Starting with the sexual revolution, much change has taken place in the area of gender equality. Some consider that a transformation has taken place in that women are succeeding in so many areas of life that previously were unavailable to them (Rosin, 2010; Kindlon, (2007). The movie “Frozen” is an example of a female assuming a new independent role, displaying her anguish as well as her strength and upturning traditional norms about intimate desires. Sexting and hook ups reflect women’s body affirming spirit and mettle; Tattooing displays their personal narratives. Females today are more assertive, and ambitious and less concerned about demonstrating it. They are far more expansive in their thinking about the skills they possess or can acquire. They seek academic excellence and often exceed men in many graduate school placements and accomplishments. They are entering fields that were heretofore unavailable to them.
Yet, this is clearly not the whole picture. Heterosexual relationships are still quite fraught. We know this by the divorce rate. Women still undertake the greater amount of child care and household work while holding down full time jobs, often leading to conflict in relationships (Schiebinger and Gilmartin ,2010). Such disparities may be contributed influenced by the idea that it takes some men a long time after college to give up their commitment to their buddies and the wish for sex rather than intimacy, and relationships of care and genuine equality Kimmel, 2008).
Currently there are both engagement and significant difference of views between two female authors who are in the public sphere of influence, Sandberg (2013) and Slaughter (2012) .They discuss the problems of professional work lives of women. Sandberg exhorts women not to be subservient. Strong women in powerful positions are necessary and they need to give voice to their significant concerns. Women need to be assertive in both the domestic and the work sphere. They need to “lean in”. They need to persevere until they reach the top. They, of course, also need to select an appropriate husband that can allow for a woman’s high executive achievement. Slaughter, on the other hand, has left just such a high-powered political position because her adolescent child needed her during a difficult period for him. She felt, she said, “I’d been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot)”. Given the current economic business demands and its culture, Slaughter does not believe “women can have it all”. Not in the current climate where there is inflexibility in the workplace and women are penalized when they need time off for pregnancy, child care or elder care. (This is, of course even more the case for poor or single women where color and class distinctions are particularly relevant.)
In addition, Faludi, (2013) points out that public policy contributes to sexism and discrimination. While mentioned by Sandberg, it is clear that this is not Sandberg’s focus. Instead she wants individual women to work harder ( as though they are not doing more than that already.) The clashing reality of family and demanding work lives take a major toll on women. Their unavailability and increased stress for high-functioning women places great strains on intimacy and sexuality. It creates tension between husbands and wives and often, because of long work hours, neglects child care needs. One choice for some professional women is to drop out of the work-place and obsessively concentrate as a chief executive of their children’s lives (Martin, 2015). Another choice some women make is to forego child-bearing and rearing (Daum (2015). Today, almost 1/5 of women in their mid-forties do not have children (Bolick, 2015). In this instance, smart, strong, empowered professional women know that time out for bearing and raising children means “catch up” which is difficult to accomplish and hampers careers. They opt out of bearing and bringing up children.
In addition to various forms of gender discrimination, there is still much stereotypical behavior discussed in this paper and some women contribute to it by their tolerance and pleasure in their experience of benevolent sexism. Women’s acquiescence to much in our androcentric culture continues to maintain their marginality. For Faludi (2013), women need to lean in individually but also join collectively to alter the many forms of inequality that continue to exist. Faludi’s position is in contrast to Cicious’ in that the latter’s emphasis is on challenging sexism through individual narratives, not strong collective and supportive endeavors. A fair estimate of our current situation is what Schilllinger (Schiebinger and Gilmartin, 2010) has stressed that we have won “half a revolution.” We need to recognize that much has changed and much needs change. There is still the need for attention and hard work before true equality exists in the multiple spheres of women’s lives.
Ellen Toronto is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Spring, Texas and has been practicing since 1980. In 2017, she was elected a Fellow in Psychoanalysis by the American Psychological Association. In 2016, Dr. Toronto's practice was recognized as one of the top Ann Arbor Psychology practices. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Michigan. Dr. Toronto is married to Robert Toronto, Ph.D., and together they have four sons and eleven grandchildren.