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Liberal Feminism and the Equality/Difference Debate

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1 Liberal Feminism and the Equality/Difference Debate
Week 3 Gender and Society

2 Recap Considered social construction of gender
Considered the role of the media and schools in the construction of gender Looked at how gender impacts on work and sexuality

3 Outline The origins of Liberal Feminism Areas of interest
Equality/Difference debate

4 Origins of Liberal Feminism
Liberalism emerged as a philosophic movement Humans should be free and equal within society Governments should protect and promote freedom and equality

5 Early liberal feminists
Women campaigners pointed out that women were often excluded from these calls for equality Women campaigners against slavery drew links between the legal and political position of slaves and themselves Abolitionist and Women’s Suffrage movements particularly entwined

6 Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 -1902)
‘The prejudice against color, of which we hear so much, is no stronger than that against sex. It is produced by the same cause, and manifested very much in the same way. The negro's skin and the woman's sex are both prima facie evidence that they were intended to be in subjection to the white Saxon man’ Jone Johnson Lewis. "Elizabeth Cady Stanton Quotes." About Women's History. URL: . Date accessed: (12/10/06).

7 The Second Sex 1960s saw the rise of 2nd Wave Liberal Feminism
Friedan published ‘The Feminine Mystique’ Explored the position of women in society and the breadmaker/homemaker divide

8 ‘The problem with no name’
‘The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American Women. It was a strange stirring a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the US. Each suburban housewife struggled it with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night, she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question: ‘Is this all?’ Friedan B (1963) The Feminine Mystique London Penguin p13

9 Public/Private Divide
Demolished the myth of the contented housewife Illustrate the impact of women’s mental health Affirmed women’s right and need to be active in the public sphere

10 To what extent do you think the image of women’s place as primarily a homemaker is important in today’s society?

11 Liberal Feminism Sex/Gender distinction is a key concept
Grounded in the ideas of the enlightenment Gaining formal equality is essential to change women’s position Concentrate on formal measures to promote equality

12 Women as individuals Women are seen as (potentially) equal citizens
Fewer numbers of women in top jobs because of structural inequality not lack of ability Women received less education Restricted range of occupations Less likely to achieve promotions Burdened with domestic responsibilities

13 Sources of gender inequality
Gendered socialisation of children Women’s role as primary carer Gendered division of labour In the home In the workplace Unequal pay Barriers to power

14 Ways to overcome inequality
Gender-neutral education End barriers to occupations and promotion Equal-representation rules for political positions Shared parenting and adequate childcare Access to reproductive services

15 Changes in the public sphere
Liberal feminism is closely associated with campaigns to promote equality through law and political power Equal Pay Act 1970 (UK) Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (UK) Equal Rights Amendment Campaign (USA) All women shortlists for Parliamentary seats

16 Formal Success Women can no longer legally be asked about their marital status or children in job interviews But it doesn’t stop it being thought about Women still routinely discriminated against at work 30,000 Women in the UK loose their jobs because they are pregnant Recent women graduates earn 15% less than men. (

17 Second Shift Although through the reforms and agendas sponsored by liberal feminism women have made gains in education and employment But this has left them with the double burden of working within and outside the home.

18 Work-family balance Why do you think men, in general, have
not taken on any of their responsibilities for children and the home?

19 Equality/Difference Liberal feminism has been divided over the equality/difference debate Should equality mean treating men and women the same or can you achieve equality by treating them differently?

20 Equality in an unequal world?
Promotion procedure Minimum of five years service Responsibility for supervising staff Best candidate for the job

21 Equality in an unequal world?
Promotion procedure Minimum of five years service Responsibility for supervising staff Best candidate for the job Man Six years full time continuous service Supervises 2 others full-time

22 Equality in an unequal world?
Promotion procedure Minimum of five years service Responsibility for supervising staff Best candidate for the job Man Six years full time continuous service Supervises 2 others full-time Woman Six years service but 18 months on maternity leave, and now works part-time as a job share Supervises I other, but shares this with the job-sharer

23 Equality in an unequal world?
If gender-neutral, man may be offered the promotion as has continuous services and full-time supervisory responsibility Women may never achieve promotions If equality can mean treating people differently then both would meet the criteria, and promotion could be on other qualities

24 What is equality? Discuss with the person sitting next to you to what extent you believe that you should treat people differently to achieve equality?

25 Equal Opportunities? 1979 Sex Discrimination Case in the US
Sears vs Equal Employment Opportunities Commission Sears different hiring practices for men and women Not discrimination Men & women different cultures which gave different employment interests Sears won

26 Equal Opportunities? Male dominated manual occupations in Birmingham had unsociable hours bonus schemes not available to female dominated occupations Street cleaners/care assistants The prize money offered for sporting events is sometimes less for women The Singles Tennis Winners at Wimbledon tournament in 2006 was different by £30,000

27 Equal Opportunities? ‘Affirmative action’ programmes encourage applicant from disadvantaged backgrounds Reduced entrance requirements Quotas Being the ‘token’ person

28 Equality/Difference Problems don’t just relate to women and men, but also to other disadvantages: Class Ethnicity Sexuality Age Disability No universal category of woman

29 Working Within Liberal Feminism offers a critique of current organisation of society But it does not formally challenge the structure of society itself Nor does it account for differences between women

30 Summary Considered in more detail the social construction of gender
Outlined the viewpoint of liberal feminisms Introduced the equality/difference debate

31 Next week Gender inequality from the perspective of Marxist feminists
Introduce their concept of ‘reproduction’ paid and unpaid work Consider dual systems theories

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