|Feminism and Politics|
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We can test the impact feminists have made on national politics by analyzing public policy issues. We must explore 1) agenda settingthe role of feminist groups in initiating and structuring public policy, 2) the influence of these groups on legislative and executive decision-making, and 3) the implementation of the policies enacted. Central to this analysis is an examination of the role played by feminist groups in any or all of these crucial steps in the policy-making process. Implicit in our discussion will be the question: Have the policies enacted made a difference?
In this chapter we analyze the role of two apparently similar bodies: the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) in Britain and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the United States. In addition, we examine the structure of the policy-making process in both countries by focusing on abortion and sex discrimination politics. Finally, we assess the role of British and American feminist groups in affecting policy
outcomes by looking closely at the politics of domestic violence, an issue first brought to public consciousness in Britain. In Chapter 5, we will extend the analysis to Sweden.
Not surprisingly, given the institutional setting described in Chapter 1, women are poorly represented in British political life. In 1982, only 23 women served in Parliament, although a record 210 stood for election (European Union of Women 1982). By 1987 a higher number40 out of 221 candidateshad gained seats.[*] In addition to the female (though hardly feminist) prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, there are three other women ministers in the present Conservative government, but they do not hold cabinet rank. Of 97 senior judges, only two are women. While women increasingly qualified as barristers and solicitors during the 1970s and 1980s, in England and Wales they composed only 3 percent of the Queens Counsels, from whom judges in the High Court and above are chosen (Lovenduski 1986:217). In 1983 only 4 percent of High Court judges were women. No women were represented among the higher-level appeals judges. In the senior civil service, in 1986, fewer than 4 percent of high administrative officers were women. In 1983, while women composed 47.1 percent of Home civil servants, there were no female permanent secretaries (ibid., 216). Few women are nominated to, or serve on, government committees, councils, or other public bodies. And, at the local level, in the mid-1970s there were only two chief women's officers out of 500 (Hills 1981:27). But more women are becoming local councilorsin 1982 they numbered 18.4 percent
(Equal Opportunities Commission 1983a:95). However, as we noted earlier, the overwhelming structure of power in Britain is predominantly male.
During the 1960s and early '70s, pressure arose in Parliament for the creation of a quasi-independent body to "act as an amalgam of recipient and investigator complaints relating to sex discrimination, conciliator where possible and prosecutor in the courts where this failed" (Byrne and Lovenduski 1978:157). The result was the creation of the Equal Opportunities Commission to enforce the Equal Pay Act and Sex Discrimination Act (to be discussed shortly). The EOC was given law enforcement powers, research and investigative capacity, and jurisdiction over a number of policy areas related to women (education, housing, and employment) (Meehan 1983b:7071). Excluded from EOC jurisdiction were the social security, pensions, taxes, and nationality. It was hoped that the EOC would be a vigorous voice on behalf of women and would play a strong enforcement role. In practice, the EOC has not developed as robust a defender of equal rights as many hoped, although it does provide a forum and base for feminist-related issues, one of the few that exists in a system essentially closed to change-oriented groups.
The EOC is a quango, or quasi-judicial/legislative entity, and as such is not strictly accountable to the House of Commons or the executive branch. The agency therefore apparently has a degree of independence. In the United States, by contrast, appointments to commissions
and agencies dealing specifically with women's issuesthe Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), Commission on Civil Rights, and Office of Civil Rights (formerly at the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, later at the Department of Education)are politicized, and feminist groups are consulted and vocal about their preferences.
As a quango, in fact the EOC relies on funding from the Home Office and is dependent on government departments. It also lacks the supportive constituency necessary for a successful confrontationist stance (Atkins and Hoggett 1984:19697). It is therefore reliant on informal government contacts and, as a result, lacks a public image and awareness. Perhaps mindful of the restrictive role to which the Commission for Racial Equality was limited when it sought to build a stronger relationship with ethnic groups and develop a constituency, the EOC has been more cautious (ibid., 197).
In addition, a history of tripartism limits the role of women both at the EOC and within the judicial process. Secrecy pervades the appointments process and access is limited, except for established groups. Nominations to the agency are made by reference to lists of "The Great and the Good," on which few, if any, women are found; interests represented include those of party, region, and, especially, business and labor. Recommendations of women clearly identified with feminism were rejected until the late 1970s (Meehan 1983b:7074). Until recently, when two women with a feminist orientation (Sandra Brown and Ann Robinson) were appointed, the commission reflected little input from women per se. In the main, female trade union representatives on the EOC have been more responsive to labor than to women's concerns (interview, Turner, July 1982). Meehan
(1983a:182) points out that when in one instance a TUC representative on the EOC dissented from the union position on protective legislation, she was met with punitive action by the TUC, including denial of reappointment to the EOC and removal from her senior position in the TUC. Leadership roles on the commission have been given primarily to majority party representatives.
In addition to the lack of access to appointments and the policy-making process, the role of the EOC is limited by the neocorporatist structure of the legal system. British employment suits are first heard in industrial tribunals rather than in courts. Tribunals are comprised of representatives of industry and labor and are seen as part of the collective bargaining process (Meehan 1983a). In this process, there is limited representation for complainants by unions or groups similar to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which do not really exist in the United Kingdom. While the EOC and National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) provide some legal aid, there are no pro bono , public interest, law-related groups that play an advocacy role on behalf of the disadvantaged. Trade unions, which could aid complainants in bringing suits, usually do not. In addition, tribunal personnel are overworked and undertrained and lack an understanding of sex discrimination issues. The number of cases heard and upheld by tribunals is discouraging to feminist aspirations (a situation we will discuss later). Tribunals do not create case law; therefore their rulings result in a plethora of ad hoc decisions. The British judiciary is naturally conservative, and not surprisingly, has shown itself to be far from progressive on issues of sex discrimination (Jackson 1984:193) Of the cases that have been won, at least two important ones have been on appeal to the European Court.
Among them was a case of indirect discrimination brought by Belinda Price. She alleged that the Civil Service Commission's requirement of an upper-age limit of 28 for executive officers discriminated against women as childbearers and rearers during their twenties (Bruegel 1983:151).
Because of the limited legal advocacy structure and the tradition of bureaucratic neutrality, outside pressure and monitoring of compliance with the law are absent in the United Kingdom (Meehan 1983a, 1983b). In contrast to the United States, where the existence of policy networks is a key part of the process of influence, in Britain women have not developed similar networks for reasons of ideology and institutional structure. Hence, there has been little or no organization per se to bolster the enforcement of sex discrimination laws.
The style of the 15-person EOC itself has been to limit emphasis on enforcement and sanctions and to concentrate on research and publicity. It has sought to avoid confrontation in favor of consultation and persuasion and has been involved in few, if any, dramatic cases (Meehan 1983b). It has conducted several protracted informal investigations into equal pay and employment issueswith limited outcomes. The House of Lords has prevented the EOC from mounting formal investigations into the general workings of organizations (Atkins and Hodgett 1984:39). As a result, the EOC has sought to influence government at higher levels, by submitting proposals and evidence to the House of Commons and relevant agencies, including royal commissions and agencies concerned with manpower services and education (Spare Rib , May 9, 1981). It has provided legal assistance and advice to individuals (its power is limited to backing cases brought by individuals) and brought several
cases to the European Court. Perhaps most significantly, it has played a major role in educating public opinion on sex discrimination issues (Byrne and Lovenduski 1978a). It has helped create consciousness of the need for change and has demonstrated the extent of discrimination. The EOC has issued films as well as pamphlets and other documents, held conferences, and played a key role in funding projects, even those of women's groups considered "radical." Among them have been grants to the Women's Action Group, the Women's Health Information Center, the NCCL, Asian women's groups, Women's Aid, the Women's Therapy Center, Sisterwrite (a feminist bookshop), the Women's Research and Resource Center, and unions (for analysis of sexual harassment) (EOC 1981). In a system where funding opportunities are limited, the EOC is a new and important source of financial support for emerging feminist groups.
