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6 December 2021

Gender revolution, evolution or neverlution?

In the 1960s, second-wave feminists heralded a gender revolution. Women demanded control over their reproduction and sought full, equal participation in public economic and political life. To support this, women began to expect men to be emotionally ‘involved fathers’ rather than just breadwinners, and to share the unpaid domestic work (Lewis, 1984).

As with most revolutions, this one sprang from struggles that began earlier as British women in the 19th and early 20th centuries sought equality in education, marital property, and voting rights. Critical measures of the revolution’s success entail equal economic and political power. This includes minimising gender and particularly parental gaps in employment, earnings, time spent in housework and childcare, and political representation. Both precursor and consequent to women’s greater economic and political power is reducing women’s greater risk of domestic abuse, sexual harassment and global exploitation.

The revolution may have been proclaimed in the 1960s, but progress toward gender equality unfolds intergenerationally.

Cite this as:

Cooke, L. P. (2021), ‘Gender revolution, evolution or neverlution?’, IFS Deaton Review of Inequalities,