Women in the Seventies: Problems and Possibilities, April 17, 1970
Rossi [Women's] Movement/history and early stirrings WOMEN IN THE SEVENTIES: PROBLEMS AND POSSIBILITIES by Alice S. Rossi For a sociologist to discuss the topic of Women in the Seventies is both a risky and presumptuous venture. It assumes an ability on the part of sociology to either predict the future course of events or to chart a desirable direction to take in the coming decade. Yet there is little precedence on which to build a case that sociology is particularly qualiﬁed or successful in predicting social change. Sociology predicted neither the sharp rise nor the fall of fertility rates in the past twenty-ﬁve years in the United States. It predicted neither the emergence nor the critical turning points in the civil rights movement during the 1960's. No urban sociologists warned us in the 1940’s and 1950’s of the consequences for our cities of heavy in-migration of poor southern blacks coupled with heavyout-migration of middle class whites to suburbia. We decried the political apathy of students in the 1950’s and wrote of the “end of ideology” only to ﬁnd our campuses alive with highly politicized students in the 1960’s. In much the same way, the profession was taken by surprise last fall by the scope, persistence and political sting of the analysis and demands of the women's caucus I led at the annual sociology meetings, as I am sure other ﬁelds were by equally vigorous actions by women at their professional meetings in the course of the current academic year. I am also quite sure that at the moment, many of my male sociology colleagues are convinced that by merely waiting out the storm, the current upsurge of activism among professional women will die down and they can continue to operate departments, research institutes and the universities on a “business as usual” male basis. I think they are profoundly mistaken in this expectation, at the same time I am deeply concerned by what I believe are diﬂicult times ahead for the cur- rent women’s rights movement. To say this is to admit that despite the poor record of my profession as predictors of future social and political events, I have entered the fray and shall discuss what I think the problems and possibilities are for signiﬁcant change in the status of women during the 1970's. It should be clear from the outset, however, that I shall be speaking in more than my capacity as a sociologist. I shall draw on my own personal experiences as a woman in academia and private life, upon active participation in several reform movements in recent years, and upon a political commitment to fundamental change in American society. To view personal experience, passion and politics as relevant ingredients to a sociological analysis is to take a radical departure from the scientiﬁc credo on which most sociologists of my generation have been reared. Since this is quite important to an assessment of what I have to say, let me expand on this point. To read contemporary sociological journals is to acquire a view of the ﬁeld that is consistent with the value free scientiﬁc neutrality our textbooks urge upon young sociologists. I would submit, however, that a detached scientiﬁc neutrality is actually the exception rather than the rule in sociology, however much the passion and the politics are written out when sociologists commit themselves to paper and crowd our periodicals and bookshelves with their ounces of “truth.” Politics is where research begins; it helps to select and deﬁne the problem to be studied; it is involved in procuring funds to support research; it is very much present in the way a sociologist sets up a study design and again when he or she attempts to get the results published. One of the glaring omissions in the graduate education of sociologists is a frank and open analysis of the political process within which research is conducted. Passion is a second typically neglected component in sociology. To read the works of most sociologists of any generation, with such notable exceptions as C. Wright Mills, Lee Rainwater, Irving Horowitz or Lewis Coser, is to gain an image of bloodless insensates looking down at human .behavior from some cognitive height of detachment. I am not sure in my own mind whether this is achieved by a purposeful suppression of a passionate component, or whether it derives from an absence of such passion in sociologists as an occupational specialty. Certainly our models of sociological excellence have prescribed the exclusion of passion -and politics, but whether this operates as a self-selecting device in recruitment to the ﬁeld, or as a consequence of rigorous socialization in graduate programs, is an unsettled question.
1063 I have a theory about the direction sociology has taken in recent decades that is not unique to sociology, but characteristic of the work of the whole generation of men who are currently at the prestige pinnacles of our colleges and univer- sities. I believe, too, that this thesis illuminates the basic generational confronta- tion taking place between faculty and students in higher education. Since it is relevant to any prediction of what lies ahead for women in academia, and I dare say in all large scale organizations today, it is perhaps legitimate to develop it brieﬂy here. Power and prestige in academia are now in the hands of men in their 40’s and 50’s, a generation whose childhood and adolescence took place from the late 1920’s through the early 1940’s, years of depression and of war. Their careers were established during the post-war period of vast expansion in higher educa- tion, when there was room to spare for the sharp, ambitious and energetic sur- vivalists of this generation. In any period in which professional, managerial and technical occupations undergo a vast expansion, the ﬁelds will attract a large proportion of socially mobile, self-made men. The GI Bill gave a boost to the up- ward mobility_of the current generation of academic leaders, particularly in those ﬁelds which underwent the largest expansion in higher education: the natural and social sciences and engineering. The men at the top of the prestige ladder in such ﬁelds in 1970 are the new intellectual elite in American society, the men whose ideas have given the major boost toward the technological transformation of our economy, contributed to the social and economic policies of the federal government, and to the growing dependence of academia on government and private industry. In my judgment, they are intellectual robber barons who dominate contemporary society in much the way the lumber, oil and land barons dominated the 19th century industrial expansion following the Civil War. They represent a highly competitive, ambi- tious generation of self-made men. Most importantly, their theories of society and of human motivation mirror their own personalities and life experiences. An analogy can be drawn to the early 19th century spokesman of laissez faire economics, the utilitarian James Mill. He too was a self-made man, up from humble origins in Scotland, who cut his ethnic and religious ties in moving to London, and who forged a place for him- self in English intellectual and political life as the spokesman for the new mercantile class pressing against the power and status of the English aristocracy. Bruce Mazlish‘ has given us agbrilliant analysis of the congeniality of Mill's intellectual ideas to his own social mobility: the belief that one’s past is irrele- vant, that education can produce far better trained and knowledgeable men than a hereditary aristocracy ever can, that man is a rational being motivated by self- interest and that society can be organized to maximize that primarily rational motivation. If we examine contemporary social theories, I think we can detect echoes of this emphasis on rationality, from the conservative acceptance of the status quo in functionalist theory, to the shift to neo-classical economic theory in the work of such men as George Homans and Peter Blau, to the current fash- ionable emphasis on systems analysis and game theory of James Coleman. In psychology, I suspect there have been three dozen studies of achievement motiva- tion to every one study on aﬂiliation need. At ﬁrst sight, game theory looks very new indeed, but a closer inspection suggests it is rooted in the same laissez-faire utilitarian economic model all over again: the postulate that an individual or a group is essentially and irrevocably motivated by the desire to maximize their own selﬁsh interest, to take action based on rational assessment of what rewards will accrue to them.’ I think it is the pervasive acceptance of this rational model. that lies behind the inability of sociologists to predict many of the social and political events of the past twenty years. Self-gain goes no distance at all in ex- plaining current middle class political protest among the young, or commitment to the expansion of human rights for groups other than one’s own. Furthermore, if we can not assume that human beings are motivated by more humane values and inner promptings than the narrow utilitarian base of self- interest, we are headed for enormous diﬂiculty, if not outright failure, in many social and political struggles in the coming decade, whether the expansion of the rights of blacks and of women, or coping with the crises of population, environ- mental pollution, or international hostility. When young people decry the irrele- 1Bruce Mazlish. “James Mill and the Utilitarians.” Daedalus, Summer 1968, 1036-1061. 3 I am indebted to Eugene Gainnter, Professor of Psychology at Columbia University for this insight, at a recent (April 1970) conference on world crises at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Boston.
