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Does feminism mean the same now as it did in the 60's and 70's?

(179 Posts)
Dinahmo Thu 30-Jul-20 14:24:37

Being the eldest of 4 with two younger brothers, feminism didn't enter into my head until I started work in 1966. At home we were all treated equally as regards schools, housework and pocket money. I had dolls but I also had "boys toys" such as a house building kit complete with blue prints and proper little bricks. I also had a large tin of my dad's meccano.

We went to state schools, unlike a friend whose brothers went to private school and she went to a grammar school. I think her mother thought that education was a waste for girls because they got married and had babies hence the state school. Over the years I've heard that from many friends. The head mistress of my friend's school had to persuade her mother to let her stay on at school for the 6th form. Then my friend wanted to become an accountant - heaven forfend! In those days you had to pay a fee in order to become an articled clerk. Luckily her father was persuaded to pay.

My father was very keen for me to go to uni but I just wanted to live in London and earn my own money. So, I got a job with an insurance company and I think that's when I first learned about inequality between men and women. I was doing the same work as the young men, studying for the insurance exams, just like them and that was when I found out that they were earning more than me.

The older men used to criticise my hair style. I used to go to Vidal Sassoon and the men used to ask when was I going to get a grownup hairstyle, ie a perm.

In 1970 I worked in the Chairman's department of the Electricity Council. How many of you remember Stirling Cooper? I had a couple of their outfits - jersey dresses with matching trousers which I wore for work. Until I was told we weren't allowed to wear trousers in the office. Being the type of person who used to splash the back of her legs when walking in the rain, I wasn't happy about that and so wore the trousers to work and took them off once I'd arrived in the building.

After that I worked for very small firms and eventually went into articles in the mid 70s. At that point the annual female intake was just 3% of the total but I was treated equally with the men and the salary was the same for the same level.

Thus, for the whole of my working life I don't think that I've suffered from inequality and I would consider myself to be a feminist. I'm aware that many women, especially those in more lower paid jobs don't always get paid the same as men who do the equivalent work.

When I read or hear young women talking about feminism now it doesn't seem like the same subject. When I hear of the things that some female undergrads get up to - pole dancing and going topless in bars I just don't get it. They seem to think that makes feminists.

Now it's over to you and I'm interested to hear your experiences.

paddyanne Thu 30-Jul-20 14:35:01

I believe feminism means choice,its that simple.It gives women the choice to do what they want on equal terms with men ,Like you I started out in a company that paid women a lot less than men .In fact by the time I was 19 I was running a department and training men to do my job and still paid less than they were.
My way of dealing with it was working for myself ,so when I was 21 my brand new husband and I both quit our jobs and started our own business.Women were paid the same once we actually had staff ,and no one was treated as anything other than a colleague and friend.I'm pleased to say that 45 years down the line we have stayed friends with the people who worked with us ..thats the key.. WITH US ,not for us and its often said they would come back and work with us again if we decided not to retire .Feminism has always meant different things to different people you can only apply it to your life as you see it .

trisher Thu 30-Jul-20 14:56:27

Feminism has of course come through stages of development - I've been watching Mrs America-so interesting to see how feminists were challenged in America. I am interested historically in the first wave feminists -women who wanted the vote.It is now largely remembered as a single cause movement but actually it held some very radical beliefs amongst them "Equal wages for equal work". Their purpose in gaining the vote and power was also to protect and care for the poor, particularly poor children. All beliefs which surfaced again in the 60 and 70s movement.
I think the difference between the young feminists I know now and those I knew before is that today's young women are nor just asking for equality with men but for things to change to provide a society which is more inclusive and less divisive. They see things, which I had always accepted, as problems and I am constantly being educated by them. Period poverty being one campaign I became involved in. One of the things being pointed out was that free contraceptives were available but sanitary protection was paid for and taxed. The tax has gone now thank goodness. Today's feminists don't ask just to be the same as men but to change society so that processes which are more inclusive can be adopted.
paddyanne I would imagine they would see your work situation as something they would applaud. It ties in well with the cooperative system as well

AGAA4 Thu 30-Jul-20 16:06:15

In the 60's I was paid less than the man I was training. I complained to my mum, who thought this was right as I would get married and be 'kept' by my husband.

Some feminists at the time thought this was little better than prostitution.

I had to leave my job when I was 28 weeks pregnant and you were not expected to work with a young child.

It took a lot of effort to persuade an employer to take me on
and a lot of personal questions were asked at interview.

Thank goodness for feminists, who have made life a bit more equal for women over the years.

Galaxy Thu 30-Jul-20 16:07:35

I think in some ways things are worse for young women, I dont think we can underestimate the effect that porn has on both women and men, I think its particularly disastrous for young women.
I think feminists were raising that issue back in the 70s and its fairly depressing that we are still talking about it.
I would say feminists are organising in a way that has given me hope.

