
    “The unfortunate result of remote working may be more silos as people lose socializing with others and the skills that go with socializing with others.”

    The FORTUNATE RESULT of remote working may be people learn to socialize with themselves, to like their own company, and learn the emotional strength that goes with self-acceptance. Many of those skills are prerequisites to successfully working with others.

  23. My mother was born in 1920, and was a feminist before it was even a term. She was barely five feet tall, her nickname was Tiny, but she didn’t take crap from anyone. She had a career in advertising and would march into her boss’s office every time she found out her male predecessor made more money or got a free parking spot and demand equal treatment. She got it too! She was a true inspiration to all the women who knew her, especially her daughter and granddaughters. I miss her!

  24. Years ago, our associate pastor broke with a self-imposed rule to recommend that we all see the movie “Tootsie” where Dustin Hoffmann’s character dressed as a woman to get a desperately needed job in a soap opera. It was a fun movie, but the line from the movie that stuck with our pastor was when Hoffmann said he was never a better man than when he was dressed and acting as a woman.

    That reminded the pastor that the qualities we herald in Jesus are those most generally attributed to females – comforter, healer, caregiver, teacher, nurturer, empathizer, intuitive advisor, values standard bearer, one who is merciful and selfless, etc. He concluded that if we wanted to be more like Jesus, we’d be more like a woman.

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