1064.- vance and impersonality of their colleges -and universities, they are attacking not only the complex bureaucratic structure of the modern university but the values of the men on faculties and in administrations who run these institutions. This is an extremely important point, for on it hinges whether change shou1d.be focused on a reformation of the organizational structure of higher education, or the personnel policies which determines the individuals who occupy the slots in that organizational structure. In other words, is it the organization or the men who run it that call for change? What is the relevance of this analysis to the movement women have been form- ing in recent years? There are several points of importance: if you are a dis- advantaged group, it is well to have a clear i-dea of the nature of your opposition as you engage in a political struggle to change an institution or to gain entry into it at signiﬁcant levels. Secondly, women must be clear both individually and in terms of activist organizations, whether they want “in” on the value terms now current in government or corporations or universities, either because they accept those terms or because they wish to work for change from within, and whether they should ally themselves with other groups which are pressing for changes in the structure of large scale organizations. This analysis also serves as -a warning concerning the women who have been able to ﬁnd their way to signiﬁcant status levels within organizations as they are presently structured. Unless and until the current women’s movements are far stronger and more widely accepted as legitimate. I think a sizable propor- tion of women in high status positions will not be willing to join us, because they share the values of the high status men in their world. Thus, in organizing a program for the women's caucus in sociology, I had wanted to have a panel that included women from each phase of a sociological career line: I had no diiliculty ﬂnding graduate student or young faculty women but not one of the ﬁve full professor women I approached would agree to join such a panel. Their reasons may interest you: one said women are looking for special privileges instead of working hard the way they did to reach the top; another admitted she simply didn’t like working with women ; another that we were either an ugly, or a frus- trated crowd that didn’t know how or were not able to use our sex to get ahead in a man’s world. ‘ The question might well be raised of why and how it is that I am not in accord with my own generation of women in academia. I am, after all, a member of the generation that produced the intellectual robber barons that rule in academia today. I am not sure I can yet give a complete answer to that question, but in the belief that personal and intellectual biography may be of interest and is a legiti- mate component to a sociological analysis, let me override an impulse against such personal disclosure and describe at least those experiences which were in- ﬂuential in my own life thus far. It may illustrate at least one attempt at blend- ing politics, passion and intellect that is closer to the life and work style of the emerging younger generation than it is to the predominant mode of members of my own generation. That done, you will perhaps have a better base from which to assess my predictions of what lies ahead for the women’s movement during the 1970's. PERSONAL-POLITICAL BACKGROUND As an undergraduate and graduate student, I had no particular interest in the status of women, sex roles, or occupational choice. In fact, I entered college as an English major, pragmatism dictating an occupational choice of high school English teacher, but roman'ticism prompting an inner hope that I might become a famous writer. I was one of the tens of thousands of bright, eager New York students attending city colleges, in my case, Brooklyn College. As fate would have it, my ﬂrst sociology instructor was Louis Schneider, and he began his , introduction to sociology by reading a poem by Whitman and raising the ques- tion: who was this man? What does the poem tell about his time, his place on this globe? I found the sociological dimension of literature so fascinating, I fell in love with the ﬁeld, and began a life long aﬂfair of the heart and mind that is second only to my own ‘marriage and the three products of that marriage I am privileged to watch grow up. As a graduate student at Columbia, I was inter- ested in the microscopic analysis of social institutions; in family and kinship systems rather than the roles of women within family systems; in reference groups through work with Robert Merton; in studies of the professions. In fact, the occupational role I chose to study in Kingsley Davis’ seminar was that of the politician. Not once during that seminar did I look into the sex-linked nature
1065 of occupational choice in American society. In the Columbia department, I was torn between attraction to the new research focus of the ﬁeld symbolized by Paul Lazarsfeld, and the more familiar world of ideas and traditional scholarly investigation symbolized by Robert Merton, That the one was short on ideas and the other short on methods forced many of their students to forge their own competencies as sociologists, with varying styles in the balance between theory and research. My own bent, like that of Lipset, Blau and Coser, was toward Robert Merton, while others like my husband, Barton. Rosenberg and Coleman, were tipped toward Paul Lazarsfeld. Only a minority of the students in the department then were stimulated and drawn to the political and critical think- ing of C. Wright Mills and Robert Lynd. Even fewer of us, with very much a sense of being a traitor to the department, stole across campus to listen to Ruth Benedict in social anthropology or to Mirra Komarovsky in sociology. But no woman in 1970, I hope, could be the total innocent I was in 1950 where the world of sex discrimination or sex inequality of rights and opportunities were concerned. I dreamed big dreams during those graduate student days of being one day the president of the American Sociological Society, and of writing a major opus that built on the twin strengths of my two theory and research mentors. I discounted as peevish envy, the claims of my male peers that I would not get a fellowship from the department “because I was a woman”, and then when I was awarded one, the counter claim that “someone on the faculty must be trying to make you.” It would have been more congenial to my own intellectual bent to move from graduate training to a purely academic position as primarily a teacher, and sec- ondarily a researcher. But this is a path diﬂicult for a married woman in academia, particularly to one like myself, who is married to a sociologist. So I spent ten years as a research associate, following not the dictates of my own research interests so much as the availability of funds and research openings: intergroup relations in a Cornell research project; generational differences in the Soviet Union at the Russian Research Center at Harvard; ethnic and reli- gious cleavage in community decision making in a project at the Harvard Gradu- ate School of Education ; kinship relations in the middle class in an anthropologi- cal project at the University of Chicago. From these varied research undertakings, I developed an intellectual fascina- tion with a problem that was seldom put in adequate terms within sociological theory itself: what are the connections, the strains, and accommodations be- tween involvement in the institution of the family on -the one hand, and the oc- cupational system on the other. I was beginning to take a ﬁrst step away from the conﬁnes of Parsonian claims that the family and occupational systems require “mechanisms of segregation” with only one member of a family partici- pating signiﬁcantly in the occupational system, a theory I now view as an in- tellectual put down providing a rationalized justification for men continuing to be the prime movers in work and politics. The source of this growing interest was not only research and scholarship, however. It was also my own personal experience and observation as a faculty wife and mother of young children. As a faculty wife, I had ample opportunity to observe that some sociological theorists did a rather good job themselves of making sure that two members of a family did not hold signiﬁcant jobs in the occupational system, by refusing to hire competent women whose husbands held appointments at the same universities. At Harvard and then again at Chicago, I saw numerous instances of women being dropped or kept oﬁ the male academic turf their husbands claimed as their own. I had offended one such theorist by negotiating an appointment at Harvard without ﬁrst clearing such a horrendous step with him, as my husband’s department chairman. The chairman happened to be Talcott Parsons. I watched women friends leave the university when they became pregnant and kept out when they tried to return after their children entered school. More importantly, I learned from personal experience of with- drawal during two years while I had my ﬁrst two children, the truth of the existential thesis in psychology that “one becomes what one does,” as I realized with horror that I was resenting my husband’s freedom to continue his academic work despite the adventure of adding father to his roster of social roles, and even more that I was actually trying to prevent his playing an intimate and meaning- ful role in the care of the children, in order to have ascendancy in parenthood to complement his ascendancy in our shared profession.
