WMST-L logo

Have Women Achieved Equality?

Some students claim that women may have been discriminated against in the
past, but now "men and women are equal in every area of life."  The 
following 3-part WMST-L discussion from July 1998 offers thoughts and strategies
for dealing with this assertion.  For additional WMST-L files available 
on the Web, see the WMST-L File List.

Date: Mon, 13 Jul 1998 07:52:53 +0000
From: AnaLouise Keating <AnnLouise.Keating @ ENMU.EDU>
Subject: Women, Politics, & Progress
Each year, when I teach Intro to WS, I have at least one student (& usually
many more) insisting that men & women are now equal in every area of life.
And so, to stimulate discussion & (hopefully) challenge that misconception,
I'm looking for accessible articles that discuss gender disparities in
politics & government.
Please respond to me privately, at analouise.keating  @  enmu.edu
Thanks in advance.
AnaLouise Keating
Date: Mon, 13 Jul 1998 12:52:43 -0500
From: Melisa Summy <summyma @ MIAVX1.ACS.MUOHIO.EDU>
Subject: Re: Women, Politics, & Progress
    Actually, this is a problem in many freshman courses.  I teach a
combination composition/introduction to critical thinking course at my
university and my students insist that sexism and racism might have been a
problem before the 60's, but now they no longer exist.  I get students
while they are in their first semester of college.  I would like to
know how other instructors approach and address this issue and what
articles they would suggest.  I haven't read *The Gender Knot* yet, but
plan to soon.  Like AnaLouise, I want articles that address the
legal, financial, and policy disparities between men and women.  Most of
my students are business or science majors, so they want statistics
in front of them before they will acknowledge a problem.  Dollar
amounts and percentages particularly impress them.  Any suggestions
would be greatly appreciated.
Melisa Summy
Department of English
Miami University
Oxford, Ohio 45056
summyma  @  miavx1.muohio.edu
Date: Mon, 13 Jul 1998 14:11:25 -0400
From: Jaime Grant <jgrant @ TUI.EDU>
Subject: Re: Women, Politics, & Progress
    I think that these students are often encouraged to be in denial about
their own experiences of the persistence of sexism and racism.  I start my
women's studies courses off with a CR group a the end of day one in which I
ask them to think back to the first time they were told -- by a parent, a
teacher,  a religious institution, a recreational institution, etc. that
they could not pursue certain kinds of behavior or activity because they
are a "girl" and the said behavior or activity is not appropriate for them.
 I take about five minutes to lay this possibility out, slowly,
methodically, suggesting examples from previous classes.  For two years,
98% of the women in the class came up with examples out of their own lives
 only one or two out of the class couldn't come up with any example.  This
opens the class with students using their own lives as a crucial frame of
    Similarly, I think it's important for us as teachers to use examples out
of our lives on the persistence of racism and sexism rather than distant
"stats" -- although these can be useful.  I use examples like the fact that
I never have to show ID at the local pharmacy when writing very large
checks for expensive prescriptions.  I'm white and I live in a
predominantly Black neighborhood.  Everyone else in line is asked for ID.
 When I try to get a cab for work in the morning, cabbies will do a u-turn
in the middle of the street rather than pick up a man or a woman of color
in their path.  I consistently have a hard time recognizing and
distinguishing my neighbors of color when I'm first introduced to them --
and I never have this problem with my white neighbors.  Despite years of
conscious work against racism, I still conflate people of color into a
"mass" identity that makes it hard for me distinguish individuals in my
early interactions.  (I especially think giving our own examples of the
persistence of our own racist ideas/behaviors helps students open to the
possibility that some of these things persist in for them as well.)
    How many tenured women are at the University I teach in?  How many tenured
people of color?  How many folks of color in top leadership positions?
 What's the racial/gender make-up of the board?
    What is the students' experience of how they are treated on campus in
terms of the seriousness of their career plans and their dreams -- relative
to the seriousness that the young men in their lives are met with?  What is
their experience of dating from a "subject" position as opposed to a
"helpmeet" position?  What's the far edge of acceptability for female
sexual agency on campus and how does this line up with mores on male sexual
agency?  Who's running the student government?  The newspaper?
    Sticking to what's right in front of us is the best way to go in my
opinion.  When my students told me one semester that their white male
friends were anti-affirmative action, I asked them to ask their friends if
they'd like to trade places with them in the job market -- that is, with
their skill base remaining the same,  would they prefer to be in women's
bodies (white or of color) in their climb to the "top" or in male bodies --
this created an entirely new conversation between them.  None of the young
men thought that being in women's bodies would be an advantage.  My
students didn't have a single taker.  Instead of drawing on abstract
concepts, these women got down to brass tacks with their peers in a
    Just my $.02.  I do like to use stats on male ownership of land,
percentage of men in Congress, running US universities, managing partners
at the top 100 law firms, etc.  But I think the closer we get, the better.
Date: Mon, 13 Jul 1998 13:53:32 -0500
From: Amanda Putnam <aputnam @ UNLINFO.UNL.EDU>
Subject: denial of sexism/racism in WS classes
I like the points Jaime Grant made about this thread.
It seems to me many undergraduates still struggle with the idea of racism
they define it solely as "extreme" hate acts by extreme racists: KKK, the murder
in Texas, and other glaring pieces of evidence of racist behavior..
However, I think it is important to remind students about the spectrum of
acts/ideas/violations that are encompassed in this one word "racism." By
recognizing that we (in English) have one primary word to use to describe
violations ranging among
1. lynchings, KKK, and dragging a man to death behind a truck to  . . .
2. housing and work discrimination, "jokes" which target specific people of
to . . .
3. walking across the street, locking car doors, and/or looking away to avoid
people of color. . .
helps students realize that, while they (hopefully) may not be engaged in
"extreme" hate acts, they may engage in other forms of racism . . . which are
as crucial to recognize.
I think this same kind of definition/expansion of the word "sexism" could help
My $.02.
Amanda Putnam
Division of Continuing Studies
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Date: Mon, 13 Jul 1998 11:49:30 -0700
From: Sandra D Shattuck <shattuck @ U.ARIZONA.EDU>
Subject: Re: Women, Politics, & Progress
On Mon, 13 Jul 1998, Melisa Summy wrote:
> plan to soon.  Like AnaLouise, I want articles that address the
> legal, financial, and policy disparities between men and women.  Most of
> my students are business or science majors, so they want statistics
> in front of them before they will acknowledge a problem.  Dollar
> amounts and percentages particularly impress them.  Any suggestions
> would be greatly appreciated.
There's a great publication by Routledge called Teaching for Diversity and
Social Justice: A Sourcebook, edited by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell,
and Pat Griffin (NY: Routledge, 1997) that has a "Sexism Curriculum
Design" for chapter 7 (this chapter is authored by Diane Goodman and
Steven Schapiro). Appendix 7B is the "Status of Women Quiz," which
provides all the statistics and dollar amounts any women's studies faculty
could ever wish for in order to prove that gender inequality is alive,
kicking, and in many instances, horrifically huge. I took the quiz and was
dismayed at some of my answers compared to the stats. For instance,
question #11: "In the United States, fathers currently owe mothers _____
dollars in unpaid child support." I smugly answered 3 billion, thinking I
had it covered. The answer was 24 billion. The statistics are compiled by
Diane Goodman from sources such as WAC Stats: The Facts About Women
(Women's Action Coalition) and The American Woman.

