Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Femenist Issues in Britain, 1970s

"Recent research among leading British businessmen indicated that they dismissed their wives as 'useful but not essential' in getting where they were."

"It is true that women have the same legal rights as men in Britain. They can acquire, own, and dispose of property. They can enter into contracts, sue, and be sued. They can give evidence in court and serve on juries. But despite a law which forbids sexual discrimination, an energectic Equal Opportunities Commission, organizations designed to promote and protect women's rights, and an endless stream of newspaper and magazine articles touting sexual equality, the women's liberation movement in Britain has been little more than a flop. A respected columnist in one of the country's leading newspapers invoked the code of chivalry to insist, 'women will always need men's protection, which can best be gained, now as ever, not by challenging his power but by exploiting her weakness.'"

Norman Gelb in The British

This attitude could be juxtaposed with advances in legislation and rights because those changes were largely a matter of functionality. Some of the major laws enacted were:

The Abortion Bill of 1967 (between 1947 and 1970 the birthrate fell from 20.7 to 12.4/thousand)
The Divorce Reform Act of 1969 (eliminated the necessity for a matrimonial offence)
The Equal Pay Act of 1970 (makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate between men and women in terms of their pay and contractual conditions. The Act applies to both men and women but any comparison must be with a person of the opposite sex)
The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 (applies to both men and women and makes sex discrimination unlawful in employment and vocational training, education, the provision and sale of goods, facilities and services and premises)

Here is some info in answer to Heather's question:
In the UK, women have won significant rights to more equal divorce settlements in recent decades. Under the current EU constitution, the UK currently has the right to opt out of proposals such as these. But there is a concern at the Family Law Bar Association that the UK could easily lose out in any proposals, because its system is so different from most other European countries.

Since the early 1970s women have had a right to make a claim on property, even if they have not had any formal legal title on the home during the marriage.

So apparently that option was just becoming available to Emma. There is more on this in "Fear Over Women's Divorce Rights".

"British women have managed to make some headway in penetrating job areas previously reserved only for men...but the pioneers remain so few in umber that they are really only token indications of a chink in the armor of male supremacy."

Obviously Gelb's account is not the authority on the issue, however he does give substantial evidence of a general attitude of resistence in the 70s, even among women, to shifting gender roles. He goes on to say that, "women's liberation in Britain has been consistenly undermined by conditions built into the country's economic life."

Further research shows that this may very well be the case:
See "Only 1 British Female in 4 Calls herself a Feminist" and "Why Has Feminism Failed Women?"

Gelb gives this stereotype of an Englishmen:
"He is a well poised male chauvinist, trim and impeccably attired, courteous to women but considering their company a tedious waste of time when there's good brandy or beer to knock back."


Well, to be brutally honest, we wouldn't actually want a woman around, would we, Jerry? I mean a game of squash isn't simply a game of squash, it's rather more than that.


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