Feminist social movements of the 1960s and 70s demanded radical change and an end to women's oppression. They aimed their demands at the state, thereby recognising that the state had the power to change policies. Twenty-five years later, it seems that everything and nothing has changed. Women now make up half the workforce of advanced capitalist societies but they still do the bulk of the cleaning, washing and cooking at home. So have feminist social movements been effective in bringing about change? Has their engagement with the state led to changes in social policies? Have they made any difference to the lives of ordinary women and men in the industrialised west?
This book provides some of the answers. It explores how policies have changed and how much of this change is due to social movement activity. It looks at the engagement of feminist social movements with different states in different societies, the way states influence the emergence of feminist social movements and the form they take. In some areas of policy, there have been huge changes and in others, change has been almost imperceptible. This book explores why it is easier to bring about change in some areas than others. It also asks whether these changes would have happened anyway. Are they a result of feminist social movements or of changes in economy and society? Or does the answer to this question depend on the society being studied? These issues are explored by comparing feminist social movements, states, and social policy change in Britain, Europe and North America in the last three decades of the 20th century.