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

(77 Posts)

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

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?


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

Mmm. The report is kinda saying the opposite of what the journalism about it (not just in the Guardian) says. hmm

Gotta admit I am amused it was funded by L'Oreal. With their sparkling track record for lack of sexism. To be fair, I doubt this is their kind of sexism, though.

The way the study puts it is this: 'Controlling for education, social class, geography and whether or not and at what age respondents had children, our analysis of full-time workers shows that women born in 1958 were, at the age of 41–42, expected to earn almost 35 per cent less than men born in the same year. This figure fell to 29 per cent for women born in 1970, asked at age 38–39. ...

A man born in 1958 was likely to earn 14 per cent more for holding a degree (asked at age 41–42), while a man born in 1970 was likely to earn 17 per cent more for holding a degree (at age 38–39) (see annex 1, table A1.5). A woman born in 1958 was likely to earn nearly 34 per cent for holding a degree. This declined slightly for women born in 1970, who could expect to earn 32 per cent more than women without a degree (table A1.5). This shows that a degree benefits a woman more than it benefits a man, although the gap has closed. ...

Although a woman enjoys a higher premium for a degree, she still earns much less than her male counterparts. Holding everything else equal, a woman without a degree born in 1958 was expected to earn about 52 per cent of the amount a man withouta degree earns, based on weekly wages, while a woman with a degree was expected to earn about 71 per cent of a male graduate’s wage (table A1.5). Among the 1970 cohort, women without a degree could expect to earn 59 per cent of a (non-graduate) man’s wages, while a female graduate could expect to earn 75 per cent of man’s wage'

And, crucially given what we're saying on this thread: 'This analysis is based on full-time workers, but the pay gap between full-time and part- time workers is much larger (over 36 per cent, compared to 10–15 per cent for full-time workers) and has hardly fallen at all over the last 30 years.'

'Between 1971 and 1993, a massive 93 per cent of the total increase in women’s employment was in part-time work, and the proportion of women working part- time increased from one-third in 1971 to almost half (46 per cent) by 1993 ... The proportion of women in part-time work has since fallen to 39 per cent, but this is still the third-highest rate in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Deveopment (OECD), behind only the Netherlands and Switzerland.

While part-time work in other northern European countries has been used as a tool to retain workers and promote a healthy family life ... In a survey of 22 workplaces across England, Grant et al (ibid) found that the main motivation for employers in taking on part-time workers was to keep wage costs down and deploy staff flexibly.

They also make this a interesting point (in view of that claim that feminism is to blame for dual-income households/high mortgages): 'the shift from an industrial to a service economy was also associated with a decline in the employment and earning prospects of men, particularly those with lower levels of education. For some families, therefore, dual-earning came to reflect a financial necessity, not simply changes in attitudes and aspirations among women. In many parts of the country, relatively well-paid jobs in manufacturing have been replaced by low-paid, low-skilled jobs in the private service sector, carried out largely by women on a part-time basis.'

The report is actually very up-front about the patriarchy being the reason for women and especially working-class women struggling:

*'The average time men spend on housework and particularly childcare has risen since the 1970s, but this has occurred mostly among men with higher levels of education. In recent years, moreover, the time women spend on childcare has also increased. ... Despite some improvements in family policy
in recent years, the combination of a relatively long period of maternity leave, meagre paternity leave, and a lack of affordable childcare for children under the age of three tacitly supports a male breadwinner model.*'

I hope it's ok to make such a long post of quotations, they're just the ones I found really interesting in light of the Guardian article, and I've only read part of it so far.

Thanks again for the link.

javabean Mon 01-Apr-13 20:05:10

I searched for the word 'fail' in the report, and nowhere can I find a suggestion that feminism has failed. It does however mention that feminism has always been criticised for focusing on the elite. The best I can find says

"Our findings suggest that mainstream debates often fail to reflect the everyday struggles and compromises that face women in the modern economy and society. We argue that the focus on individual empowerment and women at the top can obscure the greater need to build the collective power of women to shape the world they live in"

And I think it's valid to criticise feminism for focussing on the elite, or on the middle classes, isn't it?

I also thought some of the points about 1970s feminism focussing on women in high-paid jobs was being gently criticised - not because the authors seemed to be suggesting it was wrong, but that they seemed to me to be saying that there are ever more difficulties for women in very low paid jobs and we need to concentrate on that. That's why I found the bit about increasing numbers of women working part-time interesting. And the bit about there being fewer jobs for working-class men in, say, manufacturing, but more jobs for women in retail.

javabean Mon 01-Apr-13 20:10:57

Posted too soon!

I can't see how that statement translates into "feminism has failed for the working classes", it's more of a criticism of 'the mainstream' (the media??) for focusing on successful women and the issues they face rather than the issues faced by the majority of women.

YY, I agree.

javabean Mon 01-Apr-13 20:24:49

But does feminism focus on the elite or the middle classes? It's true that many women who have power and who champion change happen to be the elite, but that's because they have risen to a position where they have a platform to speak. Your average working-class women isn't going to be listened to on a large scale (neither is your average working-class man). But other issues (childcare, benefits, education, housing, flexible working, lack of status for carers) are often in the media, and these are the issues that do affect low-earners. Often they're not talked about from a feminist viewpoint, but they are key issues for working-class women.

