How much have things changed in 40 years?

Going through our stacks of books as we decide which ones might be candidates for our February decluttering, I keep coming across books that I haven’t looked at for a (very) long time but know that I (must) have kept for good reason. It’s just a matter of figuring out what that reason is and whether it’s still valid!

One such book is a slim volume of poetry called Is This Where I Was Going? by Natasha Josefowitz.  When I googled the author I discovered that she is 96 years old and according to Google Books is “an internationally recognized author, poet, and lecturer. She earned her master’s degree at the age of forty and her PhD at the age of fifty.”  The thing of it is, this book of poetry was published in 1983, 40 years ago.  When she was 56, not 96. At the time she was a professor of management at San Diego State University, where she developed a course for women in management and had already published a book called Paths to Power, a woman’s guide to navigating the corporate world. She’s clearly done a lot and published widely since then, but it is this early volume of poetry that had attracted me way back when.

Before I decide whether to continue to hold onto this little gem, I thought I’d share a few of these poems with you and let you decide whether things have changed all that much – or changed enough – in the 40 years since she wrote them.  See what you think!

Impressions from an Office

The family picture is on HIS desk.
Ah, a solid, responsible family man.

The family picture is on HER desk.
Umm, her family will come before her career.

HIS desk is cluttered.
He’s obviously a hard worker and a busy man.

HER desk is cluttered.
She’s obviously a disorganized scatterbrain.

HE’S not at his desk.
He must be at a meeting.

SHE’S not at her desk.
She must be in the ladies’ room.

HE’S not in the office.
He’s meeting customers.

SHE’S not in the office.
She must be out shopping.

HE’S having lunch with the boss.
He’s on his way up.

SHE’S having lunch with the boss.
They must be having an affair.

The boss criticized HIM.
He’ll improve his performance.

The boss criticized HER.
She’ll be very upset.

HE got an unfair deal.
Did he get angry?

SHE got an unfair deal.
Did she cry?

HE’S getting married.
He’ll be more settled.

SHE’S getting married.
She’ll get pregnant and leave.

HE’S having a baby.
He’ll need a raise.

SHE’S having a baby.
She’ll cost the company money in maternity benefits.

HE’S going on a business trip.
It’s good for his career.

SHE’S going on a business trip.
What does her husband say?

HE’S leaving for a better job.
He knows how to recognize a good opportunity.

SHE’S leaving for a better job.
Women are not dependable.

That’s How It Is

Most men are assumed competent
Until proven otherwise.
Most women are assumed incompetent
Unless proven otherwise.


The only woman at the meeting,
the only black in the group,
the only older person with the young folk,
the homosexual,
the least educated,
the poorest,
the handicapped,
the only Jew,
the recently widowed.

Survival is in the finding of kindred spirits

Finding support in
the Women’s Movement,
the Black Caucus,
the Grey Panthers,
the widow’s group,
the gay community.

Finding support
where one can cry,
or explode,
or just be oneself
without representing
the women’s point of view,
or the black culture,
or the Jewish people,
or the aged.

We need a place
not to be one down
but to be equal –
a place where we are not different
for a little time at least,
a place where we can trust the others,
a place where we don’t fear
the sexists,
the racists,
the anti-Semites,
the elitists.

Where you don’t have to be a couple to be invited out,
or straight,
or young and beautiful,
a place of our own
with a people of our own.

Just in order
to survive.


Has 40 years made a difference? Enough of a difference? I’m thinking I’ll probably hold onto this early volume of poems by Natasha Josefowitz.

This entry was posted in Just wondering, Women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to How much have things changed in 40 years?

  1. barryh says:

    Not enough. We still go around the same old problems… Yet in new contexts, as things have moved on.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Barry. Yes, I agree, things have improved, but not enough. And you’re right about new contexts, both culturally and because of the nature of work. Just the fact of more people working remotely will have an impact, because to some extent the building of community and mutual understanding is lost or at least weakened.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’d hang on to it Jane. Have things of this kind changed that much in 40 years? I suspect not that much, but progress moves slowly and we older (wiser?!) ones are now unafraid to call the rubbish things out, and can encourage our daughters to do so (can proudly say that mine does).

    “Survival is in the finding of kindred spirits anywhere.” – so true. This reminds me of the quote from “Women Who run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes – “If you don’t howl loudly enough, you’ll never find your pack”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Joyce. Yes, I will hang on to it; I’m glad I took the time to look through it. I agree with both your observation that progress has indeed been made and also that progress moves (very) slowly. Terrific quote from Women Who Run With the Wolves.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jofedorchuk says:

    Keep it!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. debscarey says:

    No, no it hasn’t. Although there has been some progress, there has also been frightening reversals. I’d be keeping that book for the poetry.

