Have We Come a Long Way, Baby?


Yesterday, through my Possibly Related Posts section I clicked onto a blog written by a young, sophisticated professional (her words) woman from Boston. She had some first date tips:

It’s proper protocol for a man to initiate the first date. A good man will know where he wants to take a woman; it should be well-thought out based on previous conversations and research…… A man should be willing to pick you up from wherever you are, that’s if you want him to.

At first I was pretty surprised, but then I realized that my daughter’s circle of friends operates within these 1950s boundaries as well. Even with all the stuff  that goes on in high schools these days, the girls still wait to be asked out by the guys.

I often wonder exactly what our sisters in the 1960s accomplished. I’m not quite old enough to remember life for women prior to “women’s liberation”, so maybe there’s a whole bunch of stuff we just take for granted. But I have to wonder sometimes how it is we burned our soft cotton bras four decades ago and have ended up with upholstered, wired, polyester ones instead. (metaphor).

The feminist movement opened up professional and blue collar jobs that used to be held only by men. This was supposed to give women options. I’m thinking we got a little screwed here. Because now we have to work, we don’t really have an option. We have to work because before women hit the workforce full-on, housing cost one week’s salary. Now, it costs two weeks’ salary, which means we need two salaries to cover the same expenses we used to be able to cover with one.

Women also need to work, it seems, to define themselves. Those who can manage to be stay-at-home moms are seen as somehow not quite as valuable as women who are out there in the workforce. The stay-at-home moms themselves seem to feel inadequate because they’re not bringing money into the household. This is crazy, in my opinion. Did feminism intend to disparage a job as important as raising children and keeping a home?

And, although most women do hold down a full-time job outside the home, they are still the primary care givers and homemakers. Everyone still gets all excited when a man knows how to cook or when the wife comes home and hubby has vacuumed. He stands beaming in the middle of the living room waiting for copious praise.


  • Men still have almost all the high-powered jobs – there are very few women politicians, CEOs. Women still do almost all the service jobs – secretaries (oh, excuse me…administrative assistants), social workers, nurses, hospitality industry workers, etc., etc.
  • Women still make 20% less than their male counterparts.
  • Crimes against women are still mostly punished as misdemeanors, often receiving less severe sentences than property crimes.
  • Women are still responsible for children. Men can spawn children and shrug off the responsibility of raising them pretty easily. It can take decades for the molasses-slow system to try and enforce any child support orders. Dead beat dads have all sorts of legal “outs’ to avoid supporting their kids. Most never have to. At least in the 1950s men had to join the Foreign Legion or something to get out of supporting their children.
  • And, single mothers are looked at askance. Of course, 40 years ago I would have been stoned to death or something, but even today, when doctors or teachers find out I’m a single mom, they suddenly become extra-patronizing. Social workers are called every time my child sustains an injury. People assume I have no money and am borderline retarded.
  • There are still women all over the world who are legally considered chattel, who have no rights, who are treated like unpaid servants, who are abused, mutilated and killed with no repercussion.
  • There are still women in countries like the US who are not allowed to decide whether or not they wish to get pregnant or carry a fetus to term and give birth.
  • Women’s lives still revolve around getting a man, keeping a man, looking good for their man, making their man happy. A quick look at the women’s magazines, television programs, movies, shopping centres, cosmetic surgeon’s offices, etc., will confirm this.
  • And, “feminism” is some sort of dirty word these days. What happened to that whole movement? We’re not exactly done yet, are we?

I know, I know…men have lots of problems too. They are shut out of employment equity opportunities. They are always portrayed as blithering idiots by the media. Their testicles are vulnerable, blah, blah. But this post is about women, okay?


26 responses to “Have We Come a Long Way, Baby?

  1. Why are the no comments? This is what I want to know.

    I think that the whole thing was supposed to be about equality… so if someone in the household wanted to stay home with kids they could. I’m not sure why, if I didn’t have these responsibilities I wouldn’t be expected to earn my keep somehow… how busy is housework suppose to keep me?