1066 But it took a return to academia, first by teaching undergraduate sociology at Chicago, and then in a research project on kinship, and a traumatic personal encounter with sex discrimination to jar me out of a romantic cocoon of political innocence, and to begin a long process of re-establishing connections back through my own life and to the Lynd-Mills exposure in graduate school, back through years in a variety of working class and white collar clerical jobs and to undergraduate radical politics, to begin to draw together and to focus the ideas, -the personal experience, and the political commitment I now ‘have. My own trial by ﬁre involved a not untypical story of a bright woman Ph. D. accepting a research associateship to do a study the male principal investigator was not competent to ‘do on his own, and had very little interest in. At least the interest was initially low, until the study was designed, by myself; ﬁelded under my supervision, and partially analyzed by myself. At that point, he realized he had a good thing going, and simply announced, despite verbal agreements about co- aubhorship and professional autonomy, that my services were no longer needed. All this took place within a week of receiving assurance that the request for continuing funds from the National Science Foundation, based on a research proposal I drafted, would be forthcoming. I was a salaried Research Associate, he a full professor, and as the dean put it bluntly to me, “he is valuable uni- versity property ; you, unfortunately, are expendable.” I date my own commitment—intellcctua11y, personally, and politically—to concern for the status of women, the analysis of sex roles, the study of and active participation in such things as abortion law and divorce law reform, to the “slow burn” that began in that first major personal encounter with sex discrimi- nation in academia. It was the immediate precipitant to the scholarship and writing that led me down -the path of immodesty in writing the Daedalus essay on sex equality. The response to that essay is an interesting illustration of the point I made in characterizing the current generation at the helm in academia. Several male colleagues accused me of breaking up their marriages. Young women wrote to say they decided to return to graduate school instead of having another baby. (By known count, the essay reduced the population by twelve 3rd or higher order births. I am sure Betty Friedan’s book did even better in reducing the population. But this is a lesson our male experts on fertility have not yet learned: they think the population problem will be solved by technical gadgetry, when the real point is what women want and can do with their lives.) My husband received a sympathy bereavement card from a west coast sociologist as a condolence for having such an upstart wife that must surely embarrass him. A more recent example of this same sort, symptomatic of the current state of affairs in aca- demia, was the reaction of male sociologists to the rather different roles my husband and I played at last fall's sociology convention. As secretary of the association, my husband was on the rostrum while I delivered a speech and sub- mitted resolutions from the women’s caucus. In themonths since then, I have had offers for academic appointments on the west coast which are based on the premise that my husband and I are separated and about to be divorced. MY husband has been asked how he felt when I delivered that speech, with his male colleagues not knowing how to take his response that he felt pride rather than embarrassment or anger as they expected. During earlier years, my colleagues at the University of Chicago criticized me for “not sticking to my last” as a research sociologist instead of writing analytic social criticism and ideology; others said it was inappropriate and would “ruin your career" to get involved in the “woman thing;” or to be publicly visible as an organizer for abortion law reform, or to write that “motherhood was not enough” in a woman's magazine. Writing out- side the professional journals, I was told, should never be mentioned in a pro- fessional vita, and was something I could only do later in life should I become an elder statesmen in academia or need money to cover children’s college education or save toward reduced income after retirement. Nowhere in that world did one hear anything about responsibility for writing out from academia to‘ larger, publics, nor any sense that there was a responsibility for a family sociologistto “do" something about fertility, contraception, abortion or women’s rights, from the point of view of active attempts at social change to protect the health or defend the rights of women. - - . I was fortunate to have a supportive husband who possessed a delicious sense of humor and a social marginality to match my own. I purposely phrased that last sentence in a conventional way—how grateful, how lucky, to have a sup-
1067 portive husband! As you may know from reading Eli Ginsberg on life styles of educated women, that is an absolute rock bottom requirement for professional women—to have a supportive husband. Unfortunately, Mr. Ginsberg does not understand how a woman gets a supportive husband. It is not a “condition” she is fortunate to have as a base for being something more than homemaker, mother and husband-relaxer. It is something she looks for, and if she ﬁnds it, she marries him. I know what it is like to have an un-supportive husband, for I first married when I was politically and socially innocent. I divorced him. It‘ didn’t just happen, therefore, that my second husband was supportive. I chose him in part because he was. Until this past fall, I had the unusual experience of being an independent academic person, under a ﬁve year research scientist award from the National Institute of Mental Health, which gave me an academic umbrella to legitimize my status within the university and provided the independence to work on what- ever I wanted. The best education I ever had, I acquired on my own during the ﬁrst year or so of that award: the luxury of getting lost in libraries again, to be free to re-acquire that delicious “itch to know", to tackle new ﬁelds, to turn down any lecture, paper, conference, that didn’t interest me. With emotional roots secure in an exciting marriage and three young children, I carved out a professional life that centered on a major research undertaking on family and career roles of women college graduates, on the one hand, and growing absorp- tion in active attempts at social, legal and political change that would beneﬁt women. By last summer, it was clear to me that I felt increasingly out of rap- port with my own generation and my graduate school colleagues, and shifted from research sociology at Hopkins to undergraduate teaching at Goucher. I wanted out from the research role and felt the need for a professional context closer to the younger generation, and one in which I could devote non-teaching time to writing. To sum up, a deviant from the “making it” generation has joined ranks with the “reforming generation” represented by my students and many in this audience. WHERE WE ARE A1‘ NOW To attempt a preview of what lies ahead in the 1970s, a good starting place is an assessment of where we are at in the present. In some respects, the future is a continuation of trends rooted in the past and visible to us at the moment. One thing is clear: however signiﬁcant we may consider the new emergence of the women’s movement, its signiﬁcance is not widely shared. The turn of ‘a decade often triggers the publication of “looking ahead” books, but you will ﬁnd no mention of protest and change in the status of women as a signiﬁcant new note among those who participated in the crystal-gazing scholarship that produced The Year 2000, or even in the less amlbitious new volume edited by Leonard Freed- man, Issues of the Seventies. This latter volume divides neatly into two major sections, one on international issues, the other on national issues. Among the latter, are poverty, race, crime, distribution of power, alienation‘, and campus disorder in universities. Activist groups of women do not ﬁgure in any of the is- sues discussed where one might expect them in such a volume: women as -poor, black, victims, disadvantaged, alienated, or protesters on campuses, do not ap- pear. Not surprisingly, there is not a single woman author to any of the essays in the volume. Like the -bulk of historical volumes, women are -part of the climate and geography backdrop against which the human drama is acted out by men. Most recent analyses that attempt to explain the renascence of the women's rights movement in the 1960's, after forty years of dormancy, have stressed the impact of participation in the civil rights movement upon younger women, who drew the same lessons their ancestors did from involvement in the abolitionist cause in the 19th century. Without detracting from the signiﬁcance of this -point at all, I would only point out that this holds for only one group within the young- er generation of women now involved in women’s liberation, and that the emer- gence of the liberation movement all told post-dates other signiﬁcant signs of an awakening among American women much earlier in the decade. In fact, I would argue that it was the changed shape of the female labor force during the period beginning with 1940 that gradually provided the momentum that led to such events as the establishment of the Kennedy Commission on the Status of Wom- en, and eventually to the formation of new women’s rights organizations like the National Organization for Women. So long as women worked largely before marriage while they were single, or after marriage only until a ﬁrst pregnancy. or lived within city limits where there was a diversity of activities to, engage
