I can’t quite put my finger on why I don’t like this article, except that parts of it ring, just, well, wrong. For example, the first three sentences:
I WAS born in 1982 — about 20 years after the women’s rights movement began. Growing up in what many have called a post-feminist culture, I did not really experience institutional gender bias. “Girl power” was celebrated, and I felt that all doors were open to me.
Really? A couple of issues:
1. The “women’s rights movement” did not, could not, have began 20 years prior to 1982, i.e. 1962. I could understand if she at least took it back to the suffrage movement. That would then be the early 20th century, much farther back than 20 years pre-1982. But I think most would take it to 1848, the year of the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY.
2. I was born in 1981, a year earlier than this author. Who are these “many” that have called our culture a post-feminist culture? I still do not feel assured that I will forever have the right to control my reproductive abilities. I still earn less than comparable men for comparable work. I assume she got this phrase from somewhere, and I may be the only one who hadn’t heard it before, so I googled “post feminist culture” and came across a number of results on the first page. One of them came close to describing a post feminist culture without having too look too deep. In regard to the vilification of celebrity women:
“There is incredible ambivalence in a post-feminist culture towards women in the public sphere.”
In a nutshell, despite years of equal opportunities, the media – and the people who watch and read – prefer the stay-at-home mother over a woman who lives her life in public, particularly one who is overtly ambitious or successful in making money.
“Years of equal opportunity”? Goodness, the gender differences in the very decision to work or stay-at-home is but one example that opportunities are not equal between men and women.
3. Institutional gender bias. There is so much complexity in those three words, taken separately and taken together. The author seems to be saying that she never felt discriminated against due to her gender identification. That, however, is far removed from the absence of institutional gender bias. As I can gather from my quick read of my handy-dandy sociological dictionary, for some institutional bias is about opportunities and outcomes of groups. It seems that an individual can’t technically experience institutional bias except in so far that they are a member of an affected group. There is also a question of intent – I always learned that institutional racism, for example, differed from one-on-one racism in that because race prejudice was embedded in institutions that we could no longer think of racism as something that hinged on the intent of the individual. In the author’s case, where she states that “girl power was celebrated,” it seems that she conflates these two issues – the absence of institutional gender bias with the absence of blatant sexism.
I also can’t help but look at the picture of the author and shake my head at another white woman who claims to speak for all women. Granted, it seems she is talking about college-educated women, where the similarities may be stronger than when talking about women in general. But I remember – and note that I am only a year older than the author – having heated discussions with white women about how we are not the same, and the issues we face are different. One small issue, but so important for so many black women hitting the job market, is the issue of hair. When I graduated from college, I rocked a mean ‘fro. But I was so nervous to wear my hair in its natural state because I was perceived to be “militant”. Other styles I wore at the time, like twists or braids, were deemed to be “unprofessional.” Some gave me the advice to press my hair prior to interviewing. This is something that my white female peers did not have to deal with.
There are other things I object to within the article, but after so much is wrong with the first three sentences, I’m not really surprised by my reaction to the rest of it. What do you think, in particular about the rest of the article? Do you agree with my reactions to the first paragraph?