I watched an interesting documentary on feminism last week on CBC's Doc zone called The F Word: Who wants to be a feminist? It looks at the role of feminism over the last century and asks whether feminism is still relevant today. I highly recommend it.
For all of the visibility that feminists had in the 20s and 70s, women aren't really any farther ahead than they were before. Sure, women can go to work if they want, but the documentary reports that studies still show that women aren't making as much as men do for the same jobs. When I saw that, I was stunned. I knew that there was a disparity in salaries way back in the day but for that still to be true is shocking.
When women do work outside the home, they still get to come home and take care of their houses and their family. They're still doing two jobs: one outside and one inside the home. Moreover, women are still underrepresented at very high business levels and in government.
Weren't things supposed to be different by now? What happened? A backlash against feminism is what happened, according to the documentary - and this makes sense to me. Feminists pushed hard against the status quo in the 70s and the status quo pushed back hard. I don't even know if that backlash is quite over - after all, "feminism" is still kind of a dirty word in most circles.
The feminism of the 70s might not be quite relevant today, but there's still a place for feminism in this day and age. There's no good reason for women not to receive equal pay for equal work, or for women to have to take on most of the house and child care duties, or for women to be underrepresented in positions of power.
One area that could use feminist attention is in reproductive freedoms. The day I heard that the US had planned to cancel funding to Planned Parenthood, I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. What good is giving women access to abortions if they don't also have access to confidential, impartial counseling? I saw this move as a sneaky way of undermining access to abortions.
Of course some abortions - so-called "partial birth abortions" - have been banned in the US, which definitely limits women's reproductive freedom. There's not even a clause for the case that there's something significantly wrong with the fetus. Some US states have enacted feticide laws and others are just waiting for Roe v Wade to be overturned. This is scary. Who will protect women's reproductive rights in the US?
I know I'm in Canada and things aren't quite the same here as are in the US. I hope I never see the day that women's freedoms are limited in that way here.
We've come a long way - or some way, at least - but have we come far enough? Are we even going in the right direction?