As a New York City girl starting college in 1969 during the development of Gloria Steinem’s social experiments, I have had a lifetime of opportunity to try those ideas on for size. I can assert from experience that the Gloria Steinem “feminism” falls short, and that in 2010, “feminism” is in dire need of an update.
There is no question that the 1970’s “feminism” brought some refreshing and positive changes to our view of women and their potential role in our culture. Acknowledging that women are equally capable of intellectual achievement as men, changing female fashion to be more practical and less punitive than before ( I’m particularly talking about the shoes!), and giving women more choices in life, were all very positive developments.
However, the “feminists,” in their passion to give women “choices,” actually ended up NOT giving women true choice, but railroaded all women into an alternate role, the radical feminist. The new role was different from the previously defined narrow role, but was just as narrow and just as imperative, as the previous role had been.
The critical error made by the old “feminism” was a failure to recognize what is important to most women – the family. In some (LOL) “ideal” world peopled by perfect and affordable servants, and by men who were more feminine than most actually are, perhaps a woman could pursue an exciting career, find love and family life, and be satisfied with the help she received in raising her family.
But the reality that we young women starkly confronted was that the support for raising one’s family simply did not exist, that most shortcuts were designed to be taken out on the children and on the marriage, and that two careers simply could not be optimized simultaneously.
Feminists became more and more radical in confronting these problems – if the time, care and compromise required by family, husband, and children added strain to a woman’s professional life—the solution was to eliminate them. Divorce skyrocketed, children were aborted, and the most successful females became those like Elena Kagan, who dispensed altogether with husband and family. Simultaneously, depression, health problems, and drug addiction escalated among women.
Some of us, noticing the impossibility of the assignment (superwoman at work and at home), made a “choice” to focus on one job, the home. Like most men, who do not undertake two careers simultaneously—say, lawyer and neurosurgeon – we decided to do one job well rather than to do two jobs poorly.
There was no tolerance in the “feminist” culture for this choice, and the social demotion that accompanied it was blatantly obvious at every social event we attended after making that choice. The previous awed gasps I used to receive when introduced as a biochemistry professor evaporated, and were replace with the “flee the leper” response when I was introduced as a Mom at home.
I am by no means the only woman to have figured this out, although most women “at home” are not too vocal about their choices.
Some women are blessed enough to be able to sustain a career without neglecting their family life – those who have the unusual family support group that, say, Sarah Palin has, and are able to have the best of both worlds.
But regardless of our individual choices, “feminism” is in radical need of an update.
- ALL women’s choices should be welcomed and supported, especially the essential and sacrificial choice of staying and serving at home. This choice is in dire need of recognition and respect.
- A woman’s happiness should NOT be contingent on contraception and abortion. Killing a woman’s children does not liberate her in any way, and does not lead to happiness.
- Women should not be expected to work double time, as most working women do. Actually, many of us at home also work double time, so would that make it triple time?
- People should come to the mature realization that the world is not teeming with eager and perfect servants anticipating the honor of caring for our children at low cost. The care of children is loving, rewarding, sacrificial and demanding work that will NOT be performed adequately by a rotating staff of low-paid child-care providers.
In life, we have to make choices. We cannot have it all. We are forced to indicate with our choices what is most important to us. Good things often have to be relinquished for better things.
Most people, when interviewed at the end of their lives, quote family and friends as their biggest source of joy and satisfaction. Faithful lifelong spouses, children who have made good choices, are much more rewarding and satisfying than a successful career. I have personally derived much more joy and satisfaction from family than from biochemistry research at Princeton University. Few people can have both, and our choices indicate which is most important to us.
Feminism is in dire need of an update – at very minimum, ALL women’s choices, including the choice not to neglect one’s family, must be respected. It’s time we educated our young women to realize the errors of the old feminism and to realize that they WILL have to make some choices—real choices, not radical agenda choices like abortion, which only serve to hurt everyone.
“Choice” cannot be so narrowly defined as to include only the killing of one’s child. Judging from women like Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and numerous others, the new feminism has arrived, new “choices” are becoming possible, and the old radical feminists are faltering on their way out.
Watch out, here comes November!