26 March 2010


Ninety years after the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote, one hundred years after the first International Women's Day, and nearing the end of the 30th Women's History Month, I pause to reflect on our progress toward gender equality. I entered adulthood during the second wave of the feminist movement, and was a declared feminist (just as I was a declared environmentalist) long before it was fashionable to do so.

A recent Newsweek article by Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison reports that the gender gap, the pay disparity between men and women for comparable work, is alive and well. Although there has been token movement into more prestigious and lucrative positions in the business world, in politics and in academia, emphasis remains on the word "token". "Women still make 76 cents for every dollar a male earns in the United States", the article notes. Further, women tend to be clustered in entry level and midlevel corporate positions, with very few penetrating to the upper levels of management. Hence the term "the glass ceiling".

This persistence of discrimination is unjust and intolerable. The pace of progress is painfully slow. My hope has been that, just as younger generations have been far less burdened by the racist attitudes of their elders, that sexism would similarly die of attrition. Now I'm not so sure. There's no predicting which of our prejudices will fade more quickly, or what prejudices may replace them. One can only plan and hope for the best, and remain prepared for the worst. A sad commentary on our enlightened age.

Abraham Lincoln famously said, "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master." Speaking as a male, as I would not be the victim of discrimination, so I would not be its perpetrator. My thanks to my dear friend IZ for sending the article.

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