The EOC may also play a role in building relationships among disparate groups concerned with women's issues. An example is the commission's large annual conference, to which 70 to 80 women's organizations are invited, thus providing a rare forum and meeting place for a wide variety of feminist activists (interview, Trembath, Aug. 1982).
Additional factors limiting the effectiveness of the EOC are its location in Manchester (though it does maintain a small London office) and the absence of regional offices as well as the high turnover rate among its chief executivesfour different heads during its first five years of existence (interview, Lockwood, Aug. 1982).
The commission has had difficulty in maintaining traditional bureaucratic neutrality among a staff with feminist inclinations. The result has been tensions between commissioners and staffunlike the situation in
its American counterpart, the EEOC, whose staff and groups frequently consult and may be mutually supportive (Meehan 1983a:74). The election of a more sympathetic government would undoubtedly help, considering that the Conservative government cuts forced the EOC to reduce its staff from 400 to 148 (Guardian , July 10, 1980). Some British feminists fear that having created a body with extensive purported power, although far less in actual terms, the commission may actually impede further action regarding sex equality (Byrne and Lovenduski 1978a:146). The creation of a feminist alliance that transcends ideological, party, and class bias and that could provide legitimacy for feminist-related concerns may be the only way to strengthen the EOC (Meehan 1983a:74). The EOC itself has concluded that little further progress can be made without "substantial amendment" (Glucklich 1984:108).
A second government-based potential advocacy group in Britain is even more limited by constraints than the EOC. The Women's National Commission (WNC) is a government-founded and sponsored organization that was established in 1969. It has two co-chairs, one government appointed and one elected by the commission itself. The WNC's mission is "to ensure by all possible means that the informed opinion of women is given due weight in government" (WNC 1982). The commission has a requisite size of 50 organizations, which must be national bodies with a large and active membership. Current members include women's sections of unions and parties.
The WNC develops working groups to examine issues and has produced papers, often in response to government (consultative) Green and White papers. While
superficially resembling such American federal agencies as the Women's Bureau in the Department of Labor and the commissions on the status of women, the WNC shares some of their weaknesses and then some! The WNC is constrained in its criticism of government because of its close ties to the incumbent administration. In addition, the scope of its membership is limited by the requirement that member groups must have been in existence a number of years and must have a national presence and membership. These ground rules militate against inclusion of mostif not allwomen's liberation groups that have no say; hence, the WNC lacks true representativeness of women's interests (interview, Tuomin, July 1982). Even such small London-based groups as the Fawcett Society are excluded by this policy, although nonmember groups are occasionally invited to participate in the WNC's deliberations on an ad hoc basis. In addition, the group's charter lacks a provision for changing its organizational membership. The WNC is run by the general secretary (a civil servant) and one staff member, limiting its role greatly. Moreover, the group's power, like many others discussed here, is strictly advisory. The group exists on a budget that makes up 3 percent of the EOC's (limited) resources (Stott 1978:277). Hence, while the WNC remains as a symbol of women's influence and a potential advocate for women's concerns, which no government will abolish for symbolic reasons, it represents a classic case of institutional powerlessness.
In the United States by 1980 the number of women state legislators tripled in 12 years to over 14 percent, although
they constituted only 5.1 percent (25 of the 532 members) of Congress (Bomafede 1986:2176). In the 1980s women mayors governed several of America's largest cities, including Houston, Chicago, and San Francisco, and the number of municipal officials who were women tripled (from 1971) to 13 percent (Flammang 1984:10). Especially under the Carter administration, women's fortunes in the administrative sector improved dramatically. The number of women in top policy-making jobs subject to presidential appointment (grades 1318) increased from a pre-Carter 14 percent to 33 percent in 1979. In cabinet and subcabinet positions, women's representation improved from 4 to 8 percent. Carter also appointed an unprecedented number of women (15.8 percent) as federal judges, bringing female representation on the federal bench to 6.6 percent. Under Ronald Reagan's administration after 1980, however, these numbers dropped significantly to 4.4 percent of judicial nominations and 9 percent of senior federal appointments (Harrison 1984:149; New York Times , March 27, 1987:A12). By 1987, Reagan appointments of women to top positions had reached 15 percent, although, despite their gender, many could be classified as antifeminists.
In the United States, as in the United Kingdom, the activities of agencies addressing sex discrimination, especially the EEOC, have been limited by an insufficient budget and bureaucratic ineptitude (Greenburger 1980:11). Enforcement has been primarily left to individuals who face serious obstacles (lack of money, information, and support) in pursuing sex discrimination cases.
In the United States the Women's Bureau was for some 40 years the focal point for women in government. Its role was hampered to some degree by its advocacy of protective legislation for women and its accompanying
antipathy to the ERA (Tinker 1983:11). Nonetheless, after it abandoned its endorsement of protection and came to support the ERA, it became both a resource (as it had been since its inception, providing statistics and data) and an advocacy agency on behalf of women's concerns. It has helped provide resources and a forum for a variety of women's (primarily economic) concerns. However, though at one time it was the only federal agency charged with looking after women's welfare, it has been joined (at various times) by the federal commissions on the status of women, the Civil Rights Commission, and the EEOC. The significance of these bodies has varied with the particular administrative viewpoints and with the type of leadership provided at a given time.
The EEOC was created pursuant to the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As Vicki Randall has pointed out, it initially had fewer formal enforcement powers than its British counterpart, the EOC. Nonetheless, it emerged as a relatively important tool through which major policy advances in equal employment might be made, although its effectiveness has varied with the commitment of different administrations to it. The initial EEOC had power only to seek voluntary compliance with the Civil Rights Act; it could not litigate, although it could file amicus curiae briefs. After 1972, largely owing to pressure from the organized feminist movement and from commissioners sympathetic to the movement (whose appointments had been pressed for by the organized women's community), its enforcement powers were strengthened (Randall 1982:189; Meehan 1983a:177).
For the EEOC, enforcement involves the resolution of individual charges and the elimination of "patterns and practices" of discrimination (ibid.). Executive Order
11375 amends the earlier Executive Order 11246 to include sex discriminatory employment practices among those prohibited to employers under contract to the federal government. Although the enforcing agency, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), has not been vigorous in enforcing policy, a 1969 order spelled out in detail what affirmative action would entail, in terms of goals, timetables, and monitoring progress. Under pressure from WEAL, the executive orders were applied to women in higher education as well.
Despite the unevenness of the enforcement process, nondiscrimination efforts have been aided in the United States by a variety of factors unavailable to the British feminist movement. Nonetheless, during most of the 1970s, major questions were raised by critics about the EEOC's administrative efficiency and the seriousness of its commitment to end discrimination. The backlog of unresolved cases seemed particularly indicative of inadequate efforts. But in 1977, Eleanor Holmes Norton, a new chair appointed by the Carter administration, instituted a complete overhaul of the commission in order to rationalize its structure and procedures. Even prior to that, though, the commission had demonstrated its ability to litigate effectively on behalf of individuals. Through issuance of guidelines and briefs, it was able in large measure to shape the nature of judicial response to the issues raised. Particularly noteworthy was the 1973 settlement with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), the largest such award ever made under civil rights legislation (ibid., 178). Hundreds of briefs were filed on behalf of individuals and also in class action suits. In 1977 alone, 35 class action suits were resolved.
