The Women's Movements of the United States and Western Europe: Consciousness, Political Opportunity, and Public Policy

By Mary Fainsod Katzenstein; Carol McClurg Mueller | Go to book overview

time work force in the U.K. was over 40 percent, in contrast to 23 percent in the U.S. In 1975, female managerial and professional employees totaled 13 percent in the U.K. and 20 percent in the U.S. ( Ratner 1980, 15). American women have greatly improved their representation in such fields as law -- which are particularly compatible with political involvement -- with women constituting 14 percent of lawyers and judges; 34 percent of all new law students in 1990-81 were female. In Britain, 7 percent of barristers and only a handful of judges are women ( Deckard 1983, 117, 140; Robarts, Coote, and Ball 1981, 10). American women have surpassed men in their representation in college populations and the number of B.A.'s earned; in Britain, women were 40 percent of university students in 1980-81 ( Deckard 1983, 117; EOC 1983). 7 While a causal relationship between movement politics, policy enactments, and the growth of a professionally active group of women with economic and political potential is not provable, it may be suggested that the American feminist movement has had a profound impact on changing expectations and possibilities (see Ms. Magazine, July 1984).

This essay has sought to demonstrate that external factors -- particularly political systems and culture -- help both to explain social movement goals and structure and to determine their impact. On the basis of the analysis presented, I conclude that American feminism has been more "successful" than British feminism in gaining public acceptance of many movement goals, reaching larger numbers of supporters and sympathizers, and achieving policy outcomes that may aid in restructuring power relationships.


NOTES
1.
The material presented in this essay is the result of ongoing research in the United States and of two visits to the United Kingdom: the first in the spring of 1980, the second in the summer of 1982. Research in Britain was primarily based on interviews with feminist journalists, scholars, and activists as well as women active in political parties, unions and interest groups, elected and appointive politics. The period of analysis covers the 1960s until the end of 1982.
2.
Britain has had the smallest amount of generational change of the six European nations surveyed by Inglehart; less than half of Germany's -- and, reflecting its more traditional society, the divorce rate (per 1,000 population) was 3.01 in the U.K., as compared with 5.19 in the U.S. in 1980 (U.N. 1982, 303-4).
3.
This last provision was made restrictive by the Thatcher government.
4.
Most recently, NAC has fought an administrative effort to limit abortion through issuance of restrictive permission forms to be signed by physicians.
5.
See Bouchier ( 1984, 39) for a statement of this view.
6.
These proposals were soundly defeated at the 1982 Women's Conference.
7.
See also Digest of Education Statistics 1982( Washington, D.C.: Govt. Printing Office), Table 3, p. 8. In 1976, 36 percent of British B.A.s were granted to women ( Hills 1981, 13).

-286-

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