1068 them, there were feeble grounds for any signiﬁcant movement among women focussed on economic rights, since their motivation in employment was short- lived and their expectations were to withdraw when they became established in family roles. It was the gradual and dramatic change in the proﬁle of the female labor force from unmarried young women to a majority of older married women that ‘set in motion a vigorous women’s rights movement. It is only among women who either expect or who ﬁnd themselves relatively permanent members of the work force whose daily experience forced awareness of economic inequities on the grounds of their sex. This is changing now under the inﬂuence of women’s liberation groups among the young, but this movement did not exist to trigger the larger movement early in the last decade. Knowledge and concern for this growing army of employed women facilitated the political recognition of problems concerning women’s status by the formation of the Kennedy Commisison. It was these women, many in federal and state service, whose expectations were raised by involvement first with the national and then with the state commissions that were established during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. These were committed, knowledgeable, optimistic, and largely middle aged women who had high hopes as they ﬁled their reports, that American society _ would ﬁnally put its own house in order where the status of women was con- cerned. The hopes of many of these women were dashed by the cold shoulder treatment they experienced at the spring 1966 conference of representatives from the state commissions brought together under Department of Labor sponsorship in Washington. From that frustrating and disappointing experience, when it seemed likely that their reports were to -be politely ﬁled in government drawers, a number of women concluded that little signiﬁcant change could be expected until a strong political organization was built that had complete independence from the political establishment itself. This was the precipitant to the formation of the National Organization for Women in the fall of 1966. The scope of the areas of women's lives that NOW is concerned with has ‘broadened greatly since its founding in 1906, but the core focus continues to be the expansion and ﬁrming up of the economic rights of women to equal -treatment in hiring and -promotion. As an organization, N OW includes lively, dedicated women who are pressing hard and persistently against the -barriers that restrict and conﬁne women in American society. Except for its action in connection with the airline stewardess case, however, it has had relatively little public and media attention outside New York until this past year, when the extraordinary press coverage of the women’s liberation groups -set in. Why should this -be the case? I would suggest that the answer lies in the social role arena that is the focus of discussion and action by these two streams within the women's movement. There are funda- mental assumptions in our society as presently structured that men’s primary social roles are in work and women’s primary social roles are in the family. The conventional society assumes all men will want to work at a status level that challenges their abilities to the utmost; nothing is so threatening to conventional values as a man who does not want to work or to -work a-t a challenging job, and most people are disturbed if a man in a presumably well-paying job indicates ambivalence or dislike toward it. The counterpart for women is any suggestion that they feel ambivalent toward maternity, marriage or homemaking, probably in that order. In more formal sociological terms, we might put this as follows: roles vary in the extent to which it is culturally permissible to express am- bivalence or negative feelings toward them. Ambivalence can be admitted most readily toward those roles which are optional, least where they are considered to be primary. Thus men repress negative feelings toward ‘work and more openly express negative feelings toward family and marriage responsibilities, while women are free to express negative feelings toward work, but tend to repress ambivalence or negative feelings toward family roles. . , Applying these ideas to the issues that triggered public and media atten-tion in the past decade helps to explain why reactions are more intense to women's liberation groups than to organizations like NOW. There was widespread con- cern in manpower, government and university circles during the past decade, when indications began to emerge that many middle class, bright young men were showing a departure from an unthinking acceptance of occupational as- pirations similar to those of their fathers, either by showing a shift of occupa- tional choice away from business, engineering and science toward teaching, social science and the humanities, or by indicating that their desire was for a life style that gave greater attention to the time spent away from the job. The movie The Graduate symbolized this generational contrast in its most dramatic
1069 form. Universities were concerned when men students, starting in Berkeley, expressed resentment to advanced -training as a mouse race preparation for adult rat race lives. I doubt if anyone would have worried if it were women expressing such resentment. Incidentally, there are now beginning signs that young workers are showing much the same pattern as -the university students earlier on. Older oﬂicials of the Steel Workers union in the auto industry report that young work- ery-40 per cent of 225,000 workers in the union are under 30 years of age- have diiferent values than older workers; they take seriously the question of individual freedom, and consider compulsory overtime an infringement of this freedom. Douglas Frazer, a union director, suggests that in the big plants, efficiency has been “king” in the eyes of management and the older workers alike, but that in 1970, "we just have to tell these companies, in the spirit of our youth, that the king is dead and we are going to bury him in 1970.” 