I think feminism does focus on the middle classes, but because of the reasons you give, not because it's some kind of conspiracy. I agree lots of issues affect women across the board. But it's hard to talk about things that you don't know about, isn't it? There is a lot of focus on the old 'don't have babies, go to university, get a career' model.

KRITIQ Mon 01-Apr-13 22:12:18

I haven't read the article, but thanks for the link further up. I noticed there was no byline - just PA, so immediately I started to smell something fishy. After the BBC piece on Keir Starmer's report on rape, which highlighted the OPPOSITE of what the report showed, I wondered if the article was just spin that didn't reflect the substance.

Geez, you have got to watch out for this ALL the time now. I'm guessing the study itself barely mentions feminism, let alone "blames" a political movement for anything at all. That's just the PA editorial line. Sad thing is, I worry that most folks (of all classes, if I may) don't read media content with a critical eye, so won't even blink at the so-called "conclusions."

Indeed. sad

When I searched for it, there were loads of articles in all the papers about it - none I could see being particularly accurate.

FloraFox Mon 01-Apr-13 22:31:22

I haven't read all of the article but I can't help but be struck by the introductory two sentences:

"Arguably, feminism has been one of the most successful movements the UK has ever seen. The women’s liberation movement challenged assumptions about the role and ability of women in society, and led many women to broaden their own aspirations and expectations of life."

So far I don't see any statement that feminism "has failed working class women" either in the report or in the quotes from IPPR. This was in quotes in the headline and in the first line of the article. Looks like pretty shoddy journalism.

KRITIQ Mon 01-Apr-13 22:31:58

It all makes me a bit paranoid about talking to the press these days, (to be fair, I always have been!) and it must be infuriating when you do a piece of research or write a report, all very carefully and clearly worded with your conclusions and recommendations, only to have the media portray it as they damned well please. Gah!

YY, that sentence set the tone of the whole thing flora. I am about 3/4 the way through now (had to stop to watch GoT! grin), and it is very positive about feminism and very interesting, lots of quotations from women they interviewed.

It is disturbing how many articles have twisted the message or focussed on issues that are already familiar, rather than the actual findings that they're emphasizing.

kri - oh, heck yes, must be! I wish they could read this thread - I'd tell them it's brilliant and a fascinating read.

javabean Mon 01-Apr-13 23:08:45

Am also depressed at the complete misrepresentation of the original report! The sad thing is, if it weren't for this thread I probably wouldn't have looked in more detail, and would have thought the Guardian article reflects what was actually said.

But, I do think in part it shows how you really need to be clear and concise when summarising your work for others to read. Their abstract/intro is just a bit too long and wordy to really lend itself to being easily reported on. Not that I think that excuse absolves the journalist, but I've seen lots of links to long wordy reports recently where they don't make clear what they're trying to say.

LRD can you summarise the report? I don't think I'll get through the whole 71 pages!

Um ... I can, but I'll finish reading it first and that will be tomorrow by now! grin

I thought it was well written, but I take your point the intro isn't brilliant (they've C&Pd bits, too, which makes for disorienting reading IMO, as you come across the same sentences later on in the paper).

Darkesteyes Tue 02-Apr-13 22:11:57

Sorry but i feel i have to point this out....
When Xenia comes on to threads and makes comments like how all single mums on benefits should be made to do workfare, it adds fuel to the fire of articles like this one.

True. The same is true of a lot of anti-feminist commentators. But they're entitled to their say.

LynetteScavo Tue 02-Apr-13 22:26:40

I posted a long post once about how feminism isn't filtering down to working class women. (Sorry, that sound very derogatory, and it's not meant to.)

Feminism isn't touching the working class in the same way it is touching the middle class, and even upper class.

I'm not for one moment saying it's feminism fault that working class women are not on an equal footing with men. But the fact is that they aren't in the same way that way that middle and upper class women are. They question feminist should be asking is; why not?

snowshapes Wed 03-Apr-13 12:28:11

>>The question feminist should be asking is; why not?<<

That seems to me to be the point of this report, though. The Guardian piece is a misrepresentation of the original, which seems interesting and well-argued, and which I will read through properly.

I don't think it is fair to say that feminism has failed, it is more the case that equality is an on-going project and there are differences of opinion and views about what it should look like. There is an interesting point, which I only just skimmed at the moment, about the rise of neoliberalism, which in some ways, diluted the political strength of feminism - that is, the idea that legislatively, we have equality, so therefore it is up to the individual how they get along, ignoring class and social barriers (which are not put there by feminists). So, certainly the argument is much more complex than simply saying middle class women have benefitted at the expense of the working classes. The point may be true, but the reasons are more complex than simply blaming feminism.

That said, the suggestion that feminism was simply boardroom representation and the 'have it all' generation seems odd. This is a period where the rights to reproductive autonomy and things like that have, or should have, benefitted all women. If they have not, then again the question is why not?


