1983 and women realized they would need to continue

1983 Determinants of Concern
Regarding Women’s Rights in the United States

By: Rebecca Dorn

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Introduction

In
the United States in 1848, a group of people met in Seneca Falls, NYVL1  to discuss women’s lack of civil
rights. From there, the Women’s Rights movement began. This initial movement
granted women the opportunity to choose different careers, education, and
divorce. In 1920 women won the right to vote. After that, many people involved
took a step back and the movement lost momentum. Subcategories of issues arose
surrounding women afterwards, including an attempt at birth control education.
In 1936 the Supreme Court declassified birth control as obscene. As little
strides were being made, a second wave of activism began in the 1960s. This
wave became known as the Women’s Liberation movement or the ‘Feminist’
movement. During this time, thoughts surrounding gender roles became the focus,
and further gains were made, such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The movement
continued into the 1970s, expanding women’s rights by bringing issues to the
surface. By the end of the 1970s activism had begun to fizzle out and the
movement became fragmented. In 1980 Ronald Raegan became president and women
realized they would need to continue advocating if they wanted to uphold the
gains made in the previous decades. It is interesting to note that during the
1980’s many investigative reports by Susan Faludi publically exposed the defeat of
the Equal Rights Amendment; the rise of the antiabortion movement, increased
incidences of on-the-job sexual harassment and discrimination, increasing
disparity between men and women’s income for comparable work, and the sense of
exhaustion by working mothers who were expected to “do it all.” VL2 This study focuses on data from the
year 1983. The United States was 1 year post ERA ratification, 3 years into
Ronald Raegan’s presidency, and in the midst of Susan Faludi’s popular reports
on women’s issues.  

 

Literature surrounding women’s rights
tends to focus on subgroups of concern rather than the overarching issue of
women’s rights in general. A majority of the studied issues of focus include: gender
based violence, female poverty, and work and family roles. In regards to work
and family issues surrounding women, twelfth graders became more accepting of
working mothers and equal roles for women in the workplace between the 1970s
and the 2010s, with most change occurring between the 1970s and the late 1990s.
Adults’ attitudes toward working mothers became more egalitarian between the
1970s and the early 1990s, showed a small ”backlash” in the late 1990s, and
then continued the trend toward increased egalitarianism in the 2000s and 2010sVL3 
3. In regards to poverty, access to public welfare for women with children
became more limited in the 1970s. Grants from Aid to Families with Dependent
Children (AFDC) declined steadily from the 1970s and AFDC ended with the
passage of The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act
of 1996, also known as “welfare reform” 5. As far as gender based violence,
new forms began to emerge in the United States after 1970 due to the influx of
immigrants. Things like the threat of honor killings was now added to the list
of women issues in regards to gender based violence in the US. Before the
mid-1970s, domestic violence was a private experience, and there was no
collective knowledge 5. As the complexity of domestic violence became clear, it
was now seen as a social issue. With the ever increasing awareness of issues
specific to women throughout history, it seems unusual that there haven’t been
many studies of overall concern for women’s rights. This study aims to change
that by focusing on concern for women’s rights as a whole.

 

Methods

Data was collected from the 1983
General Social Survey. The GSS is a nationally representative sample of U.S.
adults over 18 years old. Table 1 shows the percent of responses to each
variable category. In order to study this topic, the dependent variable chosen
measures respondents’ concern for women’s rights. Responses range on an ordinal
scale from “Very Concerned,” to “Not Concerned at All.” The independent
variables chosen are: total family income of respondent, region of interview,
political views, race, born in the United States, sex, and how often the
respondent and their friends think about women’s rights. Income is measured on
an ordinal scale from less than $1,000 to more than $25,000. Region is measured
nominally with categories being: Mid Atlantic, New England, East North Central,
West North Central, South Atlantic, East South Central, West South Central,
Mountain, and Pacific. Political Views are measured on a 1-10 scale from 1
being “Left” to 10 being “Right.” Race is measured nominally as White, Black,
or Other.  ‘Born in the US’ is scaled
nominally and measures whether or not a respondent was born in the USA by using
a Yes or No response. Sex is measured nominally as male or female. How often a
respondent and their friends think about women’s rights is ordinally measured.
It is reported on a scale from “very often,” to “almost never.”

 

The hypotheses for each previously
mentioned variable are as follows:

a.       Income:
Respondents with higher income will care less about women’s rights

b.      Region:
Respondents from the East and West South Central part of the US will care less
about women’s rights than other regions.

c.       Political
Views: Respondents who identify closer to the right will care less about
women’s rights than those who identify as more liberal.

d.      Race:
Race will not have an effect on whether or not someone cares about Women’s
rights.

e.       Born
in US: Respondents who were born in the US will care more about women’s rights
than those who weren’t.

f.       Sex:
Female respondents will care more about women’s rights than male respondents.

g.      Thinking
of Women’s Rights: Respondents who report that they and their friends “think of
women’s rights very often or fairly often” will have more concern than
those who report they think “occasionally or almost never.”