    But, you also might like to know that when I tried to find a copy to buy, Amazon are listing it for over £30!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow 😕💕 Brings to mind the expression ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’. I was particularly drawn to the lines: “HE’S having lunch with the boss. He’s on his way up./ SHE’S having lunch with the boss. They must be having an affair.” Yes, I would keep that little book too… So grateful you shared this! 🙏💕

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Deb says:

    There are absolute parallels in the words of that poem Jane. Keep it! Maybe when someone comes across it in another 40 years we can say that there’s finally some change…

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Darned good question! I do think there have been changes for the better for women. I only need to look at my own daughters and their work experiences to see that this is so. Most of the questions in the poem are not relevant to either of my daughters. They have, or have had, woman managers, coworkers who have had babies, the whole range. Actually the same is true for my son-in-law. But, this does not mean the book should be discarded or dismissed. It is telling us important things about the way it was not so long ago, an important lesson to remember. I have been on a binge of reading mid-twentieth-century British women writers, and part of my fascination is to read how things have changed for women.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for this response, Laurie. It’s interesting me to see that so few responders have thought there’s been nearly enough change. It might depend on the particular business, the corporate culture, and especially the leadership as to how much has changed or hasn’t. Regardless, I’m keeping the book!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Perhaps more change is in order, but I have seen big changes from my time to my daughters’ time. And definitely for the better. Go back a little further, to my great-grandparents’ time when women were dying after having their fourteenth child, and the improvements are not hard to see.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Things have changed in our culture but very slowly and still not enough. Maybe one day we might recognize people as people?

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I think it’s a keeper!! I can understand why you kept it 40 years ago. I live in a community of 40 years ago but can proudly say my children grew out of it and continue to grow. My granddaughter I think would enjoy this and she’s 25.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Rita. It’s now officially in the “keeping” pile. I love your observation that you live in a community of 40 years ago. I think most of us of a certain age know exactly what you mean! It’s the growing part that’s important. 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Victoria says:

    I’m glad you’re keeping the book…thanks for sharing and for the somber reminders. And this: “Survival is in the finding of kindred spirits anywhere.” Thanks for being that light, Jane, by introducing me to Natasha Josefowitz — showing me your kindred spirit. 💖

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Enlightenment doesn’t necessarily happen in a day, but I keep the faith that we’re on our way. Progress has been made, even if ever so slowly, but as we forge ahead with hope (and determination) in our hearts, we’ll turn the corner and see a new day. Sooner rather than later, I hope!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Bernie says:

    Ah, not enough has changed. As an aside if every book gets a blog post you may be a while! LOL

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jane Fritz says:

      LOL. I absolutely love your aside, Bernie. If I were to try that, I’d better do 2 a day and hope to live a few more years! You’ll be relieved to know that I don’t see that happening!! 😂😊


  13. heimdalco says:

    The book is definitely a keeper … obviously good for years later comparison but mostly because it speaks from the heart about who we are, what is comfortable for us & subtly the things that work against us. It is a commentary on what was, what still is & what can be, regardless of the decade. I love it. Thanks for sharing & making your followers aware of the works of this lovely woman … throughout her life. Things have changed in 40 years but not nearly enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Interesting poems. I’d say that some things are different, but not all. I don’t want to guess at the ratio, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Rose says:

    What a wonderful book! I’m hopeful that all women will continue to step into roles of equality, as is their right and responsibility.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Margaret says:

    I agree with you Jane – hold on to these insightful poems.
    Not sure much has really changed, yet in some ways it has! Perhaps more so for middle class and professional jobs. Many of us can call out the discrimination ( if we wish ) but many women in mundane jobs have little choice and this is where there is more discrimination, unequal pay and limited opportunities.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I think you make a very valid point, Margaret. There has been positive change in the middle class and professional jobs (although there sure are exceptions), but women in lower level jobs remain at the discretion of enlightened bosses or not so much so. We seem to be at an impasse with any advances in labour regulations; the anti-union voices are hard at work.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. candidkay says:

    Wow! She was good. And we’re slowly chipping away at all of this but not fast enough. I have to believe it’ll be generational–I do think a lot of this will go away when Gen Z takes its rightful place. We’ll see. Thanks for sharing–this was a fascinating post!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Forestwood says:

    You have taken an interesting perspective and it really shows up personal expectations, stereotypes and judgemental behaviour. There is still room for improvement, but we seem to be headed in the right direction.

    Liked by 1 person

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