Galaxy Thu 30-Jul-20 16:14:47

I think the campaign we cant consent to this is an example of feminists of today organising to protect womens rights.

Iam64 Fri 31-Jul-20 12:26:48

I've just finished watching Mrs America, which I enjoyed. It reminded me what a positive period the mid 70's into the 80s was for me and so many of my friends. We were active in unions , though that's one reason we decided to operate in women only spaces, the expectation that we were there to run the creche and brew the tea.
We began to operate in women's groups with one of our early projects being to fund raise for a Women's Refuge in our town.

I agree with Galaxy about the negative impact of porn on women and men. Feminists were raising that in the 70's and it is depressing that if anything it's become even more of an issue.

My daughters were stunned to learn that when my first child was born in the early 70's, there was no maternity leave. Also that women couldn't get a mortgage in their own name. We have made progress but recently with the shocking news about rape prosecutions and convictions being so low, it feels like we have to start again and make a noise!

growstuff Fri 31-Jul-20 12:55:17

My mother had a mortgage in her own name in the mid 1970s after she was divorced. I think that rule might have only been for married women.

growstuff Fri 31-Jul-20 13:08:49

I think feminism does mean something different today.

When I was younger, there were still differences in the way women were treated legally. For example, I was surprised to discover that if I had died while married, my widower wouldn't have been entitled to a pension (from my own occupational pension), but a widow would have been. Until the 1990s(?) women were treated as an addition to household income, although I always opted to be taxed and pay NICs in my own name.

To a great extent, the legal battle has been won. Nevertheless, there are still sexist attitudes in the workplace and the sticking point is that women are still regarded as the main child carers, so often lose out after they'd had children.

I sometimes think that feminism today lacks a focus and sometimes becomes identity politics. I also think (hard hat needed here) that some women don't want feminism and are the harshest critics of other women. I don't really understand why that is. Maybe they want to be chattels or maybe they get their kicks out of criticising other women for not being as "perfect" as they are.

Dinahmo Fri 31-Jul-20 13:09:09

In the late 80s, after moving to Suffolk, I applied for a job with
an housing association in Norwich. Probably 6 people on the interviewing panel, one of whom was a woman. She asked me what my OH thought about me driving to Norwich everyday. I was so shocked at that question that it showed in my voice when responding. I was also asked about children (I was 40 at the time). I knew that that type of personal question should not be asked by a prospective employer, especially one in the public sector. I didn't get the job.

growstuff Fri 31-Jul-20 13:15:03

trisher Picking up on your point about period poverty ... another practical issue which I don't think is addressed is the menopause in the workplace. With hindsight, I can see that it affected my performance at work and ultimately led to my early retirement. I wish I'd been able to be more open about it all and not try to soldier on as I did. I wonder if it accounts for the big spike in women in their fifties who are made redundant.

growstuff Fri 31-Jul-20 13:18:10

Dinahmo

In the late 80s, after moving to Suffolk, I applied for a job with
an housing association in Norwich. Probably 6 people on the interviewing panel, one of whom was a woman. She asked me what my OH thought about me driving to Norwich everyday. I was so shocked at that question that it showed in my voice when responding. I was also asked about children (I was 40 at the time). I knew that that type of personal question should not be asked by a prospective employer, especially one in the public sector. I didn't get the job.

I got a new job in 1986. At the time I was 31 and unmarried. I guess the employer thought I was a confirmed spinster. What he didn't know was that I was about to be married. When I turned up for work with a new surname, he made it very obvious that he was disappointed that I hadn't said anything. Presumably he thought I would be off on maternity leave within a year (I wasn't).

Galaxy Fri 31-Jul-20 13:51:39

I was on a recruitment panel recently where I had to stop a question about what should an employee do if their child rang the workplace. That question would on the whole impact women more than men and would impact single parents more than anyone. I think it's still there but much more subtle.

growstuff Fri 31-Jul-20 13:59:27

A agree. And I think because it's much more subtle (dogwhistle), it's very difficult to prove.

growstuff Fri 31-Jul-20 14:02:15

I

trisher Fri 31-Jul-20 14:10:13

growstuff I went to an event last year where that was being discussed. A woman called herself "Miss Menopause"- she does educational events about it www.missmenopause.co.uk
I thought it was valuable for the workplace but I disagreed with her solution which was to take HRT. I think if that is your personal decision it's fine but I'm never sure about drug solutions that seem to solve a problem when actually there are other ways of dealing with it.
There was a woman at the same event from an organisation called Pregnant then Screwed. She formed it when she lost her job because she was pregnant. Apparently it is now becoming more widespread to sack women half way through their pregnancy. They are then left jobless, trying to plan for their baby, and have to appeal the dismissal within 6 months, which they are often in no fit state to do. It is terrible how we think a problem is overcome but some firms and even charities try to wriggle out of it.

ladymuck Fri 31-Jul-20 14:10:36

As a teenager, I was quite content with the prospect of getting married and being a housewife and mother. However my parents had other plans and wanted me to have a career. I deliberately rebelled against them and stopped bothering with school work.
We are not all ambitious to prove ourselves equal to men. I married, had children, and was a stay at home wife and mother. It suited me perfectly, as it does many women.