A major factor in the EEOC's ability to change law
was the establishment of a policy network that aided in the appointment of sympathetic staff and commissioners, consulted with the commission, and produced additional legislation to strengthen the functioning of the agency. A Washington women's policy network brought legislators, bureaucrats, staff, and feminist advocates together on a variety of issues. The emergence of the women's movement aided in expanding federal policies, and because the bureaucratic process in the United States is recognized as more explicitly "political" than that of Britain, the effectiveness and persistence of the Washington women's lobby helped to influence appointments, press for continuing antidiscrimination legislation (such as Title IX, banning sex discrimination in education), and monitor agency enforcement (Randall 1982). The appointment of an outspoken black woman leader (Eleanor Holmes Norton) to head the EEOC in 1977 was made in consultation with civil rights and women's groups. "With its amicus curiae briefs, strict guidelines and its power to litigate after 1974, the EEOC is thought to have become, in the 1970's, a strong and successful proponent of women's rights" (Meehan 1985:10).
Under the Reagan administration, funding for civil rights enforcement dropped, now constituting only 0.07 percent of the federal budget. The ability of federal agencies to conduct compliance reviews, investigate complaints, and attack discrimination in a systematic fashion has been severely curtailed (Braun 1984:99). Like the British EOC, the EEOC has experienced cutbacks in staff and budget, with clerical staff and legal (attorney) positions most affected. These reductions in turn have slowed the production of documentation needed to prosecute cases. Litigation activities have
also been curtailed owing to reduced funding, with little money available for witnesses, special studies, and data processing (ibid.). Staff at the OFCCP has also been cut back, resulting in a backlog of individual complaints (ibid., 100). New regulations further curtail coverage (of small firms) and may discourage the bringing of systemic discrimination suits. For the first time, an administration has intervened as a "friend of the Court" against women and minorities in "reverse discrimination" suits, although the Supreme Court has generally upheld affirmative action in recent cases (Johnson v. Transit Agency , Santa Clara County, California). Women have not yet lost most of the equal employment gains of the last two decades, although they have been forced to expend enormous energy and scarce resources just to maintain the status quo. But the resignation under protest of government officials such as Joseph Cooper, responsible for compliance with affirmative action guidelines, have helped highlight the administration's failure to vigorously enforce the law (New York Times , Jan. 5, 1987:II4).
To the degree that the EEOC has been a more effective force for change than its British counterpartalthough its role depends in large measure on the sympathetic support of both the executive and judicial branchesseveral points of contrast appear significant. First, the federal courts in the United States have upheld and reinforced numerous claims pursued under Title VII. Second, American courts are more available to make and interpret policy and may provide another access route to policy change. Third, class action suits may result in more sweeping and effective remedies, and the growing
litigation sector among women's groups has used its limited resources to aid in bringing such suits before the courts.
A final area of contrast is the policy toward affirmative action. Atkins and Hoggett (1984:199) suggest that four factors present in the United States regarding this policy are absent in the United Kingdom: 1) the public availability of requisite statistics, 2) the imposition of high damages in discrimination cases, 3) the powerful position of the EEOC in conciliating and monitoring out-of-court settlements, and 4) the willingness and power of the courts to uphold positive action (or affirmative action) orders. As we shall see, similar constraints limit the effectiveness of Sweden's machinery for equal opportunities. An additional factor limiting the impact of the British EOC may be that its power (and potential constituency) is separated from that of the Commission on Racial Equality (CRE) and its racial and ethnic base, so that joint efforts, such as those facilitated in the United States by the Civil Rights Commission and EEOC, are not feasible in Britain. A possible opening for more effective policy-making by the EOC may lie in its emerging relationship with the EEC, via the European Commission, European Parliament, and European Court of Justice (ibid.; Meehan 1985:189). (In 1984, for example, the EOC finally met its obligations as stated in an EEC directive of 1975, amending the Equal Pay Act to cover equal pay for equal valueor comparable worth, in American terminology.) But despite this potential support for a stronger EOC role, it is difficult to see the emergence of a greatly altered commission unless a more cohesive and politicized feminist movement can effectively intervene at the administrative level (Meehan 1985:189).
The absence of an organized British feminist movement, coupled with an institutional setting that makes monitoring of implementation far more difficult than it is in the United States, helps explain in part the considerably different outcomes in the two nations (Randall 1982:196). In the United Kingdom the ensuing separation between the so-called neutral bureaucracy and feminist activists has both reflected and reinforced the absence of a feminist lobby. In the United States, equal opportunity policies have had a greater impact than in Britain (and Sweden as well, as we shall see in the next chapter) because they have been in effect longer and have been accompanied by more aggressive enforcement of antidiscrimination policies (Dex and Shaw 1986:14).
Women as elected political officials may provide support for feminist issues. Consistent with our analysis of the EOC and the EEOC, British women M.P.'s have been reluctant allies of the women's movement, while their American counterparts have developed a bit more cohesion on certain issues of interest to the feminist community. The women in Parliament who became concerned with abortion apparently did so only after a decision was visited on them by their male colleagues (Vallance 1979:88). Once limiting bills were introduced in 197475, the M.P.'s were galvanized into action and helped organize support in committees and through petitions, marches, and the like. (In contrast, the Sex Discrimination Act was given qualified support by women M.P.'s
because many of them saw it largely as publicity concocted for International Women's Year [ibid., 93].) But whatever the momentum created around the abortion issue, parliamentary women have no very clear and "certainly no very enduring sense of themselves as a group" (ibid., 96). The presence of Margaret Thatcher as the lone woman in her cabinet merely reinforces the view that there are "exceptional women" who occasionally achieve power and who rule in "splendid isolation" from their female colleagues. In the House of Commons, women do not see themselves as having any "esprit de corps." Most Labour women may have a degree of camaraderie and unity of purpose about some, though not all, issues. The existence of separate Lady Member's Sitting Rooms by party has developed in recent years, accentuating partisan differences between women M.P.'s. In the House of Lords as well, party is a greater influence on behavior than is sex. Women peers are not united by a feminist ideology, nor have they provided any feminist input in Parliament (Drewry and Brock 1983:2).
In contrast, in the United States a congressional Caucus for Women's Issues founded in 1977 claimed a bipartisan membership of 127 (down to 96 in 198683 Democrats and 13 Republicans [Bomafede 1986:2176]), including a majority of men (Thompson 1984:2). The group acts as a lobbying organization, with a bipartisan leadership and an all-female executive committee. The caucus aids in gaining electoral support for members and provides information to its constituents through a newsletter, Update . It prepares news releases and promotes legislation through meetings with administration officials and through media advocacy efforts. The caucus may be weakened by its somewhat partisan cast, and its failure to solicit support from all women members
(of the 24 female members of Congress, two Democrats and seven Republicans are not members).
However, though women legislators in the United States do not necessarily or even usually behave as a bloc, studies have found that women are consistently more liberal, particularly on issues concerning women and consumer protection (Norris :6). Republican women and men in Congress exhibit contrasting behavior on such issues as abortion rights, child benefits, and the ERA (ibid., 9). Women legislators also appear to favor decreased military expenditures and arms control, regardless of party affiliation. In this context it may prove especially significant that the caucus supports legislation such as that contained in the Economic Equity Act (EEA). The group has served as a source of information and consensus building (as it apparently did in the successful drive for Child Support Enforcement legislation in 1984 [Thompson 1984:221]).