    I have things I’d like to accomplish that go beyond staying home (even if I could afford it.) I make no apologies for it. But I’ve seen the glass ceiling, it shimmers… and damn it I fear I will get cut as I go through it.

    On dating: I wonder what the boys think. Is it just a case of wanted the other guy to do it? Although The Man asked me out first I turned him down. I cashed in the “rain check” though.. (my idea.) Dunno, the whole gender role thing baffles me.

  2. Nat – I just posted this 15 minutes ago. That’s why there are no comments yet. Being a mom with 3 kids and a home to look after can keep you very busy indeed — even today with all the mod cons. And yes, the whole point of feminism was supposed to be that we could chose to do whatever we wanted to – just like men. But I don’t think it’s turned out that way. Stay home moms get the business from career chicks; career chicks who choose not to have kids get the business from the Real Women sector. Lots of women would love to be able to stay home and raise their kids instead of putting them in daycare, but they can’t afford to. And lots of women are running themselves ragged trying to do it all.

  3. This is all so simple. At one point primitive people thought the earth was the centre of the solar system. “Mother Earth”.
    Now we know it is the “SUN”, not daughter.
    Now quit whining and make dinner.

  4. When women decided to come out of the homes and take to the work force society started to crumble. Women who decide to marry should be housewives there main job being to raise proper human beings out of children. Women who decide not to marry should be able to compete equally in the work force and earn equal pay. Women should NEVER be politicians because prostitution is degrading.

  5. The stay-at-home moms themselves seem to feel inadequate because they’re not bringing money into the household.

    That statement bothered me a little. I don’t personally feel inadequate for not bringing money into the household BUT there are working women out there who attempt to make me feel that way. Most working mothers I’ve personally encountered either A) would rather be working than doing what I do or B) HAVE to work and are jealous that they can’t do what I do. Not all of them of course, please don’t come to my blog and yell at me for that statement!

    I enjoy being home with my children and keeping my house looking like something out of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, it’s not for everybody. My sister in law once told me that if she had to stay home with her kids, she’d go crazy with boredom in 15 minutes or less. Sounds catty, but of course my first thought was… maybe if you tried it your kids wouldn’t be such monsters.

    This comment I did like… And yes, the whole point of feminism was supposed to be that we could choose to do whatever we wanted to – just like men.

    I choose to stay home with my kids and I am looked down upon by working mothers for whatever reason. But if I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would be happy that I could choose to do that too.

    And whoever invented the upholstered, wired, polyester ones instead… I thank you profusely! I couldn’t hold these pups up without it. 🙂

  6. there is a lot of food for thought here. i waver between wishing i could stay at home and thanking god i don’t have to stay at home. i do feel like i can make a choice in this area. what i don’t have is a choice to do is climb my way to the top (too hard on my domestic life); i also have to listen to people criticize women who are at the top (she’s a bitch, ruthless, etc etc) and i don’t hear the same of men at the top. i’m also disillisioned with how we deal with crimes against women (as you read on my blog). there is still a lot of work to be done in that area. when i hear “the kids” on the bus talking, my ears bleed a little because they are so disrespectful to the girls (and this is girls and boys talking). they really place very little value on girls, or at least appear to.
    i’m rambling, but i do think there is a lot to work to be done.

  7. Bandobras – I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t even respond to this.

    Cedar – I’m not quite sure if you’re being serious here, but there is some truth in what you say. We’ve relegated the raising of families to a part-time job that can be farmed out to strangers and I think there may be issues with that. I think it’s good for children to have some adult member of their immediate family at their side – to wake them in the morning and make them a good breakfast and pack them a healthy lunch; to greet them after school and help them with their homework; to listen to their woes; to meet their friends and their friends’ parents; to go to their school functions; to be able to focus their attention on what’s going on in their kids’ lives/heads/hearts; to gather the family together for dinner in the evenings; to keep on top of things in the family. Yes these things can and should be shared with both partners, but you need someone in charge. One problem here, however, is that whoever is staying home becomes completely dependant, financially and otherwise, on the partner who is out earning money. And that can, and has, lead to some really serious issues in the past.