Galaxy Fri 31-Jul-20 14:12:04

To answer your question about women and misogyny, I think it's much easier to play the game so to speak. Feminists are after all viewed in a particular way. It's easier to collude and hope that keeps you in favour so to speak. I without question did that as a young woman, so I try not to judge women, particularly young women too harshly, not easy thoughsmile

Oopsminty Fri 31-Jul-20 14:17:26

I must have lived in an alternate universe

I never thought that men had the upper hand

I had a fabulous life. Travelled alone. Lived abroad.

Quite surprised by all this

quizqueen Fri 31-Jul-20 14:19:11

I went into teaching at the beginning because it offered equal pay and opportunity and I expected my then husband to do equal housekeeping and childcare. However, I have never believed feminism means equality 'plus', so no extra time off, over and above what the men have, for caring responsibilities, school assemblies, dentist visits etc.

growstuff Fri 31-Jul-20 14:21:33

ladymuck

As a teenager, I was quite content with the prospect of getting married and being a housewife and mother. However my parents had other plans and wanted me to have a career. I deliberately rebelled against them and stopped bothering with school work.
We are not all ambitious to prove ourselves equal to men. I married, had children, and was a stay at home wife and mother. It suited me perfectly, as it does many women.

That was your choice. I hope you don't now expect to have a pension equal to men or women who have actually paid taxes and NICs all their working lives. I hope you're not one who ever criticises people "on benefits" when you have contributed almost nothing to the wider economy. I also hope you don't ever criticise women for making different choices and do want to do something in their own right.

And please don't tell me that looking after children was your contribution. Women who work outside the home do both and are still often seen as the main child carer, when there are problems such as ill children or non pupil days at school.

Hithere Fri 31-Jul-20 14:21:42

Feminism evolves with the times we live in.

Previous generations pave the way

growstuff Fri 31-Jul-20 14:24:18

Oopsminty

I must have lived in an alternate universe

I never thought that men had the upper hand

I had a fabulous life. Travelled alone. Lived abroad.

Quite surprised by all this

I don't know how old you are. I never regarded men as having the upper hand either. Legally, they don't. However, looking back, I can see they did - in many sometimes subtle ways.

growstuff Fri 31-Jul-20 14:37:20

quizqueen

I went into teaching at the beginning because it offered equal pay and opportunity and I expected my then husband to do equal housekeeping and childcare. However, I have never believed feminism means equality 'plus', so no extra time off, over and above what the men have, for caring responsibilities, school assemblies, dentist visits etc.

I never expected extra time off for caring responsibilities, etc - even when I was a single parent for 15 years.

However, (and I'm sorry if you don't like graphic detail) when my two extra thick pads were drenched with blood every hour and I had to keep going to the toilet, I did feel somewhat miffed when I was told off for turning up a few minutes late to do break duty, even though I explained the situation.

Looking back, I felt permanently fatigued and worn out for years and I had to be more resilient than men (as I expect many women are).

TerriBull Fri 31-Jul-20 14:48:03

The office place of the seventies and eighties could be quite a sexist place to work, some women colluded with that aspect though. One of the places I worked, the overall boss's secretary, was very old school, and actually suggested to the female members of staff "perhaps we could organise a rota with her to wash up the men's cups" I think she heard me when I muttered under my breath "organise a rota with yourself", anyway the consensus among us was "they aren't helpless they can do it themselves, if you want a life of servitude at work then that's up to you" Strange woman seemed to enjoy running around after her boss like a blue arsed fly hmm

I also remember it could be a quite a horrible atmosphere as far as sexual innuendo and unwanted remarks were concerned. However, taking all that into account I'm not sure that girls today don't have it worse if they are young and acquiesce to male demands, as it seems some do. Demands that are often driven on by pornography and being young and susceptible they can be coerced into allowing sexual images to be taken which are subsequently passed on without consent and then used as a form of control. On the subject of control, I often think there has been a retrograde downward trajectory in the power that certain communities wield over their girls and women. This wasn't something I was aware of back in the 60s/70s and 80s, maybe individual cases, but not a wholesale scale. To me is absolutely paramount than women have control over their own lives.