When Did the Great Experiment Begin?
I've sort of arbitrarily picked the century time frame. You can argue about it, but the idea is that we've been conducting the experiment a while.

Some possible starting events:

· Women's Liberation
· World War II
· Growth of Technology
· Abolition of Slavery
· Beginning of Agriculture
· Tool Use

Women's Liberation

In one sense this is the most logical of the starting points. I have a few issues, however.

First by choosing it, we buy into the divisive nature that has characterized the discussion every since. I don't buy that gender issues must be men versus women or that men were ever actively plotting to hold women down. (As a group. In individual cases, regrettably, yes. And an investment in the status quo, as long as it was to their benefit, yes.)

Second, the movement had a lot of preconditions and things that had to happen before the argument could be made that men and women should be treated equally. Things like what happened during and after World War II.

World War II

When the men of the military returned from World War II, they found Rosie the Riveter doing their job. Most women were willing to go back to tending house, but not all of them. We had to pass several education acts to give men enough to do while the system created new jobs.

We had discovered that women could do the job mentally and physically.

Growth of Technology

I'm not talking about computers and TVs here. How about the internal combustion engine? That made a lot of jobs available to someone who could run a machine. Physical strength counted for less.

Abolition of Slavery

The same mentality that recognized the fellow humanity of slaves filtered into the gender discussion (or was it the other way around?). Individual couples have always been on a continuum from male dominated to female dominated regardless of what societal mores were in effect.

Beginning of Agriculture

When our species transitioned from gatherer-hunter economy to agriculture, the role definitions softened. Both men and women work the fields.

Tool Use

Really the same as technology growth, but at an earlier point in time.

It's not that I'm prepared to deeply defend any of these as the definitive starting point for the experiment, nor that I believe the list is exhaustive. What's important for the present essay is a sense that this process has been going on for a while.