    Charlene – I didn’t mean to imply that all stay-at-home mums felt inadequate, but they are certainly made to feel that way by some women in the workforce and I have heard a lot of the mommy bloggers talk about how they don’t feel like they’re contributing their fair share to the household. It’s awful that they feel that because I think they’re contributing more than their fair share. And I can never understand how a person could be bored spending time with their own children. Even as a single mum I chose to stay home with my child the first 5 years until she went to school. We were dirt poor, but I wouldn’t have traded those years for anything. I only wish I could have done it longer.

    Meanie- YES! To your statement about how devalued young girls seem to be in their own eyes as well as in the eyes of the boys. This whole business of teenaged girls dishing out BJs like Pez is very, very disturbing to me, for instance. This is not what sexual liberation is all about. All those brave women who gave up so much and fought so hard from the beginning of the last century to empower women and this is what it’s come down to? No wonder guys think it’s okay to dope up a chick and fuck her while she’s unconscious. And, apparantly the justice system thinks so, too. How did this happen? I think women were at the top of their game in the 1970s and then Charlie’s Angels came along and we turned ourselves back into simpering sex kittens.

  8. It galls me how feminism has become a dirty word. Is there a woman out there under 40 who will admit to being a feminist? They’re few and far between. And yet they take for granted all the hard won rights from those years. Go figure.

  9. Oh how wonderful! You are the only other person I have come across bemoaning the fact that the property market and housing costs have been driven mad by the expectation of a two-income family unit! I thought I was the only one. Are you sure we are not related?

  10. Maybe it’s the area I live in, but stay-at-home mothers don’t seem to be suffering any self-esteem issues here. Of course that could be because they are all too busy at the Club, or the Gym, or the Salon (while their kids are left home with the Nanny).

    I’m right with you on how single mothers are perceived though. I’m seriously sick of how the world views me.

  11. Women have had the vote for 90 years. When they start to work together for common goals they will succeed. If their most important goal is choosing the right shoes. Shaving the right places and landing the right man, they’ll succeed at that.
    If the goal is true equality and choice they’ll get that. They are after all half the population and can use the clout they have anytime they want.

  12. Women are under much more pressure nowadays-We not only have to look perfect (via makeup and plastic surgery), but we have to keep a perfect house, have darling children and work a high powered job!

    It’s too much!

  13. The grass is always greener, the stay at home women know they’re doing a good job, contributing to society but yet, still feel that they have to justify their choices. The working women sometimes (ok, very often) view the stay at home women as “lucky” because they don’t “need” to work. It’s a vicious circle… why do we feel we have to explain our choices is totally beyond me. I made the decision to work, not to have children and I’ll be damned if someone is going to tell me I’m less to society because I didn’t bring a child onto this world.

    As for dating, it’s a very timely post because I stumbled upon a conversation of 20somethings at work, 4 guys and 1 woman, all married except one who was explaining his dating woes… ‘so she ended her email by saying ‘have a good week” what does that mean? does that mean she’s not interested? what should I do? I don’t want to lose her!” and I’m like dude, you barely know her, do you want to always chase? Men also are having problems with the dating thingy… sigh… such a vicious circle.

    Me personally I’ve given up on dating. It doesn’t interest me anymore. I prefer to lace up my running shoes and head out for a run. At least I get satisfaction from it lol

    Sorry, venting post!

  14. I think this is such a great post, and wanted to let you know that … but I can’t even bring myself to comment because there are sooo many things erupting in my brain on this topic.