Pym (1974:8081) suggests that few promotional pressure groups have a meaningful impact on the policy-making process in the United Kingdom, although she views the case of abortion reform as having been almost unique. Most legislation relating to women has been submitted as a private member's bill, and depends on tacit to overt government support for passage. The House of Lords and appointed select committees have often played a key role in mobilizing support for "women's" legislation. Many feminists in Britain are skeptical about the ability of equal rights campaigns and legislation to alter the balance of power between men and
women (Perrigo 1985:137). Hence the passage of the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and subsequent Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) owed more to the parties, the TUC, and also the EEC (whose Article 119, promulgated in 1957, provided for equal pay for equal work) than it did to the women's movement. Women's groups have played an auxiliarybut not central rolein creating support for legislative enactments.
The EPA was enacted under the aegis of a Labour government committed after 1964 to the principle of equal pay for equal work (Randall 1982:183). After consultation with the CBI and TUC, it was agreed that the act passed in 1970 would take effect in 1975. Randall (ibid., 184) attributes the support of the TUC for equal pay legislation not to its concern for feminism but to its fear that lower women's wages would undercut those of men. Lorwin and Boston (1984:146) point out that until the late 1960s, unions preferred to deal with matters of equal pay through wage negotiations rather than through the legislative process. (Swedish unions, in a similar manner, opposed equal opportunities legislation in the 1970s.)
The EPA provided that machinery for complaints would be the same as that for other industrial disputes: efforts to reach a settlement via the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), recourse to industrial tribunals, and, as a last resort, employee appeals tribunals. The passage of the act did not end the demand for sex discrimination legislation. Private member's bills were introduced after 1967 by Joyce Butler. A 1972 bill introduced by Willie Hamilton provided the basis for a bill placed by Baroness Nancy Seear before the House of Lords. It was then referred to a Select Committee; a similar Select Committee was established
in the House of Commons. The Conservative Party then in power announced support for an equal opportunities commission and some form of legislation (Randall 1982:164; Rendel 1978). The ensuing Labour government in 1974 pledged support for strong sex discrimination legislation. The SDA was passed in 1975, providing for expanded scope and enforcement and a more powerful EOC.
The legislative process involved in the sex discrimination bill suggests that there was little opposition to the idea of some kind of legislative action on the issue. "The most admirable feature of the debate was the generally sympathetic attitude of the opposition," at least as far as the principle of the bill was concerned; the bill survived the parliamentary legislative process virtually intact (Byrne and Lovenduski 1978b:137). It may be argued that activity of women in the two major parties created both a pressure and political climate in which legislation was thought necessary. However, there was, in fact, little influence by feminists or female politicians in Parliament (Jenson 1982:365). The Labour government in power in 1974 did endorse the idea of an enforcement body with strong powers as opposed to an organization that, as envisioned by the Conservatives, would be largely devoted to campaigning. Among parliamentary groups, the NCCL, the TUC, the Fawcett Society, and Women in the Media, as well as a short-lived Women's Lobby, pressed avidly for legislation. At the other extreme, the act's passage was greeted with total hostility by segments of the feminist community, who described it as "fraudulent," "hypocrisy," "a sellout," and "miserable tokenism" and conducted a National Day of Action against the bill, chaining themselves to the railings outside Parliament (Bouchier 1984:120). Their
opposition was based on the loopholes in the act, its presumed middle-class bias, and the weakness of the EOC. They viewed the SDA as a cheap concession, aimed at staving off more meaningful and expensive demands for economic and family equality (ibid., 121). In the end, however, it appears that "lobbying was relatively weak and what mattered was M.P.s' willingness to pay [the bill] attention" (Randall 1982:184). As was the case with equal credit legislation in the United States, M.P.'s may have perceived the bill's proposals as a bow to a growing "women's vote," somewhat in anticipation of organized demands (Gelb and Palley 1987). Other reasons for the easy passage were Britain's pending entry into the Common Marketand the EEC directives requiring equal pay and job equalityand, as in the United States, the relationship between action against race discrimination and action against sex discrimination (Randall 1982:185; Meehan 1985:82).
A third law, the Employment Protection Act of 1975, was supported vigorously by the TUC (Lorwin and Boston 1984:147). The act gave women, for the first time, statutory protection against the loss of jobs due to pregnancy and childbirth. Women now had a statutory right to paid maternity leave, protection from unfair dismissal during pregnancy, and the right to regain their jobs up to 29 weeks of giving birth (Coote and Campbell 1987:9394). However, in practice, the rights defined are so narrow that only a minority of women qualify; the majority cannot meet criteria regarding length of service and hours worked per week. No more than one woman in ten who leaves work to have a baby returns (Bruegel 1983:153). Only some 5 percent of women in manual work who took maternity leave and wished to return to their job have been able to do so (ibid.).
The record nonetheless demonstrates that the 1970s
in Britain marked legislative acceptance of the principle of equality in several different areas. How well has the legislation worked in practice?
We have suggested that the role of women's groups in facilitating the passage of legislation was an auxiliary rather than central one. Their participation has been even more minimal in the implementation process. As suggested earlier in this chapter, the EOC, which was set up under the Sex Discrimination Act, has been limited in its role, and, reflecting the systemic constraints within which it operates, has acted cautiously. Neither unions nor feminist groups have pressured vigorously for increased action, either at the EOC or in places of employment (Glucklich 1984:113). The EOC has used its power of formal investigation and its power to issue nondiscrimination notices "judiciously." In 1979 it issued its first (and only) nondiscrimination notice (ten have been issued by the Commission on Racial Equality) on equal pay to the Electrolux factory at Luton (Spare Rib , Sept. 1979:23). A lawsuit involving "indirect" discrimination (i.e., qualifying conditions were more often met by men than women) was successfully won in Price v. Civil Service . The SDA leaves untouched existing protective labor legislation, except to require the EOC to report on it (Bruegel 1983:152). Hedged with "genuine occupation qualifications" based on sexual distinctions, it fails to provide any obligation to establish positive (affirmative) action programs (ibid.). It is difficult to escape the view that the EOC was not given adequate legal machinery to enforce nondiscrimination on any significant scale (Lorwin and Boston 1984:150). And, as suggested earlier, the EOC has been cautious about using those powers it does have, preferring to devote its major resources to research and publicity.
In the British system, the individual is responsible for
bringing cases before the appropriate authorities, and there is the assumption of an equal balance of power between the employee and employer. The onus is on the woman to prove that discrimination has occurred. There is no right to obtain all documentation related to the case for the complaint. And individuals who can prove they have been discriminated against can obtain financial compensation but cannot regain their jobs (Ruggie 1984:118). The burden of proof is on the victim. Since 1976, between 50 and 70 percent of EPA and SDA cases have failed to reach a tribunal. This situation has been largely due to the intervention of the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service, which, as the conciliation service for all industrial complaints, may intervene when there is a prospect of success or when either side requests its assistance. The majority of cases are "settled" at this level or withdrawn (Atkins and Hoggett 1984:28, 123).
The number of cases heard and upheld under both acts is discouraging to feminist aspirations. In recent years the number of cases brought to the EOC under the SDA has remained at a relatively low 250 annually, but EPA cases dropped from 1,742 in 1976 to 54 in 1981, which indicates that the EPA in particular has had limited impact (Guardian , June 16, 1982) (see Table 5) because women have become disillusioned with its ability to change their economic circumstances.
