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On International Women’s Day: How far have ladies come?


How are the ladies on International Women’s Day?

On International Women’s Day, the Ross and Burbank Show wanted to check in on how the ladies are doing.

They called up Northwest author and retired Evergreen State College Professor Stephanie Coontz, who has a new book called “A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s” that looks back at Betty Friedan’s book “The Feminine Mystique” and its impact.

Fifty years later, Coontz said women have made a lot of progress, but there is still work to do.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, but oh my gosh we’re a lot better than the 1960s,” said Coontz in an appearance on 97.3 KIRO FM’s Ross and Burbank Show.

Listen to Stephanie Coontz on Ross and Burbank

Coontz said modern-day men and women would be “horrified” by family life in the 1960s. “When I was interviewing women for this book, and men as well, you found that underneath the supposed complacency of the 1950s and early 1960s family, there was just tremendous pain on both sides.”

“The idea that you would want to go back to those days is crazy,” said Coontz. “People look back and say, ‘Well didn’t homemakers have it better in the 60s?’ No. There were only eight states where a homemaker had any call at all upon her husband’s income, what he earned during the marriage, even if she’s the one who’d enabled the career. And there was no such thing as marital rape. That was considered a contradiction in terms.”

As for women in the workplace, Coontz said a lot of strides have been made, but there’s still room for improvement.

“It was only 50 years ago that there were sex-segregated want ads, help wanted female – help wanted male,” said Coontz. “We’ve made a lot of progress in the glass ceiling, but still only two percent of Fortune CEO corporate heads are female.”

As for what the “feminine mystique” looks like today, Coontz said the old one where women have to play dumb and take care of everything in the home has been “shattered,” but new ‘mystiques’ have evolved in its place.

“When we look at young men and women today, we find two mystiques that really hang on.”

Coontz calls one of the mystiques that plagues women “the hottie mystique.”

“They can aspire to all the kinds of jobs that used to be off limits to women, but they feel this tremendous pressure to indicate that they are sexually attractive and sexually available along the way.”

And apparently, men are also negatively impacted by “mystiques.”

“The masculine mystique,” said Coontz. “It’s still alive and strong when you look at young guys. That’s the idea that a guy is not supposed to be interested in anything supposedly girly. That you have to be tough. That you have to hide your emotions.”

Coontz said while it’s now OK for girls to aspire to activities and jobs that use to be reserved for men, it’s still not OK for boys to do that.

For those that say those traits and interests generally assigned as more feminine or masculine are defined by our biology, Coontz said she doesn’t agree.

“Of course there are some biological components, but what makes humans pretty different is that we’re so variable,” said Coontz. “I don’t think that we are slaves to our biology.”


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