De-Sexing the Labor Market, 1965 edition

In Stephanie Coontz’s excellent book A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s — which is a history of The Feminine Mystique and much more than that — she references this New York Times editorial from 1965 and I had to look it up.

Here it is, as it appeared on August 21 of that year, as the federal government was dragging its feet on enforcing the sex discrimination provision of the Civil Rights Act and newspapers everywhere still had sex-segregated Help Wanted ads (click to enlarge; the text is below the image):

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New York Times, Editorial: August 21, 1965. p. 20

De-Sexing the Job Market

Federal officials wrestling with the problem of enforcing the ban on discrimination in employment for reasons of sex, under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, may find it would have been better if Congress had just abolished sex itself. For reasons of simplification they have gathered many problems into one — what they call “the bunny problem.” It is posed by the quandary of how you rule if a man applies for a job as “bunny” in a Play­boy club. Presumably a male bunny could sell liquor, as the bunnies are supposed to do, but how would ho look to the customers, and would the customers look at him? And what would happen to sales? But the problem is bigger than that. In fact, it may be bigger than any of us. It demands a wholesale rewriting of the language, for one thing. Everything has to be neuterized. Housemaid becomes a dirty word; it is, of course, discriminatory. Handyman must disappear from the language; he was pretty much a goner anyway, if you ever started looking for one in desperation. No more milkman, iceman, serviceman, foreman or pressman. It is not the males alone, however, who lose their past supremacy and distinction. The hostess must yield to de-sexed progress. A maid can now become a man. Girl Friday is an intolerable offense. Sales­lady is forbidden. The Rockettes may become bi-sexual, and a pity, too. The classic beginning of many wondrous careers in the Horatio Alger fashion — Boy Wanted — has reached its last chapter. Help Wanted-Female and Help Wanted-Male, in the classified columns, may now become one big jackpot. Bunny problem, indeed! This is revolution, chaos. You can’t even safely advertise for a wife any more.

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