A thoroughly researched examination of the progress women in the United States have made toward gender equality and of the problems that still must be addressed.
Rhode, the director of the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession, is the author of numerous books on gender and the law (Lawyers as Leaders, 2013, etc.). Here, she takes a broad view, looking first at the status of the women’s movement, probing the question of why the movement seems to have stalled and why women are reluctant to label themselves feminists. She finds that there appears to be a leadership vacuum, lack of coordination among women’s groups with different agendas, and fragmentation based on race, class and sexual orientation. The author’s interviews with women leaders prompt her to look closely at specific issues, including work, family, reproductive rights, violence and economic security, with a sideways glance at the subject of physical appearance, a seemingly minor but important issue. In the final chapter, “The Politics of Progress,” Rhode explores the question of how to create support for needed public initiatives. For that, she writes, a strong women’s movement is essential, and perhaps surprisingly, she reports that the presence of such a movement is a stronger predictor of the advancement of women’s rights policies than the proportion of women in legislatures. She cites research indicating that party affiliation is more important than gender—she notes the difficulties faced by moderate Republican women wanting to influence their party’s position on gender-related issues—and she urges women to support those candidates, male or female, who will advance women’s interests. Rhode sums up with a listing of the significant challenges facing the women’s movement if it is to become an effective agent for change.
Despite the presumptuous title, this is a serious analysis, designed to inform and to provoke discussion and action.