  15. I grew up in the fifties when ‘good’ girls were always clean and neat, spoke only when spoken to and looked forward to looking after their man as a career. I was not a good girl.

    I was a young wife in an era when you had to be 1.) married and 2.) have your husband’s permission to be fitted for a birth control device. Pre pill, this was. When you were expected to quit your job when you were ‘expecting’.
    Wives were ‘the little woman’, single women were looked down on, teen pregnancy was a horrible secret and shame.

    Yes, we have come a long way. We still have a longer way to go.

    I dream of a world in which being a homemaker is recognised as a valuable career and the workplace hours and tasks are adjusted so that both men and women can work outside and inside the home without opprobium or exhaustion. That world is still a long way away.

    And why do people want 3000 square foot houses anyway?

    Great post! You sure got me going, along with lots of others.

  16. Jazz – It’s a curious thing how young women are fighting so hard not to be associated with feminists, like it means they can’t be girly anymore and chase after boys, which I guess is the most important thing..

    Loth – We may very well be. I don’t think I invented the theory though. I believe there may be some economist types who’ve drawn the same conclusions.

    AT – Yes, single mothers are still looked at with more distain than the deadbeat dads who are at least half responsible for their single motherhood. And my, don’t you live in a posh area? I’m not sure we can actually define those women as stay-at-home moms.

    Bandobras – That’s a point, for sure. I often think women are their own worst enemies. In my experience women will still drop everything (friends, family, career, interests, selfhood, etc.,etc. ) for the sake of some man. We’ve never formed that “old boys” type network to help each other succeed. All we have is Oprah. We’re doomed.

    Hannah – Who’s putting that pressure on them? I don’t think we can blame that on anyone but ourselves, can we? Men aren’t forcing us to go out and have cosmetic surgery. I’m told most of them prefer their boobs au natural, even if that means they’re smaller. And it’s women, not men, who look down on other women who choose to stay home and raise their kids.

    Elaine – You are one girly girl who has her priorities straight. Look sexy and carry a long cigarette whose name reminds you that you’re pure as the driven snow inside even if you look a bit of tart on the outside.

    UA – Your running shoes will never let you down. They’re there when you need them. They comfort, cushion, console…And when you’re tired of them, you chuck ‘em in a bin and they don’t try to call you 9 times a day for the next month to see what went wrong. (okay, that was very sexist of me…sorry)

    Julie – Why not to a blog post of your own with all those things brewing in your brain? Link here and we’ll all go see what you think.

    Mary – Thanks for that perspective Mary. I don’t think most of us realize just how much changed in the 1960s for women. Those sisters worked their butts off so we could live freer lives with more options and a lot of young women are just tossing that in the crapper – nevermind trying to carry on the good work. Is there still a women’s movement? Why not? As North America and other parts of the world turn more and more to the right, we are going to see a lot of the progress women have made become eroded. Before Christianity took over, women had it pretty good in many parts of the world. But that was all squashed by religion and it can be again.

  17. Right on Mama! I’d love to repost (with a link back to your blog on feminism locked in the mid-nineteen hundreds.
    Check out http://www.mamapalooza.com (USA) and Association For Research On Mothering (Toronto). We have work to do and I loved reading your thoughtful perspective. Warmly,
    Joy Rose

  18. Pingback: Have We Come A Long Way Baby? « Live Loud! www.mamapalooza.com

  19. Hmmmm… thinkin’ that I may be the only estrogen-challenged dude to comment may be a risk… but wtf…

    Change is slow and we men (collectively) are even slower.

    But advances have been made. It is NOT the 50’s when women were largely only valued for dropping career education and ambition and dedicating their lives to making babies and a fine dinner.

    But there were women like my Mom. My Mom was brave. Not highly educated or the product of a socially liberal family. But she moved into Nowhereville, Ontario with her hippy hubbie and 2 young boys in ’68 and hubbie soon split for a commune… or a younger chick, or something. She stuck around Nowhereville with her two sons, a backward community that didn’t take kindly to single Moms (it was obviously her fault) and even her own family back in the city that was done too impressed that she moved to Nowhereville in the first place.