3 As more wives work, and as the young move into the la-bor force, we can expect increas- ing numbers of workers to wk more from life than a =pay-check and a high- pressure, exhausting work day. The important point is that public airing of ambivalence or a shift of values toward the place of work in the lives of men, taps a vital nerve in American society. In light of the previous analysis of the generation currently in com- mand, this is a violent rejection of all they have stood for and lived by. The counterpart for women is any airing of ambivalence or negative feelings toward what the culture has deﬁned as their primary roles, in marriage and maternity. It is when even a minority of women begin to reject their role as sex object, post- pone or reject marriage, stop smiling over a shiny Waxed ﬂoor, or heaven forbid, question the desirability of having children or rearing them ‘themselves as a full time job, that women tap the counterpart nerve in American society. So too, older suburban homemaker women may be expected to have extremely hostile re- sponses to the challenge of the younger generation of women as the latter rejects the lives led by their mothers as shallow or parasitic. Hence, it is when men question work, and women question family commitment, and ‘both sexes question an uncritical commitment to nation-state, that we ﬁnd responses among parents, teachers, employers and government oﬂlcials ranging from a shiver of distaste to a convulsion of hate. The strange thing is that one hardly ever hears anyone point to precisely these emerging qualities among young people as healthy indicators that promise solutions to precisely the prob- lems all would agree are reaching crisis proportions in the world at large: viru- lent nationalism and the consequence of international hostility will not be solved by upping nuclear deterrence but by the emergence of supra-national loyalties to the well being of all men and Women on earth. The population ex- plosion will not be solved unless more men and women remain unmarried, have fewer children, or none at all. Environmental pollution will not be solved unless we live simply and stop as a nation from rapaciously consuming more than half the world’s raw materials. The technitronic future of increased leisure time will be meaningless unless men and women value that leisure time at least equally as much as their work time. These are all examples of emerging values among the younger generation that are congenial and adaptive to the changed shape of society in the future. They also promise to be far better solutions than those currently recommended by the older generation: bigger sanitation systems to cope with the same level of waste of glass, metal and wood; better contraceptive gadgetry; more complex nuclear systems; taller buildings and mass transit rather than out-migration from urban jungles, etc. More to the point of my present argument is the fact that it has been the implicit and explicit questioning of family roles among women’s liberation groups that has triggered the current widespread public attentionto the “woman issue.” NOW’s focus on employment issues, dealing as it does with what is culturally considered an optional role for women, can not compete with anti-marriage and anti-sexism compaigns and speeches from -women’s lib spokesmen. , ~ EMPLOYMENT What, now, are the problems and possibilities that lie ahead? Let me start with the bread and butter issue of women‘s employment. To gain a perspective on what lies ahead in the seventies in the employment area, requires that we step back a moment to examine what has been operating as a critical variable in the background of the changed proﬁle of women’s labor force participation. 3 New York Times, 10 March 1970.
1070 A lot of nonsense has been written in the past decade to account for the ﬂow of older married women into the labor force. The emphasis has been on the impact of homemaking simpliﬁcation via frozen foods and complex gadgetry on the one hand, and the search for self-fulﬁllment and a solution to the “problem without a name" on the other. This is to look for explanations on the supply side of the Economic equation: what made women want to and able to move into the labor orce. In an economy as hard nosed as ours, however, such a stress is naive, for there must be powerful factors on the demand side of the equation that prompted em- ployers to open their personnel doors and to hire older women. A signiﬁcant fac- tor underlying this willingness on the part of employers lies in the peculiarities of the demographic structure of the American population during the period 1940 to 1970. In an incisive demographic analysis, Valerie Oppenheimer‘ has shown that during the 1950’s and early 1960's, several factors worked together to reduce the size of the traditional source of the female labor force, young unmar- ried women: young women were staying in school longer and marrying at an earlier age, thus shrinking the size of this traditional female labor pool. Even more important, the young women of the 1950’s were born in the 1930’s when the birth rate was very low, while at the same time there was a vast increase in the number of young children born during the baby boom of those post war years. As a result of the rippling effect of this low fertility cohort, the traditional pool of female labor shrunk during 1940 to 1960 from 6 million unmarried young women to only 3 million, while every other age cohort was increasing in size. Elm- ployers had to seek women workers from other sources than the young unmarried to ﬁll their personnel ranks. Consequently the trigger was far more a matter of employer demand in the first place, than of assertive women pressing for entry into the labor force. These were also years of vast expansion in precisely those segments of the occupational system that women have traditionally been prominent in: schools were ﬂooded with the baby boom children come of school age, so college graduate women were assured a -welcome despite age, marital and family status. 001- leges and universities were expanding at a rapid rate and married women were taken on as part time instructors and full time research associates. Clerical, sales, and service occupations were expanding, and women with high school degrees were able to pick and choose among the available jobs. ' This fortunate circumstance is now undergoing rapid change. There will be a reversal to this demographic pattern in the 1970's. The birth rate is now on the decline, the age at marriage is creeping upward. and the time interval between marriage and childbearing is widening. In the 1970's there will be more young unmarried women or childless married women seeking jobs, at the same time middle aged married women will be very numerous, for they will be the baby boom females grown to maturity. At the same time, as Allen Cartter‘ has shown, graduate schools will be producing large numbers of young people with advanced degrees, but these young people will face a very different job market than the doctorate-holding young people faced during the past twenty years. Up to_1970 the supply of Ph. D.s was far below the demand for them in institutions of higher education, but the reverse situation will hold from 1970 onward: the supply will exceed the demand in colleges and universities. This does not mean the society can not absorb or does not need highly trained people with advanced degrees. From one point of view, the excessive supply means an opportunity for reducing class size, providing students with more meaningful learning experiences, chang- ing graduate curricula to prepare students for non-academic work, and for the non-academic institutions in business, government and welfare, to beneﬁt from hiring highly trained young people. On the other hand, higher education 15 facing a ﬁnancial crisis due to the cut-backs in government funding, corporations are pruning staffs of excessive frills, and government agencies are on an internal economy drive. ' It is therefore of critical importance that women press hard during the next few years to secure equal protection of the law and to assure adequate repre- sentation of their sex in all segments of the economy. There is already a ﬂrst sign of withdrawal of women from the labor force: in the last quarter of 1969, ‘ Valerie Oppenheimer. The Female Work Force in the United States: Factors Governing its Growth and Changing C'omposit£on,” Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. University of California (Berkeley), 1966. ", ~ 5A1la.n M. Cartter, “The Supply of and Demand for College Teachers. Journal of Human Resources, Summer 1966, 77-82. , V
