I ask: “Girls, doesn’t that bother you?" It doesn't and that bothers me. Have their father and I failed to teach them self-respect? Would they allow boys to talk to them that way?
(MORE: The Women's Movement Now)
Where Have All the Activists Gone?
When I was their age, I can't say I was really tuned into women's issues. I'm an early Gen-Xer, and the women's movement peaked when I was in kindergarten. I do remember watching women burning their bras on the evening news and telling my mother I was going to 'burn my barrettes." In school, pre-Title IX, we had few sports to choose from compared to the options for the boys. In college, I took a few interesting women's studies classes, but didn't feel those issues were terribly relevant to me.
In the age of Murphy Brown and Cagney and Lacey, I was confident that I would have a career and family and was not too worried about how it would all work out.
Looking back, I was probably among the women who took for granted the accomplishments of the boomers who cleared paths for us a decade earlier.
A recent survey from the Pew Research Center indicates a market for these books among Millennials 18 and older. Although these women can expect equal pay out of college, many feel that they do not have the same long-term opportunities. Three-quarters of those surveyed say more change is needed to achieve gender equity in the workplace. Only 57 percent of Millennial men surveyed felt this way. And 58 percent of women believe that men have better access to top executive jobs.
A few months ago, our 17-year-old daughter showed me a video that was making the rounds among her friends on Facebook. It showed objectified images of women in ads and examples of women being belittled in the news media. This was my first clue that some teens were thinking about the ways in which women are negatively portrayed in popular media. She and her 14-year-old sister often see and share things like this on Facebook, Buzzfeed, Tumblr and Upworthy.
Some young women are becoming activists, like Madison Kimrey, a 12-year-old who took on the governor of North Carolina to demand voter pre-registration for teens. One of Kimrey’s role models is Megan Grassell, the Wyoming teenager who created her own line of bras because she was frustrated that her younger sister could not find any that were comfortable or appropriate for pre-teens. Who knows, one of these girls could be our next Gloria Steinem.
5 Questions for Your Daughters
- On the f-word: Our 14-year-old considers herself a feminist and doesn’t see anything wrong with the term. Her older sister says, “I align with feminist views, but I don’t call myself a feminist because I don’t feel active enough to be called one."
- On equal pay for women: “I want it to happen, but it’s not happening now.”
- On how women are portrayed in popular media: “Men are highlighted for their accomplishments, whereas women are only valued for their beauty.”
- Their female heros are Tina Fey, Jennifer Lawrence, Malala, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.
- Whether they expect to have the same opportunities as men in the workplace: “When you walk into an interview, you are ruled out because you are a woman. (You could be) called bossy or selfish for doing the same things that would be acceptable for a man.”
So, they have given some thought to their place as females in the world, but clearly we have more talking to do at the dinner table and on those car rides.
Maybe I can sneak in the old Helen Reddy hit, “I Am Woman,” when they aren’t paying attention.
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