    But she stuck with it on her own for a couple of years. Met my Dad – the one that raised me. Had two more kids. And is pretty darned happy as she approaches her 70th birthday.

    Though I wish she’d quit smoking.

    If she had gone through all of that now rather than 40 years ago, there would have been support groups, Facebook communities and she woulda had a blog.

    That is an advance. Women now – despite the undeniable insidious presence of persistent mysogeny, discrimination and embedded abuse (in many parts of the world, it is part of the legal code e.g., in Afghanistan) – are still further “ahead” than 4 decades back. They have support, understanding and a socio-political system that is SLOWLY working to eliminate the systemic roadblocks. Resources that my Mom never had.

    Many of us are doing our best, y’all… we’re slow and it ain’t easy, but I think we’re getting better bit by bit.

  20. I certainly believe in equal rights and equal pay, but I’ve always had a problem with a lot of the feminist movement but I can’t tell you why here. Not because it would bother you, but because it would bother the men.

  21. Trashee – I don’t think we can blame it all on the men. Women have to shoulder some of the blame for not driving their cause forward faster. Like I said a few times already, there aren’t enough women like your mom who can just forge ahead in a direction that isn’t the mainstream/expected direction. And I can tell you that the attitudes, resources, support systems toward single mums hasn’t changed all that much – most of it comes from other women, too. Which is what makes it worse. it’s still “our fault”.

    Geewits – I’d be interested to hear what you have to say. Since when are we worried about bothering the men? They can speak up for themselves if they need to!!

  22. Thanks for the metaphor alert. I do think we have a choice, individually – I don’t know whether looking at the overall situation is that helpful, really, because then you can get sucked into the herd mentality of thinking “That is how it is” for everyone, and not get to forge your own way (and everyone, male of female, has to forge their own path to be fulfilled). Personally, I haven’t done any of the things one is “supposed” to – and I’m quite happy really – I haven’t even had children! (quelle horreur)

  23. Robin – Of course we can all make individual choices, but instead of thinking of the overall situation as “herd mentality” why not consider that women, organized and working together for and with each other could accomplish a great deal more than all of us trotting around on our own? The sufferagettes and the women’s movement of the 1960s did precisely that. They encouraged women to step outside of their little domestic enclave and band together to learn and to speak out and to make stuff happen. Paths are a lot easier to forge as a group. If women had just kept doing their own thing, we still wouldn’t have the vote and we actually wouldn’t be able to “do our own thing” as easily as we are able to do today. It’s simple for you to say you have a happy fulfilled life and you’ve done it all on your own, but you haven’t. I don’t know what your situation is, but 40 years ago, if your husband decided you would have kids, you’d have kids. You didn’t get to decide on birth control without your hubby’s permission. And single women? They just took their chances. And if you didn’t snag a husband how would you support yourself? You sure wouldn’t have your own business. Maybe you’d get a secretarial job where you’d have to put up with whatever macho shit the guys would throw at you (right, honey..slap on the ass..fetch me some coffee). We take our freedoms, rights and options for granted as we all go back to our own individual little enclaves. I think they’re being eroded because of this. There are some women still trying to keep the movement going because we’re a long way from done — so keeping the overall situation, instead of just your personal situation, in mind is very helpful –we kind of owe the next generation something of what was given to us by the previous generation, don’t we?

  24. Your previous restaurant post also reminded me of a discussion I had with some women neighbours. They were talking about eating at a restaurant called Moxie’s. I guess it is a kind of upscale Hooters. When did this become acceptable? I don’t understand why they patronize such a place. I know that I won’t want my daughter working there when she is a teenager or older. It is so wrong to have restaurant servers sign a “model” contract where they can only keep their jobs by maintaining a certain weight. Those places really bug me.