Is Sexism Dead in America?

by Phoebe Magee

Author Barbara J. Berg, Ph.D., who will be speaking at 92Y in Tribeca next month, answers that one with a resounding NOPE.  Her most recent book, in fact, is Sexism in America: Alive, Well, and Ruining Our Future.  Her title lacks subtlety, but so do most calls to action.  That is, Berg’s book is very much intended as “a wake-up call,” and that’s what it’s often described as by both professional and amateur reviewers.  According to the author’s own introduction, inspiration for the book came out of a conversation she had with several young women about Katie Couric’s “girlish” mannerisms–back when Couric’s place at the CBS evening news desk was, well, big news.  What Berg noticed was that when the educated, privileged, and successful women she was talking to started sharing their own stories about being educated, privileged and successful women in America, they were all laced with an “evident” “malaise.”  The author likened what they were saying to the statements of a seventies-era “consciousness-raising group,” except that these younger women didn’t have the same vocabulary at hand and maybe didn’t even fully acknowledge the reality of sexism in this, our postfeminist age.  At twenty-three, I’m particularly sensitive to this point: I’ve heard that we young people just don’t protest enough these days.


A good deal of anecdote and information for the book is pulled from interviews with women across the country, although the sample group is decidedly not random, and made up almost entirely of people Berg herself knows.  Still, her methods are interesting and her message stirring– and she’s a good historian.  One of the more interesting things about the book is that it asks us to confront not just a renewed sexism in this country, but a new oneborn out of this decade’s dark uncertainties, beginning with attack and war in September 2001.  

If you want to hear from the lady herself, Barbara J. Berg will be at 92Y in New York City on Tuesday, January 19th, 2010, from 12 to 1 pm.  92Y is an offshoot of the 92nd Street Y, located downtown at 200 Hudson Street in Tribeca.  Tickets are sixteen bucks, and in return, Dr. Berg promises to question your belief that “ours is a post-feminist society (”

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