For Generation X feminism was an eye roll-inducing word, but for Gen Y it's just a word. It's not worthy of anger or praise; it's a word for a war that's over. Newsweek, though, has set out to prove a generation wrong, and it's using itself as the example.
In 1970, 46 women employees of Newsweek filed a gender-discrimination case because women were not allowed to write. Producer, director, and (let's not forget) writer Nora Ephron's first job was at Newsweek in 1962. She described the magazine's ethos best in "My First New York," this week's New York magazine article featuring the famous and nonfamous remembering their arrival in the Big Apple.
I said I hoped to become a writer, and the man who interviewed me assured me that women weren’t writers at Newsweek. It would never have crossed my mind to object or to say, “You’re going to turn out to be wrong about me.” It was a given in those days that if you were a woman and you wanted to do certain things, you were going to have to be the exception to the rule. I was hired as a mail girl, for $55 a week.
This story is so foreign it's almost quaint. After all Ephron did prove him wrong. But somewhere between it not occurring to her to speak up in 1962 and 2010, feminism became loud, insufferable, embarrassing, and finally silent. It's not the idea young women reject (feminism only means gender equality), but its usefulness in a world where women outnumber men in college and a recession that hit men so hard it has its own name. When you consider the prefix "post" was attached to feminism as early as 1919, it's no wonder women grew weary of it long ago. But to find out why total gender equality is still a myth, read more.
"I don't think that not wanting to identify yourself as a feminist is particular to this generation," says New York Times columnist Gail Collins. "But the assumption that everything is fine is very strong with this [group]." Yet as Newsweek illustrates with numerous statistics, gender equality remains a myth. Women may write for the magazine now, but men wrote 43 of its 49 cover stories in 2009. Go beyond Newsweek and outside New York, and women make 77 cents on the male dollar. Data from the Department of Education shows women earn 20 percent less than men (across all professions) despite having higher GPAs in every subject.
So the question really isn't whether feminism's work is finished, but rather how can it be when everyone thinks it is?