1071 the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a drop in the unemployment rate, but the drop was found to be due not to the happy event of people ﬁnding jobs, but because unemployed young people and women were withdrawing from actively seeking jobs, probably because they were not ﬁnding them. What women must do in the next several years does not require new legisla- tion, though most of us would agree that passage of an equal rights amendment to the constitution would cover a wide range of sex inequities in law and prac- tice. Short of such passage, however, it is nonetheless the case that there has been a legal revolution during the 1960’s- where protection of women's economic rights are concerned.“ Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on sex by all employers of 25 or more employees, employment agencies and unions with 25 or more members, with the exemption of educational institutions. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 requires equal wages and salaries for men and women doing equal work. Executive order 11246, as amended by 11375, prohibits dis- crimination based on sex by federal government contractors and subcontractors. The Age Discrimination In Employment Act of 1967 prohibits discrimination based on age between 40 and 65. While this act does not prohibit sex discrimi- nation, it could play a signiﬁcant role in enlarging employment opportunities for women over forty who wish to return to the labor market or change jobs. Municipal and state fair employment practice commissions and state agencies which administer state equal pay legislation also stand as available resources women can use to protect their employment rights. Women in colleges and uni- versities are not covered by the Civil Rights Act, but women lawyers in activist groups are now working through the channels provided by Executive Order 11375 rather than pressing for congressional change in the educational institutions exemption in the 1964 act. WEAL, the Women’s Equity Action League, has mounted an important campaign designed to apply pressure on colleges and uni- versities to comply with this executive order, or face cancellation and future loss of government contracts, something no institution of higher education in these tight ﬁnancial times would be willing to risk. The mere existence of such laws on the statute books of the land does not itself solve anything unless and until women press for their implementation through concerted efforts to educate their sex and to develop test cases that will effect real changes in Women’s employment status. This is unglamorous hard work, rarely something that will make a ﬂashy news story or gain coverage on TV or in the weekly magazines. But it is of far greater long range significance for the expansion of women's rights than any amount of bra-burning or anti-men speech making. Parenthetically, it is nothing short of outrageous that young women can graduate from an American high school, to say nothing of a Women’s college, without anywhere in the course of their education, being informed about existing laws that impinge on the freedom of ‘women to live an autonomous lite, Numerous women have informed themselves in recent years about the content of abortion law statutes and have been vigorous in working to repeal them, but I am shocked when I ﬁnd that women college seniors do not know, to cite just a few examples, that there are states in which women are required by law to be ~ given a maximum prison sentence for a given offense, or that in some states they are not legally able to retain their maiden name after marriage, or. that many divorce courts will even reject a woman’s plea for a change of name if she is the defendant in the divorce action rather than a successful complainant.’ There is no professional ﬁeld more appropriate for a young woman to enter who is con- cerned with women’s rights or women's liberation than the law, and this is true regardless of your political ideology and of any political era that lies ahead, whether pre or post-revolutionary. . At this juncture, it is not clear what national policies will emerge in the com- ing decade which impinge upon the lives of women. If one stands back from the immediacy of our time, it is ironic that national policies may undergo a shift that will be out of joint with changes among women themselves. In the post- Sputnik decade of national concern for scientiﬁc and technical manpower, there was a widespread campaign to interest women in entry into the labor force. ‘This brief summary relies heavily on Sonia Pressman’s paper, “The Legal Revolution in Women’s Employment Rights,” (mimeo), a speech to a legal seminar presented by the Women’s Equity Action League, Cleveland, Ohio, December 5, 1969. 7A good review of the legal ituation confronting American women is Leo Kanowitz, Women and the Law.‘ the Unﬁnished Revolution-, University of New Mexico Press, 1969.
1072 From this perspective, government was serving as the spokesman for short- handecl employers desperately trying to meet their personnel needs. The 1960's were a decade of womanpower, that “last major reservoir of manpower” as the specialists put it. But my own research on career choice of women college grad- uates ﬁnds little expansion of career aspirations among young women in the mid 1960’s in the high status traditionally masculine ﬁelds, or any sharp upturn in aspirations for higher degrees. The roots of such choices lie in a wome:i’s child- hood and adolescence, and young women in the 1960s were formed by the turned- inward and highly domestic suburban era of the late 1940’s and 1950’s. The laws We have reviewed which serve to strengthen women’s economic rights were passed during this womanpower era. It is only in the past few years that Woman Power has emerged, younger women are showing all the signs of taking a skep- tical view toward conventional women’s roles anchored in domesticity and mar- riage, and beginning to -search for more meaningful involvement in non-family roles In other Words, expectations are rising, but what may lie ahead in the early 1970's is a reversal of national policy, as a brake is put on military expenditure, conservative political elements are in the ascendancy with a new-old cry that women belong in the home, instead of taking jobs away from men or making “outrageous” demands for maternity beneﬁts or child care facilities. At the same time, however, there will be mounting pressure for a national population policy, as the nation comes to the realization that high fertility is no longer functional but a decided threat to human well-being in an urban, dense society. We are witnessing the advance wave of this emerging pohcy with the unprecedented shift in opinion toward abortion in the United Statcs. Those of us who were working on this issue early in the 1960’s are now Loth gratiﬁed and disturbed by the ease with which total repeal of abortion laws looms as a coming reality, gratiﬁed because this represents the fruition of long hard effort at expanding the rights of women to control their own reproductive lives, but disturbed by the quite mixed motivations behind many who now permit or en- courage the passage of such repeal legislation. This concern stems not only from the fear that some political groups wish to curb the birth rate of the non-white population in the United Sta tes, but from quite another possibility: increased public dialogue on the undesirability of large families in the same period that there is shift in policy away from en- couraging women to seek signiﬁcant work in the economy, can have the effect of undercutting conﬁdence in the choice of life goals of a signiﬁcant proportion of the current younger generation of American women. It would be like putting them in a revolving door and spinning it madly, not permitting them casy entry or signiﬁcant work outside the home, and not permitting them to fulfill them- selves in a bountiful maternity inside the home. If our policies in the coming decade send out a message to young women that they should hold back on their fertility at the same time the economy cannot absorb their energies, the society may eventually pay a very heavy price indeed for such schizophrenic double bind message, in the form of a rise in alienation, escape into drugs, alcoholism or joy- less sex, or an ever greater tendency to live vicariously through their few children than American women are now doing, and that is already excessive. What I am saying, in eﬁect, is that we have yet to acquire a broad enough context in which to make coordinated policy that aifects the intimate lives of men and women. This is as true of government agencies as of radical libera- tion groups. I would like to think that women would themselves take the lead in calling attention to the human and humane dimensions of our lives in a broad context, rather than focusing on short-run, or merely politically expedient ac- tions. The clamor for example, of women's liberation groups at recent congres- sional hearings on the birth control pill was, in my judgment, ill-advised and based on mis-information. This is in no way to say that women should not have completely safe contraceptives, nor that more emphasis should not be put on male contraceptives, sterilization and abortion as acceptable medical procedures to control unwanted births. The point is that we do not halt small pox vaccina- tions because a dozen children die from them each year, or stop using anti- biotics because 500 users die a year, and by the same token, an element of risk in contraceptive pills is in and of itself, no basis for calling a halt to their manufacture and distribution. I am urging that we be more thoughtful and thorough in an analysis of a problem before rushing to the streets or into print with arguments that sound superﬁcially analytic but are in actuality political posturing.
