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Every year on March 8, International Women’s Day promotes gender equality—a term that leaves room for many interpretations, some of them contradictory. For example, the historian Paula J. Giddings describes how America’s early feminist organizations excluded women of color, including the journalist and activist Ida B. Wells, who worked for suffrage and black civil rights. Today, attitudes about what constitutes female empowerment are sometimes split along generational lines, a conflict dramatized in Meg Wolitzer’s most recent novel.
The journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman attribute gender disparities in pay and power in part to a widespread sense of self-doubt among women. The lawyer and writer Jill Filipovic argues that assessments of gender equality must include not only economic conditions, but also individuals’ experience of fulfillment. Meanwhile, the scholars Patricia Bell-Scott, Akasha Hull, and Barbara Smith call for equality in school curricula, so that girls can grow up learning about women’s achievements—and preparing to accomplish their own.
Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas.
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