The knowledge that men can acquire of women is wretchedly imperfect and superficial and will always be so until women themselves have told all that they have to tell.
—John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
Some people say that it grew out of the civil rights movement, which convulsed the United States during the 1960s. Others regard it as only the latest skirmish in a revolution that began in 15th-century England when women unsuccessfully petitioned the king for the right to vote. Some of its supporters claim it has achieved much. Others say that it has yet to achieve anything worthwhile. But most talk about it not in terms of success or failure but as a continuing struggle that has made measurable gains in the pursuit of its once-exhilarating still-elusive promise. And for the modern-day, worldwide women’s movement, which many say began almost 25 years ago with the
publication of an influential book,
the struggle continues. In the spring of 1963 U.S. activist Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique appeared— and found a receptive audience. That influential book argued that North American women were unhappy and unfulfilled because, by immersing themselves in the roles of wife, mother and homemaker, they had abandoned the search for individual identity, selfrealization—and jobs. Friedan took to the lecture circuit—and during the next few years women who had been galvanized by her message took to the streets. In the blaze of media publicity that surrounded those early protests, the New York Radical Women’s Group condemned the 1968 Miss America pageant as sexist exploitation. At a demonstration, leaders urged participants to throw such symbols of that oppression as false eyelashes and brassieres into a huge Freedom Trash Can. That protest and others gave rise to the popular but erroneous notion that feminists were burning their bras.
Almost a quarter-century after The
Feminine Mystique helped launch a social revolution, two of its most influential leaders—Friedan herself and Australian-born Germaine Greer—have changed their minds and repudiated sexual politics—which activists define as the fight against the subordination of women by male-designed social systems and structures. Now, feminism has clearly wrought changes throughout society and helped many women enter such male preserves as exclusive clubs and well-paying jobs in business and the professions. And with some victories won, Friedan now emphasizes the importance of the family—ideally with a husband and wife each having a career and sharing parental responsiblities equally.
Split: At the same time, the movement has become widely split. Many of the movement’s feminist-philosophers in Canada, the United States and Britain now write not about unified purpose but about selected aspects of the movement ranging from Marxist feminism to liberalism and conservatism.
And many ordinary women, less concerned with abstractions than with jobs, wages, promotion, day care, abortion, poverty, maternity leaves and personal freedom, are now at odds over how much equality and power the feminist movement has achieved for women whose expectations were heightened by it (pages 48 and 50).
To Louise Dulude, the 43-year-old
president of the Ottawa-based National Action Committee on the Status of Women, a lobby group representing more than 500 women’s organizations across Canada, many of those expectations have gone largely unfulfilled (page 53). Said Dulude: “When you look at men who do best, they are usually married with children, while the women who do best usually have no children.
If I had had children, there is no way I could have worked my way through college and law school. It’s a joke to say that women have equal access to the workforce as long as they don’t have quality child care.”
Gap: Dulude reflects a widespread view among many women: although the movement has raised female selfawareness, it has not brought women longsought equality either in or outside the workplace. Said Maureen O’Neil, 44, Ontario’s deputy minister of citizenship and culture and a former secretary general of the Canadian Human Rights Commission: “There have been huge improvements for middle-class women, but if you look at how much pay average women get and if you look
at their working conditions, there hasn’t been significant change.”
Recent studies confirm that assertion. In 1985 Statistics Canada reported that in 1967, women working at full-time year-round jobs earned only 58 cents for every dollar earned by men. Eighteen years later the gap had narrowed only slightly—women were earning 65 cents—even though their representation in the labor force had increased to 44 per cent from 32 per cent. Put another way, in 1985 women aged 35 to 44 earned $20,882; for men in the same age group, the figure was $32,539. And although male university graduates earned, on average, $41,392 that year, women degree-holders made only $28,440 during the same period. Declared Roberta Ellis-Grunfeld, Manitoba’s 35-year-old civil service pay equity commissioner: “We are not making significant enough economic progress.”
In March, 1983, the federal government attempted to close that gap with a five-year program to increase the number of women holding senior jobs in the public service. At that time
there were 3,459 people in the middle and senior management categories. Of that total, only 180 were women. Last September there were 4,442 civil service managers in those categories, earning salaries that ranged from $54,000 to $104,900. Their ranks included 444 women—doubling women’s share of top government jobs to 10 per cent from five.
Combat: Elsewhere, women have been making modest gains in such traditionally male strongholds as the professions—and the Armed Forces. There are now 8,000 women in the Canadian Armed Forces, up from 1,500 in 1971. And Brig.-Gen. Dan Munro at defence headquarters in Ottawa said that in mid-1989 the army and navy will begin trials to determine whether women should be admitted to the only role from which they are now excluded: combat.
Certainly, many women seize newly available opportunities for advancement. That trend is clearly apparent in enrolment patterns at universities across the country. At Vancouver’s University of British Columbia, 43 per cent of the law students in the 19861987 academic year were women, compared with 26 per cent 10 years earlier. In medicine, women students had increased to 40 per cent of the enrolment last year from 25 per cent in 1976.