 

A crosstab with chi-square test was
used for each independent variable to help determine how they are associated
with caring about women’s rights. A logistic regression was used to support the
hypotheses for each of the independent variables and was also used to shed some
light on which independent variables have impacted feelings towards women’s
rights.

 

Response Percentage to each Variable

Variable

%

Income

Less than $1,000

1.4

$1,000 to $2,999

2.5

$3,000 to $3,999

2.5

$4,000 to $4,999

2.3

$5,000 to $9,999

11.6

$10,000 to $14,999

12.3

$15,000 to $19,999

9.6

$20,000 to $24,999

9.5

$25,000 or more

48.2

Region

NEW ENGLAND

4.7

MIDDLE ATLANTIC

14.9

E. NOR. CENTRAL

18.6

W. NOR. CENTRAL

7.5

SOUTH ATLANTIC

19.1

E. SOU. CENTRAL

6.6

W. SOU. CENTRAL

9.4

MOUNTAIN

5.9

PACIFIC

13.3

Political views

LEFT

2.2

SLIGHTLY LEFT

19.1

MODERATE

56.5

SLGHTLY RIGHT

19.5

RIGHT

2.6

Race

WHITE

81.5

BLACK

13.8

OTHER

4.7

Born
in US

YES

91.6

NO

8.4

Sex

MALE

44

FEMALE

56

Thinks
about Women’s Rights

VERY OFTEN

12.2

FAIRLY OFTEN

18.9

OCCASIONALLY

43.8

ALMOST NEVER

25.1

DV: Concern for
Women’s Rights

VERY CONCERNED

22

SOMEWHAT CONCERNED

48.4

NOT VERY CONCERNED

20.8

NOT CONCERNED AT ALL

8.9

Table 1: Sample data from 1983 GSS

Findings

Crosstabs
tables with Chi-Square tests were used to help determine how each independent
variable is associated with caring about women’s rights. The bivariate analyses
were first run against each independent variable using the dependent variable
measuring “Concern for Women’s Rights.” This analysis showed p<.001 significance in reference to all independent variables except for Region. Region did not show to be significant. However, once recoded into grouped sections within the variable, the Atlantic regions showed to be significant in the regression model. (See Table 2) Considering that females made up a larger portion of the gender variable, concern for women's rights was pretty evenly spread between men and women. A similar distribution was shown for the variable which asked respondents if they were born in the United States. Whether born here or not, most respondents stated they were either very concerned or somewhat concerned. And the same goes for Race. Whether white, black or other, most respondents identified as being very or somewhat concerned. Frequency of thought about women's rights showed what you'd expect. Most people who reported being very or somewhat concerned about women's rights also reported that they and their friends think very or fairly often about women's rights. However, there were some interesting outliers. Five people who responded they weren't concerned with women's rights at all or were not very concerned, actually reported that they and their friends think about women's rights very often. For political views, trends showed as expected. As a respondent identified as more conservative, their concern for women's rights was less. However, considering that the majority of the sample identified as being politically moderate, the largest amount of responses were somewhere in the middle. For income, people who had a family income of less than $1000 reported the highest amount of concern for women's rights. 85.8% of respondents whose family income was less than $1,000 reported either being very concerned or somewhat concerned. The rest of the distribution for income was pretty evenly spread ranging from very concerned to not concerned at all.   A second bivariate analysis was run with each independent variable against a recoded dependent variable to reflect a focus on 'little to no concern' for women's rights. The variables which showed to be significant when run against the recoded dependent variable were: How often respondent and friends thinks about women's rights, Total family income, and Race. For frequency of thought about women's rights, respondents with little to no concern about women's rights also reported only thinking about women's rights occasionally or almost never. 93.4% of respondents with little to no concern for women's rights reported occasionally or never thinking about women's rights. For race, white people showed the highest lack of concern for women's rights as compared to black and other respondents. However, white people also made up the majority of the sample for that category, as previously mentioned. For family income, respondents who made between $6,000 and $6,999 had the highest lack of concern for women's rights. Interestingly, once pieced out into more focused categories within the family income independent variable, this income amount when placed into a grouped income bracket, also showed to be significant in the regression model (See Table 2).  Frequency of thought on women's rights remained significant in the regression model, while, once recoded to omit the category 'white,' race did not.   