In most instances, under the SDA only a handful of cases heard by tribunals result in a positive finding for women. Of the cases that are conciliated, most are "settled," often for token sums, while a large and puzzling number are withdrawn with no settlement (Spare Rib , Sept. 1979:22; Ruggie 1984:123). The number of applications, never high, has almost steadily fallen, and
Industrial Tribunal Statistics, 197681, on Equal Pay Act and Sex Discrimination Act
|Applications to Tribunals Where Action Has Been Completed|
|Outcome of Cases Heard|
|SOURCE : Equal Opportunities Commission 1982: Appendix 3, p. 32.|
from 1977 to 1978 almost one-third of the applicants were men (Spare Rib , Sept. 1979:22).
Amendments to the EPA and SDA might strengthen their significance by clarifying the meaning of "work of equal value," allowing for greater use of "positive action," and permitting the institution of class action suits. Such amendments are supported both by the EOC and the TUC Women's Advisory Committee (Ruggie 1984:130). Efforts to reformulate the legislation have also
been endorsed by the EEC. In 1982, the European Court of Justice struck down the EPA, saying that Britain has failed to broaden its definition of equal work to conform with the EOC's requirement of equal pay for work of equal value. When the Conservative government declined to comply with the ruling, Jo Richardson in 1983 introduced a private member's Sex Equality Bill, which would extend the definition of equal pay and bring under its aegis the growing number of female part-time workers (Perrigo 1985:138). The bill was defeated, but it could serve as a model for future legislation if a Labourled government in conjunction with feminist campaigners pressed for its passage at a later time. As noted earlier, in 1984, after nine years, the government finally complied with the 1975 EEC directive that mandated equal pay for equal value. The ensuing amendment to the EPA resulted in several hundred new complaints over the next two years.
By 1980 a new Employment Act had eroded the maternity rights awarded to women in 1975. The act qualifies the right to maternity leave by limiting it to women who work 16 or more hours and have had two years of continuous service with their firm. Part-time workers rights are qualified even more. The size of the firm is now also taken into account in the act; exemptions are given to firms with fewer than six employees. Notification requirements of intent to return to work are made more stringent. Finally, employers are no longer required to provide identical work to returning employees; rather they may offer "suitable alternative work" (Spare Rib , June 1981:9). The act also makes it more difficult for women to claim unfair dismissal.
Under these circumstances, the implementation of equality acts and subsequent legislative process have
undoubtedly been a distinct disappointment to women's aspirations. In the absence of a sympathetic judiciary, committed at least in principle to equal rights, and of a government agency with strong powers devoted to antidiscrimination concerns, much of the legislation enacted remains inadequate. Feminist campaigning groups such as the ROW, the NCCL, and the Women's Liberation Campaign for Financial and Legal Independence have pressed for legislative change and the extension of principles of equality in terms of focus (e.g., positive, or affirmative, action) and scope (e.g., extension to social security and tax law). Nonetheless, it is difficult to disagree with the view that "only the organization of women for women" can help reverse existing labor market inequalities (Meehan 1983a:103). This course would involve the creation of policy networks, at this time lacking in the fragmented feminist political culture of Britain.
What of legislation dealing with social and moral issues? Cases in point are abortion reform and policies toward battered women. Abortion reform was brought before Parliament as a private member's bill, although lobbying by the Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRA) was important in gaining the bill's passage. Pym and others (Pym 1974:91; Rivers 1974:206) have argued that this is one of the few instances in which a promotional group has successfully "penetrated" the legislative process. Marsh and Chambers (1981:1) also contend that "interest group activity on abortion is unparalleled. There are more interest groups concerned with this topic and they are more politicized than on any other social issue." Randall (1982:18385) concludes that, as in the case of sex discrimination legislation, developments within Parliament were crucial in
facilitating the measure's passage. Again, the House of Lords played a key role when Lord Silkins' bill provided an important precedent. In the House of Commons, the sympathetic Labour government gave the bill extra time, while the pro-abortion vote on a Third Reading came primarily from a Labour majority that was reform oriented, young, and middle-class (other moral reform issues that gained support during this period were eased divorce and censorship rules, abolition of the death penalty, and legislation decriminalizing homosexuality) (Marsh and Chambers 1981:3).
Because the issue was "unwhipped," it reflected something other than a straight "party" vote. At the same time there was a strong relationship between Labour Party membership and a pro-abortion vote. (In the United States, similar trends regarding abortion are evident in the stance of liberals and conservatives and in congressional voting [Gelb and Palley 1987:138]). David Steel, who introduced the bill, proved an able parliamentarian who consulted widely and made concessions to the medical profession to gain support (Marsh and Chambers 1981:19). Opposition forces were not well organized, while the "benevolent neutrality" of the Labour Government supported the reform effort (ibid., 20).
The act that was finally passed authorized abortion up to 28 weeks of pregnancy in cases where two registered doctors agreed that the life of the mother or other children would be at risk, or that the baby was likely to be born handicapped. At the time of passage, numerous feminists opposed the act as inadequate because it failed to establish the principle of "abortion on demand," and they decried the definition of abortion as a medical rather than a woman's right. However, since the act's
passage, the women's movement has been actively involved in efforts to defend it against restrictive provisions and limitations of its scope (Jenson 1982:356; Perrigo 1985:134).
In the aftermath of the act's passage in 1967, as in the United States after the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, groups formed either to oppose or preserve the legislation. These efforts have been described as "a near classic case of parliamentary lobbyingpossibly unrivalled in the post-war era" (Marsh and Chambers 1981:40). By the mid-1970s, ALRA had been more or less eclipsed by the National Abortion Campaign (NAC), the women's liberation group described in Chapter 2. NAC was less committed to parliamentary lobbying than to politicizing public opinion on abortion-related issues. Its strategy was largely extraparliamentary, emphasizing proselytizing through demonstrations and picketing (ibid., 47). As radical socialist feminists, NAC members also maintained close ties with the Labour Party and trade unions. This relationship produced TUC support for defeat of the anti-abortion Corrie Bill in 1979. In March 1981, NAC and other groups were surprised when, in the absence of parliamentary debates, the DHSS issued new forms concerning abortion that contained no nonmedical grounds for termination of pregnancy (Kingdom 1985:148). NAC and other groups have thus far been able to prevent any prosecutions for noncompliance with this administrative edict. In 1981 as well, a bill to make NHS facilities mandatory for abortion was introduced in Parliament, failing by 215 to 139 votes, but nonetheless indicating considerable support for this initiative (Randall 1982:174). An important factor in stopping antichoice restrictions was the Coordinating Committee
in Defense of the 1967 Abortion Act (Co-Ord), founded in 1976. By 1980, with 50 member organizations, this unique organization had developed a strong defensive posture, unifying such diverse groups as ALRA, medical groups, unions, and the Labour Abortion Rights Campaign (LARC) (Marsh and Chambers 1981:48, 53). Labour Party women, including M.P.'s Jo Richardson and Oonagh McDonald as well as Chief Women's Officer Joyce Gould, helped greatly in defending abortion reform in Parliament. Vallance (1979:75) argues that abortion reform produced a rare example of collective action by Labour women in the House (although some Labour womenfor example, Shirley Williams, a Catholicopposed the measure). In addition, opposition forces were not well organized. The anti-abortion movement in the United Kingdom has lacked unity and mass support, in contrast to the strong pro-abortion organization in Parliament coordinated with extraparliamentary forces.
