Guardian article about feminism 'failing' had me spitting feathers.

(77 Posts)

Yes, I'm aware it's predictable shit, but really?!

www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/mar/31/gender-pay-feminism-working-class

So, essentially, ,most women who worked for 12 years before the Equal Pay Act in 1970 are hugely worse paid over their careers than men, and than the tiny number of women who graduated with degrees in 1958.

This, apparently, is all feminism's fault, cos you know everyone really tried hard to exploit the vast majority of women. The nice patriarchial system just employed them on shit wages and made it perfectly ok to pay them less than men ... that hardly compares to the evil of feminism whereby some small number of women (the hussies!) made it and got paid substantially more than most women. Let's search out that tiny minority and burn them, right?

Honestly.

This article is one level up from the sort of idiocy where people believe the moon landings were faked. Except I expect it isn't idiocy really, it's someone deliberately taking a pop at feminism, isn't it? sad

I don't know quite how explain this ... but what I thought reading your post, duchesse, is that there's a worry about people taking these correlations between low qualifications and having children at a young age, and saying 'well, that's it, we must stigmatize young mothers'. I don't mean you're saying that (!), but it seems to be the way that society has tried to solve this one recently. Which is obviously really problematic.

I think there should be more acknowledgement that, when it's women with few qualifications having children at a young age, there's a generation of absent men, isn't there?

duchesse Mon 01-Apr-13 17:42:41

My MIL is a 1960 graduate (Cambridge, maths). She wanted to become an accountant (but frankly nowadays would have made a bloody killing as a stockbroker) but decided under social pressure to become a teacher instead (a far more suitable job for a woman). She was from a WC/LMC background and got a county scholarship to an independent school followed by a scholarship to Cambridge. She's had a very successful life but would rather have followed her dream than become a teacher.

That is really interesting (and sad for your MIL). I wonder how many other women were in that situation? I know a couple of women who graduated in the early 1970s and neither had children though they both regret it. I am not saying that to promote the whole dull idea that all women want babies - but these particular women felt that they weren't even allowed that choice because they'd got degrees. I think it must've been a huge amount of pressure to 'succeed' (and 'success' being defined in a very narrow way).

Btw, your MIL sounds amazing!

duchesse Mon 01-Apr-13 17:49:18

That's absolutely not how I meant it! Of course not. BUT if a very young woman has a baby, it's often with a very young man... And possibly utterly devoid of the maturity to embark on the long-term project of parenting. With all the possibilities that flow from that for the woman in the equation. And of course the parenting ought to be done by both parents, but if a woman does end up alone, then she needs to have support if she's to bring up her children and forge her own place in society at the same time. Some women alone with their children are fortunate to have a lot of support from their families. Many are not.

I do think that the twin issues of education (which is used as a "tool" in the developing world to limit the birth rate, so effective is it at pushing up average age of first child) and trustworthy affordable childcare must surely improve the lot of all families and more importantly of (as the situation stands at the moment) all women.

Oh, no! I know you didn't ... that's why I was saying I didn't know how to put what I was thinking. It just seems to be the way society responds to this issue.

I agree with you about the reasons why women end up alone. It's just a horrible situation all round.

I agree about education and trustworth affordable childcare.

I guess what I was getting towards thinking was the way there basically isn't a 'good' time for a woman to have children, as far as society sees it. In your teens, people expect the bloke to leave and it's the girl's responsibility. Same often in your early 20s. In your mid-late 20s you're trying to get a foot on a career ladder and even if you have a supportive partner, if he's about the same age, he may well not be able to subsidize childcare. And then when you get into your 30s it may be harder to leave an established career, and the further into your 30s you get the more you're risking not being able to have children. There just isn't a good time so I think the focus on young mothers, which our society has, is misplaced. It's more obvious why a teenage mother might struggle, but I'm wondering if maybe the struggles of a woman who ends up trapped in a relationship doing the donkeywork, is actually not much better off?

javabean Mon 01-Apr-13 18:01:19

The article says "women with a degree born in 1958", so I take that to mean those who started uni around 1976, and graduated around 1979-80. I guess there is a big difference in the numbers between 1960 and 1980?

The "feminism has failed" line annoyed me too, but I didn't read the article thinking it was blaming all the high earning women for the "failure". Rather just pointing out that conditions for high earning women have improved faster than for those lower earners. And it is easy I think, if you're doing well, to believe that everyone else is too, and overlook the fact that things aren't changing as fast for low-earners.

FWIW, I think the barriers for high-earning women are different to those for low-earners. And those who are high-earners are more likely to be the ones who are demanding more from employers and changing the way women work. Which is all well and good, but not much use to low-earners if the more vocal are changing things that don't actually help them.

Ah, ok ... I could have sworn it didn't actually say that when I read it this morning. confused

I'm not nit-picking, just could have sworn.

Even so, I would imagine the numbers are still fairly small. My mum would be in the late 70s generation, and it is still a very small number of women (or men for that matter) who went to university. And by the late 70s, it certainly wasn't the case that working-class people didn't go, either, so in some ways it's a worse argument by then.

I agree about the differences between low and high earners.

javabean Mon 01-Apr-13 18:10:32

Could well have said something different this morning - the Guardian are always changing their articles when they get things wrong!

My DM and MIL were both working-class women who went to university around that time, and I think you're probably right that the actual number of people who went to uni was still small then. But I wonder if the male/female proportion was any better than in 1960? Do you have any figures?

