Matt's Reviews > No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women

No Turning Back by Estelle B. Freedman
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's review
Feb 27, 2011

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Read from March 12 to July 31, 2011

This is a great book to get an overall sense of the feminist movement. It reads like a history book of the 20th century. The style is easy and loaded with examples and quotes. It's a good book to read if you want to put numbers and examples on vague ideas. I will probably use some of the examples in the book in future personal conversations.

It covers the suffragist movement and the change that lead to the 'second-wave':

After 1930, both interracial and interfaith cooperation found a foothold within the US women's movement. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's gradual rejection of the racism and anti-Semitism she hadl earned growing up foreshadowed a later trend. The tentative connections made across race and religious lines would nurture the rebirth of feminism in the 1960s. As in the past, African American women in particular provided a critical perspective for white women, alerting them to the integral connections between race and gender. By articulating their personal experience of race, African American women contributed the knowledge that enfranchisement alone could not ensure equality; that the female pedestal was a myth; that sexual stereotypes, whether of purity or immorality, exerted forceful social controls; that power relations always rested upon both race and gender hierarchies; and that dignified resistance in the face of seeming powerlessness could be a mighty weapon for change. p.83

It provides good statistics:

In 1800 a married woman in the US could expect to live to around age forty and bear more than seven children. In 1900 her great-granddaughter lived into her fifties and had only four children. By 2000 that woman's great-granddaughter could expect to live to age eighty but would bear only two children. Over each century, women's reproductive labors dropped by half while their life span expanded. As a result, married women now have many more years without child-care duties. Although the dates differ for other industrial countries, the direction of change is the same. Since 1900 birth rates have fallen while life expectancy and women's wage labor have increased throughout the industrial world. In the US and Japan, for example, over half of all married women now work for pay. In Sweden over 80 percent of married women earned wages in the 1980s, compared with just under hald in the 1960s. p.152

Some notes:
- The right to vote did not give women the break they expected as women broke along party lines
- The way we calculate GDP does not take into account domestic work
- Sweden is a good role model for gender equality and scores better than most of best when it comes to parental leave laws, the sharing of household duties, and number of women elected to office
- Male domination dates way back:
.When men understood how reproduction happens, they tried to isolate their woman so that they could be sure which child was theirs
.When a society adopted the plough, agriculture became more physical and men became the breadwinners
.Where having children meant that the family would have a bigger workforce, the women could be treated as factories (with dowries and such)
.Birth control/contraception/pro-choice laws helped a great deal to empower women

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