As in the United States, the feminist viewpoint has been incorporated in the liberal perspective (Marsh and Chambers 1981:94). Nonetheless, party affiliation is a better predictor of abortion policy-making in Britain, and because of the importance of Parliament in decisionmaking on this issue, attention has focused on that body. In the United States many more levels of government have been involved in abortion policy-making, including the courts, whose role has been central, as well as state and even urban legislative bodies.
A final case of women-related social legislation to be considered is policy toward battered women. The concept of state aid and public concern for battered women originated in the United Kingdom in 1972. By 1975, the National Women's Aid Federation (NWAF) had been
formed to act as a communications and support network. In 1976, the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act was passed in Parliament. As in the case of abortion, it was introduced as a private member's bill by Labourite Jo Richardson and enjoyed (some) support from the Labour government (Coote and Gill 1979). The NWAF and the NCCL aided in building support for the act's passage. The issue was first raised during deliberations by a Select Committee in the House of Commons (as in the case of other women-related legislation), at which testimony was presented by women's aid organizers and women victims of domestic violence. The committee found existing criminal and civil laws weak and recommended change. (As in the United States, police had frequently refused to intervene in what the state viewed as "domestic disputes," and appropriate legal remedies were often not available.) The act that was passed in 1976 (and put into effect in 1977) was a modest effort that sought to strengthen procedures by which a woman could obtain a court injunction to restrain a violent husband or cohabitee.
The 1976 act offers valuable protection in the county courts, permitting exclusion and nonmolestation injunctions without recourse to other judicial proceedings (McCann 1985:7475). The 1978 Domestic Proceedings and Magistrates Court Act extended similar protection to that which existed in county courts, but for married women only. The 1977 Housing (Homeless Persons) Act obliged local authorities to provide abused women with alternative accommodations.
However, according to McCann and others (ibid.; Hanmer 1977:101), since the enactment of the new laws, the judiciary has favored a limited interpretation of them, largely returning the position of abused wives
to their pre-1976 role. The police response has indicated a similar reluctance to utilize the powers inherent in the new legislation. Funding, criminal justice reform, and therapy for victims of violence play a lesser role in the United Kingdom than the United States (Dobash and Dobash 1984:177).
There is absolute discretion with regard to a "power of arrest" attached to injunctions; the Home Office has limited powers of arrest to only three months (Rogers 1983:142). No national government funds have been committed thus far to provide financial aid for shelters or victim's related costs; local refuges are funded by local authorities.
Although Women's Aid has never seen legislation as particularly important in altering power relations between men and women (ibid., 146), the group did campaign not only for the 1976 act but also for the Housing Act of 1977, which gave priority to women and children for access to housing if they left home because of violence.
This brief survey of legislative enactments pertaining to feminist concerns leads to the conclusion that feminists have been able to influence public policy primarily as an auxiliary resource for parliamentary actors who are responsible for initiating and passing the legislation. As our analysis has demonstrated, most legislation in the United Kingdom came about through pressure, not from feminists, but rather from parties and unions, frequently through the vehicle of private members' bills in, Parliament and often with considerable support in the House of Lords.
As we have indicated, legislative support for measures involving women's equality and welfare has left parties and unions free to pursue issues of equality in
the workplace and in their own decision-making bodies at their own (snail's) pace and on their own terms, leaving basic structures of power and male dominance largely untouched (Scott 1982:180). Further, it appears that in Britain implementation of policies enacted regarding equal rights has often been more difficult to secure than the legislation itself. Given the nature of the administrative process outlined earlier, there is virtually no mechanism for interested groups to ensure compliance with enacted policy. This analysis suggests that the impact of policy aimed at women's concerns in Britain has been less than impressive, while at the same time legislation may serve as a convenient symbol muting further demands for political change.
In the United States an Equal Pay Act was enacted in 1963, with little conflict. As suggested earlier, after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, other women's rights legislation was passed with greater input from feminist groups. In addition, in the implementation process, feminist groups have been vigorous, often acting to strengthen legislation through administrative intervention or judicial proceedings.
Easy passage of legislation on equal rights in regard to education and credit in the 1970s may be attributed to the presence of a policy network in Washington after the ERA. Coalitions of women's groups specialized for specific policy areas lobbied both behind the scenes and overtly to promote legislative efforts and prevent the erosion of legislative gains once secured (Gelb and Palley 1987:5356). The absence of strong party input on equal rights issues and the vulnerability of representatives to pressure from organized constituents created
an atmosphere different from that in the United Kingdom. In addition, as we pointed out earlier, the politicization of the bureaucracy led to continued activity by organized feminist groups and their allies at the administrative level to ensure continued commitment to statutory aims.
To a greater degree than in Britain, feminists have continued to present legislative initiatives even during the 1980s, in a less hospitable political atmosphere, achieving some degree of success with portions of the Economic Equity Act. In Britain, efforts to interact with the political process have been more defensive and reactive.
As in Britain, the activity of grass-roots groups engendered a changed public consciousness regarding domestic violence, the result being the creation of over 700 local shelters. But unlike the case in Britain, grass-roots women "forged alliances with Congress, the administration and national women's organizations" (Zeitlin 1983:266). Although federal legislation was initially defeated and finally resulted in only modest funding, the effort to pass a federal law generated the coalescence of a new policy network. And although federal legislation fell short of feminist goals, in several important ways the movement to gain public support for the policy area succeeded. First, although it was short-lived, a federal agency, the Office on Domestic Violence (ODV), was created in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare during the Carter administration, and it helped focus attention on wife abuse as a serious political concern. Second, federally based lobbying efforts galvanized the movement against domestic violence. Third, legislation was passed at the state and local levels that provided, as in Britain, for increased responsiveness by the legal process,
but, in addition, other policy initiatives were undertaken that increased support for victims of domestic violence.
In 1977, in the wake of the 1975 establishment of NOW, hundreds of interested representatives from all over the country attended a meeting of the Task Force on Domestic Violence in Milwaukee. This gathering led to the creation of a new group, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), which began to mobilize on a national basis and press for legislation. The issue was further highlighted by the International Women's Year convention in 1977 and by hearings conducted by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. In response to pressure from feminist groups, the Carter administration created the ODV, with the mission of disseminating information and funding technical assistance and demonstration projects. Another federal agency, the Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAA), had been supporting and funding direct service and mediation programs for domestic violence victims since the mid- 1970s.
In 1977, legislation to combat domestic violence was introduced in Congress. Female members of Congress, as well as such congressmen as Democrat George Miller of California, endorsed federal funding of community-based shelters (Gelb 1983:255). The bill failed to pass in 1978 largely because of concern over procedural issues in the legislative process. Further objections were raised, as they would be with increasing frequency, to the concept of federal intervention in domestic life and the creation of yet another federal social program. The bill was reintroduced the following year, in the 96th Congress, with support from an extremely broad coalition of supporters, including feminist and traditional
women's groups, the police, prosecutors, religious groups, the National Football League, and the Junior League (Zeitlin 1983:271). By this time, the NCADV had established headquarters in the capital and comprised some 350 groups and 25 state coalitions. Although the group had developed a national lobbying presence, it continued to support the concept of community control of shelters by affected women in accordance with feminist principles of participatory democracy. Support for the bill was also forthcoming from female members of the congressional staff and feminists in the bureaucracy, particularly from the ODV and a large number of co-sponsors in Congress itself.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 292 to 106, with all congresswomen voting in favor of ita key reason for the victory being "the work both by the sponsors with their colleagues and by shelter providers and other groups in their home districts" (Gelb, J., 1983:258). As passed, the bill would have provided for $65 million over a three-year period to supply "seed money" for local shelters. A similar bill was approved in the Senate, but by this time it had become the object of a concerted attack by right-wing forces. The bill passed the Senate narrowly, and a House-Senate Conference Committee was convened to resolve the differences in the two bills. The conference report passed the House easily, but a massive lobbying campaign by the "New Right" continued to oppose the bill's passage in the Senate. The Senate did not take up the bill until after the election of 1980, when a major shift in power took place. Under threat of a filibuster, and lacking sufficient votes to invoke cloture, the bill was never brought to the floor again and died. The failure of the legislation to pass meant the death of the ODV as well, although some of
its functions were merged into the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.