1073 BEXUALITY This discussion ﬂows rather readily into a second problem area that I think merits and will receive increased attention as we move into the 1970's: research and education on the nature of human sexuality, and the implications of such research for the social roles of the sexes. Fifty years of acceptance of Freudian concepts of female sexuality will not be quickly undone by current research on the human sexual response, for psychoanalytic theories have penetrated deep into the modern scientiﬁc and artistic consciouness, and are reinforced a dozen times a day through commercial use in the attempt to sell everything from an Ohrbach’s dress to deodorants and detergents. What concerns me equally is to be spared another ﬁfty years of anti-Freudian polemics from the women’s movement. , It may serve unstated political ends, but is historically false and analytically simplistic, to claim that women’s sexual role reﬂects the bourgeois notion of man’s natural desire to possess and amass private property, or to charge that the second class citizenship of women merely reﬂects capitalist society’s need to make domestic slaves of women in one era or over-stimulated conspicuous con- sumers in another era.“ Marxist analyses of women and capitalism have an element of truth only if you substitute urbanization. and industrializa.tion for capitalism. It is not capitalism per se but industrialization that replaced the ancient human communities that provided men and women and their children with a creative social environment. As the communist nations have industrialized, the same hard pinch of double jobs is detectable in the lives of their employed married women, and the same loss of humane values in the work place. In the area of sexuality, there is little evidence that the relations between the sexes are particularly different in communist new nations than in western Europe or the United States. The major difference is merely one of intensity, for no country exceeds the United States in a media saturated with sex of an exploitative. male- dominant variety, typiﬁed so well by the infantile or cruel acts of physical rape that ﬁll so many pages of Norman Mailer.“ A number of radical feminist analyses in recent years begin with a good critique of the Freudian fallacies concerning female sexuality, building on the physi- ological research by Masters and Johnson.” Let us assume it to be established now, that there is no diﬁerentiation between a clitoral and vaginal orgasm, that the myth of women’s relative asexuality has been shown to be a biological absurdity, and further that women’s sexuality has been suppressed through gender role socialization that urges passivity and submission to men. Liberation group discussions of those points can be enormously helpful to the psychological release of the submerged sexual selves of many women, as I have been witness to in Baltimore. But one must also reckon with the fact that the Masters-Johnson research only illuminates the physiological dimension of human sexuality. It tells us nothing -about the non-sexual components of human sexual behavior. Despite the critiques of Freudian ideas of human psycho-sexual development, I have seen little as yet that suggests an alternative developmental theory, with the exception of recent work by John Gagnon and William Simon.“ I would suggest, for example, that more critical attention should be paid to two factors which bear upon sexual behavior in our society. Despite the current critique of Freudian concepts of sexuality, we ‘continue to view sex as an intense high pressure drive that constrains the individual to seek sexual gratiﬁcation either directly or in- directly. This view is apparent not only in psychoanalytic literature, -but sociological analysis -as well. Kingsley Davis, for example, considers sex a high intensity, social constant that must be channeled lest it ﬁnd expression in be- havior which threatens the maintenance of collective life. We talk about our modern “liberation” of sex from a tabooed topic to an openly discussed and dramatically projected experience. Part of the Freudian legacy. however, is that we have become extremely adept at weeding out the sexual ingredient in many forms of non-sexual behavior and symbolism, but rarely engage in what I 9 A notable exception, marked by numerous incisive comments, is Juliet Mitchell, “Women : The Longest Revolution,” New Left Review, Nov./Dec., 1969. “Mailer is thoroughly analyzed from this perspective by Kate Millett, Sczual Politics, Doubleday. 1970. 10 William Simon and John H. Gagnon, “Psychosexual Development,” in Gagnon & Simon. The Sexual Scene, Trnns
1074 _ . - - - - 1 ti of- think might be an equally fruitful analytic 1!1V€St1€at10n- an exam "3 0" sexual behavior for its capacity ltcli) (;1Xp1::«‘)ErS05I%Il1(&1InSee!I“i\é?1 nntl)1:ieIS1e>SK;1;1‘}e;nIf;E)1t ‘xfjerely I would suggest that the sexua e avi ‘t m ensations for a lack Sefxhlal iIr1iegt1i§:ef'0zlirI(-:(i::Eolf s'£‘?li:siSa:llCI?2hE?I‘ complicated by the 0 um « _ ' pressure on American adults to remain pegged rat an atdallescsanxgstggﬁsgﬁ
- 1075 potheses emerging from these early comparisons is that the men most resistant and i-n some cases almost hysterical about women‘s pressures for equal treatment in academia are men known to be sexually exploitative in their relations to women students. One such professor whose feathers were decidedly ruﬂied when the sociology women’s caucus displaced a luncheon meeting he was to speak at, complained prettily, with an expectation that it would ﬂatter rather than anger me, “but Alice, what is all the fuss about? There is always room in graduate departments for an extraordinary woman!” It was beyond his ability or willing- ness to understand my point that sex equ-a.lity in academia would not be achieved until there was room for as many women of “average” ability as there clearly is now for ‘‘average'’ men holding down academic appointments. My west coast colleagues believe that beneath the surface, men such as this are not able to relate to a woman colleague a-t the same or higher status rank and feel com- fortable only in su-perordinate positions from which they can dispense. their professional and sexual favors to lower status women students and colleagues. But the male backlash is bound to come, and there are beginning signs of it already. A male friend of mine sympathetic to the women’s movement recently sent me a xeroxed copy of a letter of recommendation to the chairman of his de- partment that illustrates this quite well. The applicant is an unmarried woman who had taught in the writer’s department and taken graduate courses with him. He wrote: “When Miss X arrived she was somewhat lacking in self-conﬁdence, uncertain, whether there was a place for her in sociology. Now she recognizes that she can, as a female, contribute to the ﬁeld without becoming a spinster or a swinger. I say this to emphasize that she is a mature person not swayed by the superﬁcial values so evident on campuses today. In short, she is not a participant in the Woman's liberation movement but a competent sociologist . . . She is neither seductive nor emasculating and will be a useful colleague." I am not citing such examples with any intention of dampening the ardor and the persistence of women’s active pressure for equal treatment in their workaday lives. but to simply point out that we must be prepared to have thick skins at least equal to those of our grandmothers in the suffrage movement and the socialist movements of an earlier day. We shall need every bit of sex solidar- ity we can garner to withstand it. At the same time, I am making a plea that we be critical of easy and simplistic formulas that are now so widespread either in analyses of the position of women or in programs aimed to improve that position. woMEN’s RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS That brings 1ne to another problem area that will confront the women’s move- ment in the 1970’s. It is apparent to all that there has already been a good deal of fractioning oif of splinter groups within the larger movement. We have WITCH, WEAL, Radical Feminists, FEW, NOW, WRAP, and there are un- doubtedly more to come. Listening to men, one senses some gleeful pleasure in seeing such sectarianism, with many people now viewing this as a dissipation of effort in a noisy ﬂzzle that will soon dry up. This need not be the case at all, so long as those who form a new group do not then expend their eifortts in fruit- less attacks upon the group they left or in imitation of styles of protest and pres- sure that seem rto get the most attention from the press. There i-s a sense in which diversity within a movement is a decided strength, for there is no one problem and no one solution to the kinds of changes necessary in American society to improve the status of women. Dialectic within the movement can beneﬁt us all. Some women’s liberation groups may be trying to recruit for a political revolu- tionary movement but ﬂnd some of their members graduating from a conscious- ness-raising series of group sessions to affiliation with a local NOW chapter. Reciprocally, many NOW chapters have lost members to the liberation groups. Women lawyers have on occasion separated from the more diffuse organizations, the better to focus their eiforts on campaigns that maximize their particular skills in seeking legal changes. Other groups may concentrate on guerrilla theatre or demonstrations protesting sex imagery in the media or beauty pageants. There is far more risk in frantically dissipating one’s efforts by doing a great variety of things that go against the grain of an indivldual‘s own style or particular abilities than there is in organizational splitting and concentration on a particular target for legal, political or economic change.
