"When I was growing up in the 50's, 'sexism' was simply an unnamed everyday activity that most males considered to be a normal way of life and most women were prepared to tolerate. What jobs there were to be had outside the home were generally filled by men, as were most of the seats occupied by serving Members of Parliament, along with the heads of most businesses and professions. When the average wife held a job outside the home, it was usually part-time and was performed to get some 'pin money' (A Yorkshire term for money that the husband wouldn't give his wife for essentials or little extras).
In those days, everyone knew their place, especially the women. Even the children in First School knew the natural order of things: girls aspired to become secretaries, bus conductresses, and hairdressers. If girls were very clever and were able to obtain twice the number of higher qualifications than boys could, they could aspire to one day become nurses and air stewardesses. On the other hand, boys could dream of being train drivers, firemen, miners, doctors, air pilots, headmasters and blacksmiths etc.
This general attitude prevailed until the late sixties when the 'Women's Liberation Movement' which was a loose arrangement of feminist thinking, began to emerge and persisted throughout the 70's.
Many things are responsible for advancing the rights of women throughout the past fifty years including 'The Equal Pay Act' of 1970, 'The Sex Discrimination Act' of 1975 and 'The Equality Act' of 2010. However, none of these Acts ever advanced the cause of women's freedom more than the emergence of the contraceptive pill during the 1960's. For the first time in their lives, women could have control as to whether they gave birth to fourteen children or none!
For a number of years into the New Millennium, one heard about some women who were breaking into certain jobs which had traditionally been held by men. One of the chaps I knew was a house husband and his wife was a lorry driver and I even heard of a young woman in the Rochdale area who had decided to take over the role of neighbourhood Smithy after her father had died in the job. I was also told that if anyone thought that the female blacksmith from Rochdale was a member of the overweight feminist brigade, they should think again, as she was one of the Rochdale beauties who refused to be branded by any man or have a dress code imposed on her at work. She was wholly independent, had a number of irons in the fire should she ever decide to change professions, and had absolutely no intention of ever allowing herself to get hot and bothered by any sexist comments of her customers.Any chap saying something inappropriate to her got a bucket of water thrown at him!
I have always held the view that major social change comes at a heavy price. I know that many men and women might feel that the cost of sexual advances and the changes such 'progress' has brought about within marital roles and family life has been too high a family price to pay. As a general rule, if a father works outside the home and is the traditional breadwinner, he usually doesn't constantly feel guilty for not being with his child during the day, whereas most working mothers do, whatever nature and satisfaction degree of their job. I also know very few children in any family, who given the choice, would not prefer to have their mum at home and dad at work than vice versa! I know that these feelings are generally governed by hundreds of years of conditioning, and perhaps it is too much to expect that they can be changed overnight and adapted to in decades rather than centuries?
None of the above is to argue that society ought to be rearranged back to what it once was ordered, or that men should have more right to work than women, earn more than them generally and be expected to perform manual work roles that most women were never built to do. It is simply to indicate that the role of 'motherhood' is now beyond the dreams of most women to either afford or perform to their satisfaction.
Many young couples simply cannot afford to have children today and provide for their upkeep because of the uncertainty of the economic times in which austerity rules. There are no more 'jobs for life', not enough jobs for both men and women to fill, and a worker is just as likely to get their redundancy notice at the end of the year instead of a raise in their wages like they could once look forward to. People are remaining out of work for a decade, getting married much later in life, getting on the housing ladder decades later than ever before, and having their 'only child' when they approach their 40's. Only the couples who depend upon the welfare state totally to provide all cost cover can even contemplate having more than one child or having children whenever the mood takes them!
I recall when I was doing a course at Manchester University during the 1970's of being told of a panel beater attempting to knock out a dent in a sheet of metal. Whenever he succeeded in knocking out one dent, up it would come in another place on the metal sheet. This is essentially how I view the advancement of all change in the roles of men and women since the Industrial Revolution.
The advancement of sexual equality seems to have had the same consequences as a beaten sheet of metal, where the removal of one injustice occurs, only to see the appearance of another take its place. Whenever women have seemed to advance with regard to one thing from the 1900s onward, they invariably discover that they have lost out in respect to something else; often something more important!
Don't get me wrong, I will not pretend to like every 'advancement' that has taken place in the changing roles of man and woman, husband and wife and mum and dad over the past century; and nothing will ever persuade me that the people in either role today, are any happier today than in my parent's time. I don't know what the answer is, but I do believe that the more roles any person is expected to perform (whether man or woman), that more and more difficulties will emerge in consequence." William Forde: December 27th, 2017.