The link doesn't work any more, it comes up with a 404 error. confused

However, I read most of it.

It didn't say feminism has failed and it certainly didn't say it's failed because of too much focus on gender equality. hmm

To be honest, the strongest themes were things I think most people on here would be familiar with, they're things we talk about a lot. They'd interviewed women across three generations in several areas of the country.

Small numbers of women went to university until pretty recently, but women who didn't go in earlier generations seem to reckon getting a job was easier than it is now.

javabean Wed 03-Apr-13 14:42:58

I can still get to the original report, via the main IPPR page:

Also, the people's panel on the Guardian is now with comments (someone posted the call for responses earlier in the thread), although I haven't read that properly yet:

So why isn't feminism helping the working classes? I don't know the answer, but my thoughts are that many of the successful women who are pushing for change aren't necessarily doing it in the name of feminism, but more for personal benefit. I'm not doing too badly in my career (still early career so too early to class myself as successful or not!) but it takes a lot of mental energy to get ahead in a male-dominated field and to negotiate the things that matter to me personally. I will push for promotion and training and flexible working and all the things that make my life easier, but I don't think they're the things that matter to women in lower-earning jobs. It's not that I don't care about lower earners, but more that I don't know what affects other women and what I can do about it. Most of my friends and acquaintances are also comfortable middle-class professionals, so I don't hear personal stories except sometimes here on MN. Also, I have skills and knowledge that make me highly employable, so I'm in a very good position for negotiating with employers. I think things are very very different when you are competing with many others for the same low-paid job.

Take something like childcare, which is always talked about as a big stumbling block for women. To be honest, although I'd prefer it to be cheaper, I can afford to pay for high quality flexible childcare, so it's not an issue that I really worry that much about.

I hope this doesn't come across as boasting, I really don't mean it to be, and I definitely don't want feminism to be leaving any women behind. But I think successful women are negotiating changes that work for successful women simply because they're in a position to do so using their own skills as a bargaining tool. Makes me think of the film "Made in Dagenham" where change came directly from the working class women, and the quote from Alice Walker "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any."

VerySmallSqueak Wed 03-Apr-13 17:57:41

I am a manual worker and I don't have a university education.I imagine this would probably put me closest to the working class bracket although I do not identify with class.

I find it very hard to follow some debate because quite simply I don't always follow the language and references. So it would often appear that I have nothing to contribute.

Lower earning women are still interested in promotion and training and flexible working.And it is something that we also negotiate for within our roles.But,yes,affordable and accessible childcare is a huge issue.

The working class have been failed but it isn't by feminism.
Every advance made by feminism is made for every woman regardless of class.

javabean Wed 03-Apr-13 18:56:16

verysmallsqueak why do you think that working class women haven't been as successful as the middle classes when it comes to equality between men and women?

BTW, don't worry about not understanding the language and references - the smartest people I know are always asking for clarification of things they don't understand.

VerySmallSqueak Wed 03-Apr-13 19:35:30

I cannot speak for 'working class' women,nor suppose what anyone else might think.

From a personal perspective it is hard to challenge anything if you are unsure of your ground.I find it very easy to find myself out of my depth when I enter a debate because of language and concepts that I am unfamiliar with.It becomes very easy to feel intimidated.

In the workplace, that can easily be interpreted as meaning that if a woman wants to stand up for herself,for example by negotiating flexible working hours she first needs to know the relevant provisions in law and be able to confidently ensure that the law is adhered to.None of this is made particularly accessible or understandable.

I suppose I believe in making more women aware of what they can ask for and what they can negotiate and giving them the tools to do that.
I think Plain English is vital in presenting this to women.I think fighting for more women in power in Trade Unions is important.And, of course, fighting for childcare that doesn't cost more per hour than what I earn!

The thing is that I don't know how you get this message across,any more than anyone else does.

But as far as I am concerned,the more women that reach levels where they have a platform the better for all of us.

javabean Wed 03-Apr-13 20:23:15

I completely agree that a lot of information out there is inaccessible. I struggle to understand information about employment rights etc, especially from government websites. Sometimes I think the authors of this info are scared of writing in plain English because they think it doesn't make them sound as good! It's an interesting point and has never really occurred to me before that many people can struggle just trying to find out their rights.

Confidence is a big issue for many women, whatever their level. But I guess it's a much bigger problem when combined with a lack of knowledge?

VerySmallSqueak Wed 03-Apr-13 20:40:51

Exactly java.

Although I have no formal higher education I have self taught myself a lot about law,particularly employment law,through necessity.I have had to actively seek out what I know.It needs to be brought to womens' consciousness not left to them to have to go out and find it.

Not only is much language inaccessible but also the internet isn't accessible to many including the older age group.Computers weren't taught at school to a lot of us. If you have always worked in a manual job,very often you don't learn through work.
Also,because there is so much low paid part time work out there as opposed to full time work,women are more isolated in their work life experience imo.And less likely to join a Union I would imagine.

I think a lack of confidence is classless. I think you are right in that it's hard to find a voice if you don't know what to say and what to ask for.

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