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Outraged moms, trashy daughters


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How did those steeped in the women’s lib movement produce girls who think being a sex object is powerful?

Douglas says she was inspired to write the book after noticing what seemed to be a glaring disconnect between the prime-time shows aimed at her generation—Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, The Closer, all featuring tough-talking, assured women who don’t use their sexuality to get what they want—and the programming aimed at her daughter. Eventually she came to believe both kinds of shows were perpetuating the myth that feminism’s work was over: “both mask, even erase how much still remains to be done for girls and women. The notion that there might, indeed, still be an urgency to feminist politics? You have to be kidding.”

Yet, as Vonk points out, female progress at top levels has not moved markedly in 20 years, Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated run for president notwithstanding. Certainly the numbers reflect this: in 1980, women held approximately seven per cent of the legislative seats across Canada.

Ten years later that number had risen to 17 per cent. But between 1990 and 2010, that percentage rose only six per cent—to 23 per cent. (According to the Intra-Parliamentary Union, Canada ranks a pathetic 50th on the world scale of women’s participation in politics, behind Rwanda, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates.) Women’s presence in top-tier corporate jobs is even lower. According to Catalyst, an organization that tracks female advancement, women head only 3.8 per cent of FP 500 companies in Canada, and make up a scant 5.6 per cent of FP top earners, 14 per cent of board directors and 16.9 per cent of corporate officers.

The notion that the workplace is an equal playing field is a myth, says Susan Nierenberg, Catalyst’s vice-president of global marketing. The first study to look at the impact of the recession on high-potential women found those in senior leadership positions were three times more likely to lose their jobs than men. Another Catalyst study published last February tracking 4,500 M.B.A. graduates in their first jobs found that women begin at a lower level than men and earned $4,600 on average less. “And more importantly, they never catch up,” says Nierenberg. As the mother of a 25-year-old daughter entering the workforce, one who believes she’ll be treated equally to men, Nierenberg finds the research troubling: “I hate to tell her that’s not the way it is. I want her going into it thinking she can do anything. But I also want her to be smart about it.”

Foster says the conversation between mothers and daughters was far easier when sexism was as overt as it is on Mad Men—back when women had to quit their jobs after they got married or were banned outright from schools or careers. “The current messaging girls are getting is so explicit but the subtleties of it—which is the negative piece of it—is really hard to talk about,” she says. When mothers try to raise the subject, girls respond with “we just don’t get it,” she says: “What happens is that they shut down and say, ‘You don’t like me looking sexy. You just don’t like me looking older.’ Or, ‘Oh Mom, it isn’t like that any more.’ When the reality is, it’s still like that.” She tries to watch TV with her daughter to point out double standards on The Bachelor or Gossip Girl. “I’m just trying to tease apart for her that this isn’t reality. And that didn’t fly. She called me ‘a wet sock.’ ”

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Very interesting article. I am surprised that the women of the 60s based women's movement are surprised by this. This is the inevitable outcome of women who have diminished the very important FATHER role in girls lives.


AND the feminist movement as it developed in the sixties became as destructive to boys as it is to girls. Men can become used up sluts in exactly the same way girls can. Case in point: Jersey Shore. What a waste of humanity.


While I think this article paints with an awfully broad brush, I do think that popular culture in this country has really become disgusting. EVERYTHING is about sex and sexuality. It really is the pornification of the culture and I find it profoundly disturbing.


Anyway, interesting read and a fascinating glimpse into the questions feminists are asking themselves.

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