MOST PEOPLE who know me view me as a liberal sort (left over from the 1970âs, one client suggested) and a militant


Oh, lordy, I said that bad word ÷ feminist!

Well, I am ÷ at least intellectually.

I think the word itself is a misnomer. If you look it up in the dictionary, a feminist is described as somebody who believes in equal rights, regardless of gender. However, the word sounds a bit discriminatory to me. And it scares guys to death.

All it means, though, is that if youâre operating the little screw machine at a factory, Susie is entitled to the same pay that Sam gets.

In 1973, when I went to my first National Organization for Women (NOW) meeting ÷ another title that scares the wits out of the brothers!) women were getting paid about 63 cents for a guyâs dollar. Well, the good news, girls, is that now weâre up to about 75 cents for the guyâs buck. Oh goodie. A 12 cent change in almost 30 years!

And according to a recent issue of the AARP ÷ yes, I get it, so no ageist comments please ÷ the glass ceiling is unlikely to be shattered until at least the mid-2000âs, like 2050! Sisters· do you plan to be here then? If we are, I seriously doubt weâll be at the peaks of our careers!

For those who donât know what AARP is, itâs the American Association for Retired People. But you donât have to be retired. Just old· that makes me ponder my associate Tinaâs (very humorous ÷ she knows me about as well as anybody does ÷ and I loved it!) comment to me recently when I pondered whether I was in mid-life crisis ÷ ãYouâre a bit late, arenât you?ä

Old, by AARP standards, appears to be 50. If you get the ãinviteä you know youâre there. (See Bill Geistâs book, The Big Five-Oh!: Fearing, Facing, and Fighting Fifty for more of the best reading youâll ever have on that topic!)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, which has to do with equal opportunity for genders. Frankly, I think the AARP expectations are atrociously optimistic.

Look around ladies!

Certainly, it has been my experience that any type of implied or overt divisions of people ÷ racism, ageism, sexism, and many other ãismsä ÷ has done nothing to benefit anyone. In fact, division implies power ÷ or the lack of it. Thus, someone is a loser.

Think about John Grayâs Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (which, thank heavens, seems to be dying on the vine) how such a work would be received if the context were not gender, but were race or ethnicity. I believe that such an enterprise would be received with public outcry.

For example, consider what you would think if you went to a bookstore and found a work entitled Chinese are from Mars and Jews are from Venus. You likely would recognize the bigotry. However, our moral development in regard to gender is not as well developed. We continue to endorse or ignore sexist comments, behaviours, and publications. As a psychologist, I feel disconcerted and frustrated when I continue to encounter more and more people who were accepting these materials without question. Do most people understand how stereotypes affect not only othersâ behaviour, but our own?

But, most importantly, why do women usually not only ignore this stereotyping, but buy into it? The truth is that gender stereotyping, while affecting both genders negatively, has its greatest impact upon women. However, women are most likely to purchase pop psychology books and then hand them to their friends with a big sales pitch! And women often are as likely as men to excuse and circulate clichŽs.

Many years ago when I was a young nursing student in Savannah, Georgia, Dr. Martha Faye, a noted geneticist, told that NOW group how important it was to study hard and to get as close to the facts as we could. ãDonât settle for half-truths and stereotypes,ä she suggested. Too often, she said, women become ãostriches,ä burying our heads in the sand. ãWe see what is happening around us, but we let it go,ä she warned.

Her words stay with me. All too often I see confirmation of her admonition. And I think itâs time for you, me and the rest of the ostriches to come up for air. (If my client load ever drops a bit, I plan to finish a whole book on that! I donât think I need to hurry though ÷ inequality, it appears, will be here for a long while, unfortunately).

Iâll close now, because I want to go home and bake that guy I love a batch of cookies. Thereâs nothing wrong with that either, you know· as long as the cookies go both ways! He, of course, would prefer to bring his home in a tin. Thatâs fine with me! Itâs the respect that counts!

n Carol Shuman, Ph.D. is director of psychological services for the Centre for Cognitive Therapy and Behavioural Medicine. She can be reached at