No matter what your ideological bent, very few will advance the claim that the political and social climate of the 21st Century has remained unchanged since the 1960s and 1970s.
Women are much more likely (though by no means guaranteed) to be compensated on comparable terms with men. There is much more room for recourse in the event of discrimination or harassment. And it cannot be denied that industry, politics, and media have taken many steps to cater to women’s rights and women’s issues (although, once again, often more with specialized niches rather than overall institutional parity).
And well into the sexual revolution, social mores have evolved to an extent where shame, while not a thing of the past, has become equalized in many ways. A good measure of this it seen in the availability of sexual products for both sexes. The explosion of sexually transmitted disease has created both medical crisis and opportunities. For example, you can now purchase online a home test for stds that lets you avoid going to a medical professional. And that test can be ordered online. Of course, if you test positive, you probably should get to your doctor for treatment, but the benefit of a confidential, easily accessible way to screen yourself for a suspected std is clearly a good thing.
There is more freedom today with regards to what women can wear to the workplace (although the disparity in wages still exist). Makeup, shoes, hairstyles are as varied as the women who wear them. Manufacturers of all these consumer products have evolved along with their consumers. Wigs are a perfect example of how far women have come. Consider the wigs of the 1800’s, powdered and perfumed for only the nobility. Today anyone can afford a wig and the number of wig manufacturers is numerous ranging from stylish Wigs by Envy to custom human hair wigs for the orthodox Jewish wigs, to inexpensive synthetic wigs and everything in between.
Although younger women often assume feminism is a concept that does not affect them, they are naive. As they move into the jobs’ marketplace and up the corporate ladder they will find, in many cases, there is still much to be done to level the playing field.
In many ways, the last half-century has shown that we have managed to maintain any number of assumptions and approaches…and yes, unmet goals.
I’m reminded of the many subtle and insidious ways in which I see somewhat less progress than I’d hoped for. I can’t forget the slightly different terms I get when my husband accompanies me to get service for my car, a home equity loan at my bank, or even from the administration at my kids’ school. These little reminders seem little different than my observations of my parent’s experiences, several decades ago.
And then there’s the latest news in which Tory MP Dominic Raab created a firestorm of controversy by characterizing feminists as “obnoxious bigots”. To be (more than) fair, he defends his seemingly ill-thought words with more considered (but no less pointed) explanations.
“I wasn’t saying that all feminists are bigots. But you can’t have it both ways,” he says. “It’s become almost fashionable for some of the most hardline feminists to talk in terms which if used by a man would be unacceptable.”
Attitudes are slow to change and the demonization of feminism obfuscates the real issues that remain. It is imperative for women to keep the goals of feminism in the forefront.