Based on findings from the bivariate analyses, each independent variable was recoded into the regression model to focus on a particular effect for that variable. For the demographic variables in the regression model, gender was recoded to female, race was recoded into white race, and whether or not a respondent was born in the United States was recoded into Not Born in the US. After 1970, the immigrant population of the country quadrupled 5 so it seemed important to focus on respondents not born in the United States considering the data was collected only 13 years later in 1983. For family income, income ranges were grouped into brackets which include: Less than $1k, $1k to $6k, $6k to $10k, and $10k to $20k. Political views were measured on a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being furthest left and 10 being furthest right. The variable was then recoded into 'left leaning,' and 'right leaning.' The recode of 'left leaning' includes responses from 1(left) to a slightly moderate level of 4. The recode of 'right leaning' starts at a moderate level of 7 all the way to right (10). Region was recoded into New England, North Central US, Atlantic, and Pacific Mountain. New England remained as originally categorized while North Central combined the original categories of West North Central and East North Central. Atlantic was a combination of Middle Atlantic and South Atlantic. Pacific Mountain was a combination of the Mountain and Pacific regions.   Table 2-Model 1: Logistic Regression (unweighted) Odds of Being Concerned About Women's Rights   VARIABLE OR Demographics     Female 1.325   White Race 2.068   Not Born in US **2.722 Family Income       Less than 1k 0.885   $1k to $6k 1.670   $6k to $10k *3.993   $10k to $20k **2.27 Political Views       Left leaning 0.634   Right leaning 0.873 Region       New England 0.251   North Central 0.476   Atlantic **-0.327   Pacific Mountain 0.481 Individualistic Variable     Doesn't often think of WR *24.41 *p<.001, **p<.05 Logistic Regression Estimates     Table 2 shows the logistic regression estimates of concern for women's rights and the likelihood that one would have more or less concern by demographic and individual information. The model was significant overall at the .001 level and correctly predicted 72.7% of responses. Variables which showed to be significant were: thinking about women's rights, being born in the US, income of $6,000 to $10,000, income of $10k to $20k, and being from the Atlantic region of the United States. The independent variable measuring the frequency at which a respondent and his/her friends think of women's rights was significant at the .001 level. The model showed that when respondents and their friends don't often think about women's rights, the odds that they also won't have much concern for women's rights increases by a factor of 24.42. This is an increase of 2,342%. Being foreign born increases the odds of having little to no concern for women's rights by 2.722. This is a 172% increase. Having a family income of $6k to $10k increases the odds a respondent will have little to no concern for women's rights by 3.993. This is a 299% increase. Having a family income of $10k to $20k increases the odds that the respondent will have concern for women's rights by 2.27. This is an increase of 127%. Being from the Atlantic region of the United States decreases the odds of having little to no concern for women's rights by 0.327. This is a 67% decrease. The hypothesis for income- Respondents with higher income will care less about women's rights-was supported in the bivariate analyses but in the regression model was not supported. The regression showed that respondents with a middle range family income actually care less about women's rights. The hypothesis for political views was supported in the first bivariate analysis only. The hypothesis for race is difficult to show given the distribution of the sample is so 'white' heavy. However, based on the sample available, the hypothesis that race would have no effect was not supported. In the bivariate analyses race actually showed that white people had less concern for women's rights than other races. The hypothesis for being born in the United States was supported throughout. In all analyses, people who were foreign born were less likely to have concern for women's rights. The hypothesis for gender was supported in the first bivariate analysis only. As mentioned previously, considering females made up a larger portion of the sample, gender seemed to have little to no effect on concern for women's rights. The hypothesis for how often respondents and their friends think of women's rights was supported throughout. Each model showed that respondents who report that they and their friends "think of women's rights very often or fairly often" showed to have more concern than those who reported they think "occasionally or almost never." Discussion Race and being female showed no effect in the regression model, while certain components of income and region did. While thinking of women's rights, being born in the United States, and middle income (approximately $6,000 to $20,000) showed an increase in likelihood of little to no concern for women's rights, being from the Middle and South Atlantic part of the US showed a decrease. Comfort can be taken in the implication that people born and people from the Atlantic region of the United States are more likely to be concerned about women's rights. We can also imply from the model that as a respondent and his/her friends thinks about women's rights, there is an increased likelihood that their concern for women's rights will also increase. As far as limitations, the variable "Not born in the US" is a small sample size. 91.6% of respondents said that they were born in the US while only 8.4% of respondents said they were not born here. Of those 8.4%, it is possible many may not have answered the questions regarding concern for women's rights. Race may have had a similar effect after recoding for 'white,' since more than half of respondents identified as white. 