Tuesday, October 25, 2005

New Generation of Women Rejects Old-Age Feminism

Here is a conversation I had with Angela Riley, a law professor in California and Scott's former law school classmate:


Did anyone hear on NPR a few days ago a commentary about new commercials that re-entrench stereotypical gender roles for women? Apparently, there are TV commercials that play off an "aging" woman's maternal urges as well as one making fun of women with PMS. the commentator (about our age, I think) spoke about how she was appalled and offended by the commercials and how you would never have seen them 10 years ago. But test audiences of women in their 20s (and younger) LIKE these commercials. They think they're funny and they're ready to embrace their baby-hungriness and find nothing disempowering about men laughing at pms or women in general. The commentator's conclusion -- which I found interesting and kind of sad -- was that it's partly a matter of age/generational thinking. She basically said she's "too old" to think this public "take" on women is acceptable. But, apparently, the days of women vigilantly defending our equality in the public and private spheres is no longer en vogue or, according to women a decade or so younger than us, even necessary.

So, the more entrenched i get in my own views about women's power and trying to live a life that i think respects what's come before me and, of course, trying to set an example for younger women out there, i begin to wonder if this is merely me showing my age....... according to the 16-25 year olds, maybe i am supposed to just "get over it already."


I MUST be pointing out something obvious, but maybe it's a good thing that the next generation of women isn't offended by stereotypes; maybe they feel secure enough to find them funny. After all, guys don't get offended by playgirl-type magazines, or by jokes stereotyping them as macho duds. They know they run the world, and no amount of jokes canchange that. Maybe today's young women are so sure of their future (perhaps wrongly so, as we, older and wiser women know :)) and that they are on equal footing with the men that the commercials don't bother them. Because the only reason all those commercials and jokes are offensive is because they reinforce the notion that women are driven by hormones (the PMS references) and can't be trusted with serious jobs. If the commercials and the jokes didn't have that effect, then who cares about their existence? Maybe today's young women rightly or wrongly don't believe that the image of women as hormonal sissies exists anymore. So they laugh at the jokes. Hopefully, they are right and Title VII will be this archaic law that no one remembers.


I think you're absolutely right. I work with a woman who is about 55, was in a class of something like 6 women at stanford law, etc., and I have found that I am much less sensitive is that the right word?) to some issues of gender than she is precisely because, as you suggested, I feel less threateneed by the blurring of these lines than she does. And I think that's probably what's happening with this younger generation of women. At least I do hope that's what's happening. And I wonder how I could evolve my own thinking -- or if it's even possible to do so -- so as not to lose touch with the women who are "coming up."


Don't evolve your thinking. You'll need to be there when the younger generation realizes that gender equality is a myth and runs to you for comfort. As a discrimination lawyer, Scott has met many women who've sued their employers for discrimination and said "I never thought I'd be filing a discrimination lawsuit." They thought women who claim discrimination are whiners - i.e., they didn't think discrimination existed. I was among those women (although I've never actually sued); I thought that America is the land of milk and honey and, unlike Belarus, where everyone hates the Jews, everything is perfect here, and eternal love rules the land. Fast forward 16 years later, and I'm the older woman who knows that the younger women will soon come to the same realization I've experienced.

What does everyone think?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think "Feminist" or "Feminism" has become the new "F" word.

Younger women, my 22 year old sister for example, are so afraid to be assertive at work or to go against the grain in fear that they be labeled a bitc_. And I think some men are particularly relieved that the word (Feminism) has changed in meaning.

Although I love my partner very much, when I cry, he pats me on the back and and the first thing he asks is if it's "that time" of the month for me again. But when he cries, I immediately assume that someone or something has legitimately hurt him.

I am not convinced that increasing our ability to laugh at how media portrays us/women is the best idea. Maybe I am just too old-school.

Cool post.

9:34 PM  

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