WOMEN AND EQUALITY: Changing Patterns in American Culture by William H. Chafe

WOMEN AND EQUALITY: Changing Patterns in American Culture

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this sober social and theoretical mapping of women's push for equality, Chafe focuses on the sameness of the ""social controls"" used to keep women and blacks in their ""place."" From physical intimidation to economic dependence to the internalizing of debilitating stereotypes (the shuffling, deferential darky; the coquettish, modest lady), the analogies point to ascribed status based on the links of women and blacks to dominant white males. But Chafe goes further, arguing that the dynamics for change have been remarkably similar for both groups. WW II was the watershed, disrupting existing institutional structures--notably employment patterns--and creating the social preconditions and altered consciousness necessary for ""collective action."" Contrasting the feminism of the Sixties and Seventies with Seneca Falls and the suffragettes, Chafe contends that now, for the first time, shifts in work patterns, demography, and sexual mores coincide with and reinforce the new women's consciousness--no longer is it confined to a daring minority. More ambiguous is the question of whether the women's movement is strengthened or weakened by its lack of structure and its decentralization. While feminist theory contends that change begins with the self, this tenet, along with the widely varying circumstances of women, can inhibit political action. Though neither dramatic nor revelatory (Chafe covered some of this material in The American Woman, 1972), this is nonetheless a compelling study of how women--a numerical majority--have functioned as a ""minority"" among whom cohesion was retarded by class distinctions and the lack of a ""ghetto"" in which solidarity could take hold.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1977
ISBN: 019502365X
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press