MEASURING THE EFFECTS

MEASURING THE EFFECTS

Steven Lagerfeld

America's social and sexual rearrangements is like eating a bowl of overcooked spaghetti with chopsticks.

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For scholars, sorting out the causes and effects of the past two decades of America's social and sexual rearrangements is like eating a bowl of overcooked spaghetti with chopsticks. Every factor is some- how intertwined with others: Tug on the feminist strand, and along comes a tangle of others—sexual liberation, the growth of the economy's "service sector," affluence, the Pill, the expansion of college enrollment, recession, the rise of the "Me Generation," the reactions of men. There is, in short, no single "X factor" that researchers can point to and say, "That is the impact of Betty Friedan!"

As in research on minorities, the politicization of much scholar- ship concerning the sexes has had a "chilling" effect on certain lines of inquiry, obscuring matters still more. Rosalind Rosenberg, a Bar- nard College historian, discovered just how powerful academic taboos can be when she testified for the defense in a sex discrimination suit against Sears, Roebuck and Company last year. If Sears did not have many women in certain jobs, she said, it was probably because few women wanted those jobs. Historically, she said, "men and women have had different interests, goals, and aspirations regarding work."

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