Still, putting women into tanks, operating rooms and the upper ranks of the civil service is a long way from achieving the full-equality objectives of the women’s movement. And among its Canadian supporters, there is no consensus on how well it is doing. Doris Anderson of Toronto, the 61-yearold former president of the National Action Committee, said that she believed women “have made enormous progress.” Said Anderson: “Only 15 years ago it was acceptable to pay women a lower salary than men. It is not any more. It is not acceptable to beat your wife. The idea that it was okay for older women who had lost their husbands through death or divorce to live in poverty—that is going.”
Price: But according to Arpi Hamalian, 40, the principal of Concordia University’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute for Women’s Studies in Montreal: “We have not yet produced a generation which has seen that women can be equal without paying a price. Kids still see parents come home from highpressure jobs and watch their mothers cook dinner while their fathers watch the news.” For her part, Vancouver lawyer and former provincial court judge Nancy Morrison said that the women’s movement had exhibited “lulls which concern me, and part of
the explanation is complacency. Some women have worked long and hard and are suffering from burnout.”
Most activists, however, still work long and hard, and such issues as poverty and physical abuse keep them fighting. Darlene Dacey of Dartmouth, N.S., a 21-year-old mother of two, is acutely aware of both issues. She left her husband 2lÁ years ago. Now, with rent for her apartment absorbing 60 per cent of her monthly welfare income of $828, Dacey said that she and her family face a constant struggle to survive. Declared Dacey, who is a member of Mothers United for Metro Shelter (MUMS), an activist group of single mothers: ‘Tf I had known what I would experience in my first year away from home, I would have chosen to live in violence every second day instead of poverty every day.”
Abuse: Chaviva Hosek, 41, Ontario housing minister and, like Anderson, a former president of the National Action Committee, said that studies have shown that one woman in 10 is beaten or abused and one young women in four is “in some way sexually abused” before she reaches 18. Declared Hosek: “The fact that women are the victims of this kind of abuse is part of a much larger system in which women are less valued. I am not blaming men. Men and women were born into this mess together, and we have to get out of it together.”
That idea of men and women as partners in social reform was never an option for many early apostles of sexual politics who espoused confrontational doctrines. But the anger of the 1960s, although still present, has cooled, and dedicated feminists—the leaders, publicists and lobbyists for the women’s movement—seem more preoccupied with goal-oriented strategies than street-based demonstrations.
Declared Vancouver al-
“In the early days there was lots of pushing and shoving, but the movement has matured and women are getting into positions of influence and power. Twenty years ago women were on the outside. Now they’re on the inside.”
Rules: And although the women’s movement has become part of “the whole fabric of society,” according to Toronto’s Anderson, women were still not “part of the establishment.” Said Anderson: “They are not making the rules in two
derman Carole Taylor: Hosek: beaten
areas where the power is—business and politics.” Diane Forested, a 35year-old sociology professor at the University of Calgary, added that the women’s movement had been only “a qualified success” because although provisions requiring equal pay for equal work could be legislated, “you can’t legislate attitudes.”
Indeed, many participants in women’s struggle for equality say that, if feminism had a single objective, it
would probably be to change attitudes—of men toward women, of young women toward the movement, of men and women toward marriage and male-female relationships generally. Among its successes, according to Montreal educator Greta Hofmann Nemiroff, 49, is a different view of marriage. Declared Hofmann Nemiroff, who in 1970 helped teach a pioneering _ course in women’s studies at Concordia University: “Women no longer expect marriage to be the be-all and end-all, especially women with careers.”
But Concordia’s Hamalian said that she has colleagues “who are frightened by what they hear coming out of the mouths of some young women. They want to get married and have ^ someone take care of them.” Added Maude 3 Barlow, 40, a private I consultant on pay equity in Ottawa and onetime z senior adviser on womE en’s issues to Pierre
Trudeau when he was Prime Minister: “One of the saddest things that young women today think is that to be successful, or to be a strong woman or a feminist, you can’t be personally happy.” The explanation, suggested Hofmann Nemiroff, is that young women “haven’t been through enough yet to appreciate the women’s movement. When they hit 35 or so, feminism isn’t such a bad word any more.”
Now, according to Barlow, the wom-
en’s movement is moving into a new and dynamic phase. Declared Barlow: “The confrontation stuff, to an extent, is passing. It’s time to move on. The new wave will take us toward integration, the movement of women into the system with what we have learned from trying to change the system. This will be the real test.” She added: “There are men on our side, but many men don’t want these changes and don’t want to share power. After all, we aren’t talking about applying BandAids. We are talking about profound change.”
Sick: In her 1970 book, The Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer wrote: “I’m sick of belying my own intelligence, my own will, my own sex. I’m sick of pretending that some fatuous male’s self-important pronouncements are the object of my undivided attention. I refuse to be a female impersonator. I am a woman, not a castrate.” The words being used by many women now may be softer—but the message remains the same.
-RAE CORELLI with DOUG SMITH in Winnipeg, LISA VAN DUSEN in Montreal, VALERIE MANSOUR in Halifax, DEBORRA SCHUG in Vancouver and correspondents’ reports
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