This significant defeat at the national level was accompanied by numerous cutbacks in federal aid to victim-related programs. In 1984, Congress appropriated $6 million for shelter funding, in a more modest version of earlier legislation (and a far cry from the defeated bill's proposal of $65 million over a three-year period). In subsequent years such funding has continued, and several additional federal programs now also provide support for victims of wife battering.
Given the nature of the federal system, however, prospects for change at the state level have appeared much brighter. In recent years three-quarters of the states have altered their policies regarding battered women, usually providing some funding for shelters and improved access to a more responsive legal system (ibid., 251). By 1981, 49 states and the District of Columbia had passed some form of reform legislation to combat domestic violence (New York Times , Jan. 27, 1986:A13). Most states have created new civil and criminal remedies for abused victims. States and numerous cities have specified in detail the duties of police who respond to domestic violence calls mandated better recordkeeping, and often created special training programs for police and judicial personnel. Police departments in more and more cities yearly report an increasing number of arrests for domestic violence (Gelb, J., 1983:25051).
In addition, and most importantly in the short run, states have provided funds for shelters and other victim-related services, including job training, child care, and legal and psychological counseling for abused women (Temkin 1986:2629). Some states have raised additional revenue for their programs through surcharges
on marriage licenses and divorce filing papers. Significantly, the policies leading to such improvements have been promoted largely under the aegis of state coalitions against domestic violence, which have lobbied for change in conjunction with a wide group of coalition supporters and carefully cultivated legislative support. These groups have continued to monitor the implementation of policies after their passage. It seems accurate to conclude that in the United States the scope and significance of legislation on domestic violence has been greater than in Britain, largely owing to the existence of a feminist lobby and a newly created policy network focusing on wife abuse.
While in both countries the grass-roots orientation of the battered-women issue has been maintained, resources have been more readily available in the United States, thanks to lobbying and legislative pressure. Even grass-roots American activists have moved in the direction of coalitions (often via state coalitions against domestic violence), greater organizational strength, and more avowed politicization than their British counterparts.
A similar point is made by Jennifer Temkin (ibid., 3839) in her analysis of law reform for rape in Britain and the United States. American women's groups lobbied tirelessly for reform and developed liaisons with media representatives and politicians of all political persuasions. They engendered public interest and support through newsletters and other efforts, creating laws that resulted in a larger number of arrests and convictions in cases of sexual assault and improving the treatment of victims within the legal process. In contrast, similarly radical law reform in Britain "in the mid-1980's -128;¦ is as remote a prospect as ever" (ibid.).
In the absence of a cohesive and powerful women's lobby, as well as the general absence of women from corridors of power, recommendations by the House of Lords were modified to permit judges to consider the victim's sexual history and to extend efforts to gain anonymity for the victim and for the defendant as well. A 1984 Criminal Law Revision Committee similarly permitted rape to be viewed within a narrow perspective (Edgell and Duke 1983), providing for little change, particularly in comparison with U.S. legislation.
In both the United States and Britain the past decade has seen the ascendancy of conservative political administrations that have sought to reprivatize political issues, particularly those affecting the family and dependent women. There can be little doubt that the policies articulated by both British and American conservatives have a disproportionately negative policy impact, both on public sector employment and on availability of necessary public services especially important for dependent women (Lewis 1983:11). To what degree does the emergence of a New Right suggest negative future outcomes for feminist aspirations?
Recent politics in both countries have been marked by attacks on the role of the state in the economy and by the reassertion of traditional values regarding the family and the role of women (Conover and Gray 1984:91). In the United States some of the same forces that led to the emergence of feminism as a social movement have led to its antithesis, the New Right and the anti-abortion "pro-family" movement. Galvanized in part
by the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade , which helped create one sector of the feminist movement, antifeminists mobilized to oppose the ruling. They have viewed the expansion of government activism as threatening to traditional values and have organized effectively to combat what they regard as pernicious social tendencies. Aided by reforms in campaign financing (leading to an extraordinary growth in Political Action Committees [PACs]) and the relative decline in political parties, they have organized effectively to lobby at the congressional and administrative level and to seek to achieve change via the electoral process.
The New Right has been extremely adept at using direct mail to raise large sums of money, at grass-roots lobbying and indirect lobbying, and at influencing politics primarily through efforts to affect the outcomes of elections (Lewis 1983:14). In the United States, one arm of the New Right has linked antifeminism to a religious base (the Catholic Church and fundamentalist religious groups), which has provided powerful support for religious conservatives. The other arm includes such groups as Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, dedicated to restoring women to their traditional role in the family and in society, and the anti-abortion "Right to Life" movement. These forces were able to converge effectively with the Reaganite Republican Party in the 1970s and 1980s, gaining a significant role both in the party and in the Reagan administration.
It is probable that one source of the greater opposition to U.S. than to British feminism is the American women's movement's greater visibility and impact. Hence, antifeminism may constitute a larger segment of New Right politics in this country, although at the same time it remains only one interest group within the current
Republican orbit. Other groups include some elements of the eastern establishment, cold warriors, and economic conservatives. The somewhat uneasy coalition erected during Reagan's reign may prove to be too fragile to endure. It appears, however, that in the United States both the women's movement and the New Right are strong (Light and Lake 1985), and it is by no means clear that feminism has been routed. Support for Reagan's personal leadership has apparently not meant a significant shift to the right among the American public; rather, judgments about Reagan's leadership qualities and personality and about the state of the economy appear to have been most significant in aiding his electoral victories (Conover and Gray 1984:16). Nor have candidates backed by the right wing continued to sustain the electoral momentum they seemingly had in the late seventies and early eighties.
There is little evidence that the election of either 1980 or 1984 constituted a conservative mandate or that the two major symbolic issues of the New Rightabortion and the ERAhad any impact on the outcome of the vote (ibid., 15). Nor does it appear that the outcomes of most House and Senate races are attributable to New Right efforts. The power of this new coalition in shaping mass attitudes and political behavior does not seem particularly great. Nor has public opinion regarding abortion and the ERA shifted to the right (ibid., 158). Single-issue voting by members of the New Right does not seem to have a major impact on outcomes either (Ferguson and Rogers 1986:4546).
Regarding abortion, for example, an NBC News exit poll in 1984 found that two-thirds of the electorate endorsed the legalization of abortion, with the decision "left to the woman and her physician," while only a
quarter did not. Soon after the election, an ABC News poll found the share of Americans supporting the relatively radical position that women should have a right to abortion on demand, "no matter what the reason," actually increased over Reagan's first term, rising from 40 percent in 1981 to 52 percent in 1985, while the percentage opposing abortion on demand declined from 59 to 46 percent. According to a Los Angeles Times poll, only 23 percent of the electorate supported a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion, and only 32 percent of those who voted for Reagan endorsed his policy on abortion. Louis Harris reports that Americans support passage of the ERA by 60 to 34 percent. And few Americans are enthusiastic about Jerry Falwell, the most prominent leader of the religious right. A 1984 Los Angeles Times exit poll found that only 16 percent of the voters approved of the minister (ibid.).
