Raising more hell and fewer dahlias

by Brenda D. Frink on 12/06/10 at 2:28 pm

iStock_000008654096Small.female-maleFor the past twenty years, scholars have referred to a “stall” in the movement toward gender equality. Whether looking at the gender gap in wages or at the total number of women in the paid labor market, in male-dominated professions, and in state-level politics, measures of equality have remained relatively constant since the mid-1990s.

At a panel titled “Beyond the Stalled Revolution,” four renowned gender researchers met to reflect on the recent historical progress they had seen toward gender equality and also to comment on where and why progress has stalled. The experts, including three former Directors of the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research and one former Chair of the Program in Feminist Studies, quantified the enormous gains made in the thirty-five years since the Clayman Institute’s founding, offered recommendations for what needs to be done today, and issued predictions for what the next thirty-five years will bring.

Among the audience questions that the experts tackled was: “Why now?”

Recognizing that social change can sometimes be slow, the panelists charged their listeners to fight all the more urgently for gender equality in the present.

Professor Deborah Rhode The fact that we’ve solved some of the easy things shouldn’t make us complacent about how much work still needs to be done…. The only way you get people to “raise more hell and fewer dahlias” is to cultivate impatience.

Deborah L. Rhode
Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law
Director of the Clayman Institute, 1986-1990

Laura Carstensen To just accept it and say “well, change is slow,” ensures that it will stop…. That’s a hard problem, to continue to work for change when you know that change may not come about in your lifetime or in your children or your grandchildren’s lifetime.

Laura L. Carstensen
Fairleigh S. Dickinson Jr. Professor in Public Policy; Professor of Psychology; Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity
Director of the Clayman Institute, 1997-2001

Myra Strober 2 I think not everybody is an early adopter of social change…. I think for many people it does take more than one generation to make some of these changes. I don’t know if we should be patient or impatient, but I think that is, in fact, the way change works.

Myra H. Strober
Professor Emerita of Education and, by Courtesy, of Business
Director of the Clayman Institute, 1974-1976 and 1979-1984

Estelle Freedman CREDIT Jim Hammack for photo I’m with all of you in terms of “Now.” I’m a very impatient person!… As an historian I also think “let’s keep the big picture in mind in terms of how long things take.” We shouldn’t despair when our rapid acceleration stalls–but we should organize like hell.

Estelle B. Freedman
Edgar E. Robinson Professor in U.S. History
Co-chair and co-founder of the Program in Feminist Studies, 1980-81, Chair 1984-1985, 1994-98, 1999-2001

As part of the Michelle R. Clayman Institute’s three-year research project, “Beyond the Stalled Revolution: Reinvigorating Gender Equality in the Twenty-First Century,” the next four issues of Gender News will feature the perspectives of Deborah L. Rhode, Laura L. Carstensen, Myra H. Strober, and Estelle B. Freedman on the gender revolution. The insights of these scholars into the past, present, and future of the gender equality movement offer powerful tools for moving beyond the stalled revolution.

The title of this article is taken from Professor Rhode’s remarks to the panel’s audience. Rhode quoted journalist William Allen White, who famously advised American women to “raise more hell and fewer dahlias.”

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