1076 »From my own eﬁforts in sociology, I think a good case can be made that a ﬁrst confrontation in a national professional association of ‘the factual situation facing graduate women students and women faculty is ﬁne, coupled with general demands for a profession to live up to the norms of social equality. Beyond this, eﬁorts should concentrate not on elaborate national organizational structure, but by breaking down to ta sk forces on departmental levels to exert local pressure on departments and universities where policy decisions must be reviewed and changed to improve the academic situation facing women students and faculty: To elaborate cross-discipline national organizations can be helpful in increasing communication among women in various ﬁelds, but organization should be minimal, or we shall be swamped in pointless bureaucratic detail and kept from maximizing our efforts on the leverage points in the organizations that employ us where pressure can be most effective. -A few side comments are pertinent concerning the relationship between the women's rights movement on the one hand. and the civil rights movement of black Americans on the other. I think there is serious danger that the essentially middle class women’s movement groups will be as guilty of misunderstanding the problems confronting black men and women today, as an earlier counterpart in the middle class suffrage movement in the 19th century misunderstood or was incapable of understanding the problems and political efforts of working class people. Our 19th century women's rights predecessors were also middle class, from the initial convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 right down through the century to the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920. Along the way there were isolated women's rights spokesmen like Henrietta Rodman and Crystal Eastman and Margaret Sanger who understood and were able to afﬁliate with working class women, but this was the exception rather than the rule. In recent years, many women in the women’s rights movement seem to have taken up with great moral righteousness the task of informing black women that they should avoid the trap of moving through the same series of mistakes that middle class women feel they have been subjected to in the past. The confer- ence on women last February at Cornell culminated in a dramatic session on the black woman in-America, in which the largely white middle class audience moaned and hissed and booed black women and men on a panel who spoke of the need for black women to give attention to the status of the black man and his position in the community. Renee Neslett of the Boston Black Panthers deﬁned the black woman as a strong person who can act independently and make deci- sions but most important of all, she was a woman with an ability to relate to men and who would do anything to help her man retain, or regain his manhood and insure the survival of her people. ' In reading the transcript of this session of the conference, I felt a deep sense -of anger and shame that -the middle class women in the audience had not ap- preciated the dliference in the relative position of the sexes among Whites com- pared to blacks in American society. John Do1lard’s description of caste in a southern town is as relevant today as three decades ago, when he pointed out that within the white caste, it is the man who is in the superordinate position, and within the black caste. it is the woman who is in the superordinate position. If black women, largely poor but still more advantageously placed in society than black men, have the humanity and dignity to focus their energies in helping to raise the self-esteem of their men, to realize as one of my black students put it, that the black female is no better than her man despite a history of educa- tional and economic superiority, then this is a very great tribute to black women in America, that is unfortunately not matched by a comparable ‘dedication on the part of white men toward their women. ~ Another aspect of this problem is that we do not realize the continuing‘ rele- vance of social class differences in the terms in which a problem is perceived and experienced as signiﬁcant. Abraham l‘.Iaslow’s need hierarchy thesis is‘ help- ful here, for it suggests that middle class women, whose physical needs for food, clothing and shelter and sheer security of person are relatively assured, are free to concentrate on a higher level of need in terms of self-fulﬁllment. A work- ing class person or group can not indulge in such luxury until the survival needs for essential life sustenance and social security have been met. I think, there- fore, that the middle class women’s rights movement can ﬁnd a collaborative’ working arrangement with black women only on the bread and butter issues of protecting economic rights. Beyond this, the white women's movement‘ should
1077' focus on trying‘ to deepen its understanding of the differences in the situations they confront in relation to men compared to those black women face. In the interim, we should try to understand, before we try to give advice. Listen for example, to a black poet's phrasing of the issue : blackwoman is an in and out rightsideup action-image of her man . . . in other (blacker) words; She’s together, if he bes. (Don Lee) Despite the optimists in our midst, or the pessimists who anticipate revolu- tion in the streets followed by a magical transformation to a state of sex equality, I think we are in for a long, hard, cultural, legal and political battle before we reach any goal of sex equality for black or white in this nation. It will scarcely be won by will-of-the-wisp quickie-action skirmishes, but by the steady, persist- ent beat of the hearts and work -of the minds of at least another generation. The vision I hope will be shared and the reality I hope will be lived by countless men and women in that future time, was well put by Elizabeth Barrett Browning in her poem Aurora Leigh, in which Aurora says: “The world wai-ts For help. Beloved, let us work so well, Our work shall still be better for our love And still -our love be sweeter for our work.” Keynote speech, Barnard College Conference on Women, April 17,1970 Reprinted from DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN: Hearings Held in Washington, D. C. -July 1 and 31, 1970-on Sec.805 of H.R.16098 This Reprint Produced by KNOW, INC. P. O. Box 10197 Pittsburgh. Pa. 15232 A non—profit Corporation founded to distribute articles like this. WRITE FOR REPRINT PRICE LIST