No, I may well have misread it.

I think the proportion was still pretty poor in the 1970s. I read a really interesting book about women at Oxbridge (and I'm sure that was a special case back then as it is now), but back then there were something like 8 women's colleges and about 50-60 for men, so you can imagine the proportions! I believe that numbers of women going to university were still pretty out of whack with numbers of men across the board, but I don't have figures. I will try to look.

I know the number of people who went was still small - it's only really recently they tried to get 50% going.

Ok, I hope this works.

If you click this link www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=women%20men%20university%201980%20proportion&source=web&cd=4&ved=0CEkQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.parliament.uk%2Fbriefing-papers%2Fsn04252.pdf&ei=zMBZUc3hPOqr0QXP6oGIDA&usg=AFQjCNHR_H7QHnRNuGrRWUA5sOsZp3Mvig&sig2=FdDmMC0z2ebHY5BMqpukkg&bvm=bv.44442042,d.d2k

And scroll to p. 14, there is a graph of numbers of people in Higher Education from 1919-2009. The graph climbs quite a bit between 1958 and 1980, but much more sharply thereafter.

SatsukiKusukabe Mon 01-Apr-13 18:22:49

that's interesting about your brother and sil lrd, did they go looking for that situation or fall in to it? It would also mean a safe wage if one partner got ill or needed more time at home for family commitments or even breast feeding.

They went looking, but they weren't expecting to find anything quite as neat as a job share - they were hoping to find two jobs at the same place or within commuting distance really. But as you say, it's a really safe job because they knew that if my SIL had another baby, my DB could simply take on more hours, or if my DB ended up doing more childcare my SIL could pick up the slack.

I think it would be great to see more of this. I don't know how practical it would be but you'd think retail would be a good area for it.

duchesse Mon 01-Apr-13 18:45:31

Cambridge had three undergraduate women's colleges in 1957 when my MIL went- Newnham, Girton and the very new New Hall. Girton is now co-ed, as are all the previously men's colleges. My own college only went co-ed less than 10 years before I went there and the m/f ratios were 3/1 even in 1987.

javabean Mon 01-Apr-13 18:47:34

From the figures written underneath that graph, it seems that the proportion of people going to uni has approximately doubled every 20 years, so a rough guess for 1980 is 11% of the population. And basing on 8 women's colleges vs 60 men's, I'd guess at 10% of those at uni being women vs 90% men. i.e. approx 2% of women went to university in 1980 vs 20% of men.

Not that it's terribly relevant to this thread, but the last-but-one Oxbridge college to go mixed (a women's college at Oxford went mixed a couple of years back) only admitted women in 1987, and students carried coffins through the halls as a protest when they were let in. hmm

I started out saying that this article was idiotic because such a small proportion of women went to university and they were being blamed for feminism failing. Now I'm thinking I doubt it was terribly different for those women anyway!

javabean Mon 01-Apr-13 19:19:43

X-posted with duchesse smile Even if I revise my 2% figure upwards a bit, we're still only talking about maybe 3-4% of women born in 1958 going to university and being the 'skilled' ones talked about in the article.

Just reread the article, and I'm suspicious of the stats. They claim that there is a difference of just 45% in pay between men with a degree born in 1958 and their unskilled counterparts. Really?? I don't believe that at all - surely it's much larger for men too? And this 45% figure, compared with 198% for women, is the stat behind the headline.

Surely there are more high-flying CEOs and execs amongst the men from that generation, than from the women? That would make the pay disparity between the skilled/unskilled men more than for the women? But, without reading the actual report, it's hard to say what exactly they're reporting on.

I assume they're taking some kind of average for men who didn't go to university and men who did, hence the 45% figure. That's my issue with them referring to these groups as 'working class' and 'not working class'. I would think not having a degree was no indicator of class at all. I'm not sure if it ever has been really - though I do see that at some point after someone gets a degree, they might get into a kind of lifestyle that would mean they no longer identified as working class.

Sorry, I didn't find the original report but I will have a look now.

bigkidsdidit Mon 01-Apr-13 19:24:09

have you seen they're asking for a panel to discuss this now?

here

shall we all volunteer?

I'm not working class but I really would love to see someone from MN do that!

bigkidsdidit Mon 01-Apr-13 19:27:36

well no, me neither...

I might send it to my mum, who I believes identifies as WC because she remembers her Co-op number, although she did graduate in 1975.

javabean Mon 01-Apr-13 19:31:21

The report is here for anyone interested

www.ippr.org/images/media/files/publication/2013/03/great-expectations-gender-equality_Mar2013_10562.pdf

and the relevant stats are on page 21. Haven't read it yet thoroughly yet though.

Both of my parents were from the generation where if you stayed on past 16 you would think of yourself as having stopped being 'working class'. Whereas I think now it is more something to be proud of, for my dad it was something not to admit to. I suppose maybe that is how they came to that peculiar use of working class in that article, but I still think it's rubbish.

I can't find the original survey because I am shit at googling, but maybe someone else can. blush

Ah, there we go!

Thanks java, you're a star. I will read.

grimbletart Mon 01-Apr-13 19:39:58

The numbers graduating in 1980 (from the same table as the 1960 ones I put upthread) were:
First degree: 68,150, of which women were 25,319;
Higher degree: 18,925, of which women were 4,511.

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