44,873 respondents identified as white while 10,214 people identified as black or other. In terms of gender, identifying as male was omitted from the model to focus on females. However, male respondents made up almost half of the gender category so the sample size for that variable was basically cut in half after recoding for female.   Conclusion Current literature shows a major focus on domestic violence in regards to women's rights. Studies in 2004 and 2008 found that advocates in domestic violence organizations often lack a political analysis of the issue or have difficulty integrating such an analysis with the realities of providing service in an agency 5. A recent study of domestic violence coalitions in the United States found that, "only 5 (9.8%) of the 51 coalitions self-identified as feminist organizations or explicitly indicated that their services were informed by feminist values, theories, or politics" 5. With all of the recent METOO hashtags from women across the US trending on the topic of sexual harassment and assault, I recommend that the question of concern for women's rights be asked again in the near future. Sexual violence is just one of the many issues women face, but is nonetheless important. Hopefully future studies on this topic can help answer some questions by shedding some light on what makes a person concerned about women's rights.           References 1. Armstrong Smith, Lindsley, and Stephen A. Smith. 2017. "Keeping Hope Alive." Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 38(2):173-207. 2.Berry, Mary Frances, Melinda Chateauvert, Katherine Cross, Jan Erickson, Roberta W. Francis, Bonnie Grabenhofer, Bettina Hager, and Amy Richards. 2017. "ERA Roundtable."  Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 38(2):1-40. 3.Donnelly, Kristin, Jean M. Twenge, Malissa A. Clark, Samia K. Shaikh, Angela Beiler-May, and Nathan T. Carter. 2016. "Attitudes Toward Women's Work and Family Roles in the United States, 1976–2013." Psychology of Women Quarterly 40(1):41-54. 4. Eibl, Marita. 2017. "Celebrating Women and Girls During Women's History Month." Retrieved November 15, 2017 (https://blog.usaid.gov/2017/03/celebrating-women-and-girls-during-womens-history-month/). 5. Fleck-Henderson, Ann.  2017. "From Movement to Mainstream: A Battered Women's Shelter Evolves." Journal of Women and Social Work 32(4):476-490. 6. Gorsevski, Ellen W. 2015. "Letters, Laws and New (In)Justice: The Rhetoric of Rights in Shaping Democracy." Rhetoric & Public Affairs 18(4):719-733. 7. Heaven, Patrick C. L. 1999. "Attitudes Toward Women's Rights: Relationships with Social Dominance Orientation and Political Group Identities." Sex Roles 41(7-8):605-614. 8. Hua, Julietta. 2011. Trafficking women's human rights. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Issitt, Micah. 2013. "Women's rights in the 2000s." Salem Press Encyclopedia. 9. Lambourne, Wendy, and Vivianna Rodriguez Carreon. 2016. "Engendering Transitional Justice: a Transformative Approach to Building Peace and Attaining Human Rights for Women." Human Rights Review 17(1):71-93. 10. Lee, Choonib. 2017. "Women's Liberation and Sixties Armed Resistance." Journal for the Study of Radicalism 11(1):25-51. 11. Nakagawa, Mana and Christine Min Wotipka. 2016. "The Worldwide Incorporation of Women and Women's Rights Discourse in Social Science Textbooks, 1970–2008." Comparative Education Review 60:501-29.   12. Nussbaum, Martha C. 2000. Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.   13. Ovseiko, PV., A. Chapple, LD Edmunds, and S. Ziebland. 2017. "Advancing Gender Equality through the Athena SWAN Charter for Women in Science: an exploratory study of women's and men's perceptions." Health Research Policy and Systems 15(1).   14. States News Service. 2017. "WOMEN'S RIGHTS REDUCED, RESTRICTED, REVERSED, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS IN OBSERVANCE MESSAGE, CITING OUTDATED ATTITUDES, ENTRENCHED MALE CHAUVINISM." 2017. Retrieved November 26, 2017 (libraries.state.ma.us/login?gwurl=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=AONE=w=mlin_b_simmcol=2.1=GALE%7CA484233981=r=ae9c21b72f90ce4c62818985d0f536c9). 15. Wolf, First Lady Frances. 2017. "It's On Us to Make Sure Bravery of #MeToo Victims is Not Wasted." Retrieved November 15, 2017 (https://www.governor.pa.gov/its-on-us-make-sure-bravery-metoo-victims-not-wasted/). 16. Zoelle, Diana G. 2000. Globalizing Concern for Women's Human Rights: The Failure of the American. New York: St. Martin's Press.    VL1https://www.quora.com/Whats-the-background-of-the-Declaration-of-Sentiments-by-Elizabeth-Cady-Stanton  VL2http://picturethis.museumca.org/timeline/reagan-years-1980s/womens-rights/info  VL3http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0361684315590774