Recent trends in public attitudes toward affirmative action merit special notice because of the Reagan administration's sustained attack on affirmative action and repeated insistence on the public's impatience with such "special interests" as women and minorities. In 1978, Louis Harris reported that only 45 percent of the public agreed that "if there are no affirmative action programs helping women and minorities in employment and education, then these groups will continue to fail to get their share of jobs and higher education, thereby continuing past discrimination in the future"; 36 percent disagreed. By September of 1985, 71 percent agreed and 27 percent disagreed. Those favoring a "federal law requiring affirmative action programs for women and minorities in employment and education, provided there are no rigid quotas," numbered 67 percent by 1984, and those opposed, 18 percent; by 1985,
support had risen to 75 percent (opposition was 21 percent). Here, too, the trends in public opinion have been directly opposite to the trends in public policy.
Partially as a consequence of Reagan's failure to extend his coattails to other offices, primarily in Congress, his strategy has been to seek only marginal policy changes, regardless of his rhetoric. This approach has tended to moderate the impact of New Right forces on the actual policy process, as compromise and incrementalism dominate the need to operate in the practical world. The prospects for continued Republican ascendancy rely far more on economics than on the conservative social agenda, which lacks broad public support and even endorsement from many coalition members (Jacobson 1985:23233). Although right-wing activism has had a major impact on administrative appointments and consequently on policymakers as well, the long-term effects on policy remain unclear. What is clear is that while feminists have been forced into a more defensive political role, and subject to considerable harassment in the legislative and administrative process, they have not been totally defeated. The fragmentation of American politics, both at the federal level and in state and local initiatives, as well as the degree to which feminism has been institutionalized as a legitimate interest group continuing to intervene effectively in policy-making, would suggest that all is not lost.
Examining the organization and mobilization of the pro-family movement versus the feminist movement, Conover and Gray (1984:176) found that the feminist network is far better organized at the state level, having almost twice as many organized groups as the.right in the 40 states they surveyed. In general, their analysis suggests that the significance of right wing organizational
power is far less than the media and New Right itself would lead one to believe, although in terms of financial resources they are formidable adversaries (ibid., 2035).
In the United Kingdom, while similar shifts in the postwar consensus regarding the scope and direction of the welfare state exist and have been epitomized in the Thatcher government, several differences appear significant. First, given the importance of the party structure in Britain, the Thatcher government may represent a more coherent and tough-minded partisan bloc than Reagan's somewhat uneasy coalition (David 1983:198). Some observers perceive in Mrs. Thatcher's approach a significant break with traditional conservatism as well as with social democracyan approach that has transformed the nature of British policies (Gelb, N., 1983). There is considerable evidence that the British public, particularly the skilled working class, has swung somewhat to the right, but nonetheless what has been called "authoritarian populism" may not reflect a complete or even significant rejection of the welfare state in Britain (Butler and Kavanaugh 1984:293). Nevertheless, there is support for some privatization and greater individualism as well as resentment of taxation and waste (ibid.).
In British politics it is clear that support for the Conservative party manifesto means decreased spending, including reductions in funding for housing and education; cuts in some state benefits (e.g., maternity and unemployment) and abolition of others as well, including supplementary benefits; reduced levels of public service and reduced subsidies to those services; and the privatization of public assets, including council housing and some industry (Edgell and Duke 1983:35859). Most of these policy areas directly affect women as employees
and clients of the state. Both the electorate and popular ideology have shifted to the right regarding abortion, women's rights, and welfare (Robertson 1984:293). However, results of a recent poll indicate that the overwhelming majority of British women view abortion as legitimate if the woman's health is endangered, if the child is likely to be born deformed, or if the woman is a rape victim. Abortion is opposed if the child is not wanted or if the woman wishes to abort because she is unmarried (Langford 1980:11).
Anti-abortion views, in the absence of a religious base, have never gained the same political resonance in Britain as in the United States. While Prime Minister Thatcher holds views hostile to women's liberation, including her insistence that women with children remain out of the work force and her policy of defunding such areas as child care and state aid to dependent women, her rhetoric is not specifically antifeminist. However, the concern of her government for family policyparticularly via the all-male family policy group that has taken over important cabinet functions (Rogers 1983:44), most notably in the absence of consultation with women's groups (even such traditional ones as the Women's Institutes and Townswomen's Guilds)implies a tacit antagonism to feminist issues (ibid., 108).
In contrast to the situation in the United States, and perhaps because of difficulties encountered by all promotional groups in the political arena, neither the Society for the Unborn Child (SPUC) nor LIFE, another anti-abortion group, has ever been able to gain a foothold in the political arena. Pro-choice groups such as NAC have been more effective in establishing relationships with M.P.'s and mounting campaigns for popular support. SPUC lacks a connection comparable to that
of anti-abortion groups in the United States with the Catholic Church, which in any event denounced a SPUC effort in 1983, saying that the "ends don't justify the means" (New Statesman , June 24, 1983:4). The church itself lacks the numbers and fervor of its American counterpart and seems less avowedly political, particularly with regard to the abortion issue. Rogers (1983:157) reports that wide differences exist between the M.P.'s of different parties on social policy, 83 percent of Labour M.P.'s favoring free child care and 86 percent of Conservatives favoring the view that women be obliged to care for their children. The partisan cast of views on feminism is obvious and points up the possibilities inherent in the election of a more sympathetic government.
Only a future general election will reveal whether the vacuum left by the disarray of left-wing politics, created by the internal disorder of the Labour Party, will be filled either by the SDP or by a reconstituted Labour Party, permitting a different political attitude toward women to prevail.
We have examined the policy process in the United States and Britain to determine the relative impact of the feminist movement in each nation. In the United States, while administrative agencies such as the EEOC have not always been effective and their enforcement strength has varied with political commitment, they have played a significant role with regard to nondiscrimination policies. The EEOC has benefited from the existence of a feminist policy network that has not only influenced both policy orientation and political appointments, but has also been instrumental in gaining
substantial judicial and public endorsement of principles of affirmative action. Such a supportive network has been lacking in the United Kingdom, where the superficially comparable EOC has been isolated politically in the absence of political and material resources.
In Britain, policy has generally been initiated by private members, and, in the case of sex discrimination, prodded by the EEC. Feminists have played the role of secondary activists, given their ambivalence about political participation in national-level politics and their frequent lack of information regarding the policy process. The absence of policy networks, combined with the highly centralized and closed system described earlier, prevents any significant feminist presence in the implementation process. Nonetheless, we have seen that feminists have intervened successfully in collective action on the abortion issue, where they have continued to maintain a political presence and sustained a sometimes uneasy alliance with such groups as labor unions. Abortion-related efforts point the way to coalition building on other issues, although it is not clear whether similar congruence may be achieved on economic policies. American feminists have engaged in extensive lobbying, networking, and coalition building on a variety of policy issues at the state, local, and national levels of politics, even making some policy inroads during the conservative Reagan era.
New Right opposition to the type of social change represented by feminism has developed in both Britain and the United States, necessitating a reactive and defensive role for feminist groups, as well as lessening their ability to set political priorities. However, Mrs. Thatcher's third electoral victory and British public opinion data indicate an even more substantial right-wing
shift in the United Kingdom than in the United States. Given the considerable political and ideological obstacles to feminist political mobilization addressed earlier, the persistence and reinforcement of Conservative Party strength do not augur well for feminist influence in British national politics.