Sandra D. Shattuck
shattuck  @  u.arizona.edu
Date: Mon, 13 Jul 1998 21:14:44 +0200
From: Jutta Zalud <jutta.zalud @ MAGNET.AT>
Subject: Re: Women, Politics, & Progress
Dear, AnaLouise Keating,
I enclose my response to an American student who asked a similar
question some time ago.
As to accessible articles: in Ms. there was an
article about what women have reached during the past 25 years and what
they have not reached yet. It was in the 25th-anniversary-number last
year (Vol 8 No. 2, Sept./oct. 1997)
What regards international politics/international relations both books
by D'Amico and Beckmann are easy to read for beginners.
Beckmann, Peter R., Francine D'Amico (eds.), Women, Gender and World
Politics: Perspectives, Policies and Prospects; Westport (CT), London:
Bergin & Garvey, 1994. (this one is about why women's perspective is
important and about feminist theory/ies)
D'Amico, Francine, Peter, R. Beckman, Women in World Politics; Westport
(CT), London: Bergin & Garvey, 1994. (and this one is about more and
less famous female ploliticians)
You can also find useful information at the homepage of the
Interparlamentary Union (eg the number of women in parliaments
worldwide,  the times when women got the vote etc) http://www.ipu.org/
 And you can also try at the U.N. women page:
Concerning the situation in the U.S. you will certainly find something
at  NOW's homepage - I think it is http://www.now.org
Hope this helps,
Best regards,
Jutta Zalud

Subject: Women still dominated? (was: Re: B.a.B.e.)
      Date:            Mon, 12 Jan 1998 09:15:20 -0800
      From:            Jutta Zalud <bwj  @  aon.at>
  Reply-To:            femisa  @  csf.colorado.edu
<femisa  @  csf.colorado.edu>
References:            1
This discussion may go on for some time. If listmembers feel that we
should continue it privately, please don't hesitate to tell.
Dear Deon,
I agree with you that some arguments in feminist theories perpetuate the
image of female inferiority/helplessness/weakness instead of overcoming
it. And we should be very careful in chosing our words so that we don't
add to this process.
I also agree that many women in the US and in most parts of Europe are
not terribly "supressed" and have nearly equal opportunities to men (at
least when they have no or few children or can pay their own nannies).
Yet we must not forget that a) this is not the case everywhere (just
think of Afghanistan to take one of the worst examples), b) that social
conditions even in our countries (yours and mine and in others I know)
are so that many women just don't get the idea that they could take
"men's jobs" so to be better paid and lead economically independent
lives and that men and women think that certain roles are "natural" for
men and other for women. And we must analyse why this is so.
As to women in IR more specifically: of course, when you participate in
a list like femisa or go to feminist book-stores you will have the
impression that everybody talks/writes/searches about women. Just read
some non-feminist stuff for a change and you will realise that "women"
are not of great concern to most writers.
As to female leaders in international politics:
Cynthia Enloe once wrote that one of the most useful functions of
Margaret Thatcher was that she made us aware of the fact that all the
other persons around her (eg at the Venice summit) were men. (Bananas,
Beaches & Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics) I
think  that this is still true.
In 1996 ten out of more than 150 foreign ministers where women (I
counted that myself, there may have been some fewer of more). In many
other functions women also represent about 10 per cent or even less (I
can give you more numbers I have collected if you want to). Do you think
that a 10 per cent participation means "nearly equal"? There may be a
gender-bias in that assumption too.
As to literature: I liked Cynthia Enloe's books very much ("Bananans,
Beaches & Bases", but even more "The Morning After: Sexual Politics
After the End of the Cold War"). If you want I can tell you about a lot
more books I read on the subject.
I'd like to hear your comments on this, Deon. But as stated above, it
may be better to continue privately.
Best regards,

For information about WMST-L

WMST-L File Collection

Top Of PageNext Page