Thinking About Feminism
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on September 19, 2013
I started medical school in 1986, a year in which there was a quota for women. The class had to be 33% female. Now, medical schools are 50%, without a quota. How did this change take place, in, what feels to me, to be such a short period of time? The answer is the second wave of the women’s movement, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_movement,
“Amongst the most significant legal victories of the movement after the formation of NOW were a 1967 Executive Order extending full Affirmative Action rights to women, a 1968 EEOC decision ruling illegal sex-segregated help want ads, Title IX and the Women’s Educational Equity Act (1972 and 1974, respectively, educational equality), Title X (1970, health and family planning), the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (1974), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, the illegalization of marital rape(although not illegalized in all states until 1993 ), the legalization of no-fault divorce. A 1975 law requiring the U.S. Military Academies to admit women, and many Supreme Court cases, perhaps most notably Reed v. Reed of 1971 and Roe v. Wade of 1973. However, the changing of social attitudes towards women is usually considered the greatest success of the women’s movement.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second-wave_feminism,
These politics allowed me to have my profession, and yet, although I was aware there was a quota, and that made me joke with many of my female classmates that we should get shirts which said “we would have gotten in, if we were men,” I still did not have the perspective that I was benefiting from my foremothers. In fact, I had issues with the women’s movement. I felt that the demands on women were too great. It was not possible to work one hundred hours per week and have a family. I mean it was physically possible, but emotionally quite taxing. There was a never-ending feeling of not doing enough. The blending of work and domestic life was challenging, and although there was a generation of women before me who served as examples, the medical training system, at the time, was male dominated and so role models were hard to find. Although working with people, for so many hours, can create deep friendships, I envied the women at home who could have tea with their neighbors, and spend hours getting to know each other. It seemed that the women’s movement forgot about the value of female friendships, which served to create a network of closeness and warmth which is tremendously valuable to women, to society, and to families. On the other hand, I cannot imagine women not having the opportunity to go to professional schools, so I owe my foremothers a debt of gratitude. Having said all that, I resonate with Debora Spar, http://www.glamour.com/inspired/2013/08/why-women-cant-have-it-all-according-to-barnard-college-president-debora-l-spar, who says that women cannot have it all. Each choice involves a loss of other possibilities, as every maturing adult realizes, who has to choose a path in life. The women’s movement felt to me to be misleading, but perhaps it represented an idealization, which, inevitably, as time goes by, becomes more like everything else in life-a step forward, but still a compromise.