Friday, November 8, 2013

Speaking of Sex: The Denial of Gender Inequality

1997, 1999 Harvard University Press edition
Deborah L. Rhode
Speaking of Sex: The Denial of Gender Inequality
Possibly bought new for $17.95
Worn paperback

Almost 30 years after Caroline Bird wrote Born Female: The High Cost of Keeping Women Down, and of course later in the decade of Backlash, comes this update on women's status in America.  As the title and subtitle suggest, people would rather talk about sex in the sense of intercourse than sex in the sense of gender, and women's progress is used to deny that they haven't yet reached equal rights.  Like Faludi, Rhode discusses the ways that feminism is blamed for inequality (when inequality is admitted), but unlike Faludi, she's also able to comment on the beginnings of the MRA, Men's Rights Activism, as well as the early Internet.

Although the book is fairly intelligent, I didn't find it either focused or specific enough.  Interestingly, she criticizes Naomi Wolf more than she agrees with her.  I could've sworn that Wolf in Fire with Fire used the Baby-Sitters Club series as an example of girls taking pride in making money, but I can't find the reference now.  (I'm sure Wolf would've agreed with that idea though.)  It's telling that Rhode just sees the "down" side, the "boy-chasing" titles like Stacey's Big Crush.  Even more than Faludi, she's stacking the cards by accentuating the negative.

On the other hand, I do appreciate that, more than most of the feminists I've examined so far (Patricia J. Williams of course excepted), she actually talks at length about race and class, and not just when it comes to the '80s and '90s attacks on "welfare mothers."  And she does have some useful statistics, and some recommendations for everyone to take more responsibility in achieving equality for all.  That women have progressed from 77 cents on the dollar from 1997's 70 cents is still not enough progress.  (I know I said in my review of Born Female that it was 81 cents, but it depends how it's measured.  Not that 81 cents would be anything to cheer about.)

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