Women and Equality: Changing Patterns in American Culture

Women and Equality: Changing Patterns in American Culture

Women and Equality: Changing Patterns in American Culture

Women and Equality: Changing Patterns in American Culture

Synopsis

THIS MODEST AND thoughtful little book, so entirely free from polemics, is excellent evidence of what an unprejudiced study of the past can contribute to the solution of contemporary impasses.'

Excerpt

Together with race and class, sex serves as one of the basic reference points around which American society is organized. Whether we are born male or female shapes our lives fundamentally. It has been made to determine the emotions we are taught to cultivate, the personality traits we develop, our vocational inclinations, the goals we can aspire to, the way we relate to our peers and authority, the responsibilities we expect to assume in the world ("breadwinning" versus "homemaking"), and above all, how we define our individual identity. If it is important to probe how poverty or affluence affects a person's life chances, it is also important to understand how sex‐ related attributes are intertwined with, and help to pattern, our daily options and activities.

Because sex roles are such a crucial determinant of the way people live, the study of women provides an excellent vantage point from which to gain insight into how society has operated in the past and what direction it will take in the future. Until recently history has been written primarily about those who have "made it." The sources used by historians have been created by people in power (usually white middle- and upper-class males) and the books based upon those sources have largely dealt with the same group. A very different picture results when we examine our common history from the perspective of those ordinarily left out. Clearly we know more about the social system of the ante-bellum South when we look at it from the point of view of the slave community or of the vast majority of non-slaveholding whites as well as from the perspectives handed down in planter records and diaries. In the same way, women's history represents potentially the opposite of the narrow, sectarian concern attributed to it by some critics. Focusing on the experience of the "other half" of the . . .

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