-- 1963 ad for Travelers Insurance
She had breakfast with the national sales manager, met with the client from 9 to 11, talked at an industry luncheon, raced across town to the plans board meeting and then caught the 8:05 back home.
-- 1977 ad for Boeing
"I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan. And never, never, never let you forget you're a man."
-- 1978 ad for Enjoli perfume
"My mother was convinced the center of the world was 36 Maplewood Drive. Her idea of a wonderful time was Sunday dinner. She bought UNICEF cards, but what really mattered were the Girl Scouts . . . I'm beginning to think my mother really knew what she was doing."
-- Recent ad for Good Housekeeping magazine
Now, wait a minute. If Madison Avenue is any indication, American women are going backward. What happened to the superwoman in the tailored suit and floppy bow tie who brought home all that bacon? What happened to breakfast with the national sales manager and racing for the 8:05? What happened to aspiring to the executive suite, to beating men at their own game?
As women head into the 1990s, are they really so burned out from "having it all" (i.e., doing it all), so thoroughly exhausted from putting in a full day at work and then another full evening at home, that they dream nostalgically of the 1950s? Can they really be aching for the dull but dependable days when going to meetings meant the PTA or the Scouts, when business travel meant the car pool, when a budgetary crisis meant the furnace had broken? Is the feminist movement -- one of the great social revolutions of contemporary history -- truly dead? Or is it merely stalled and in need of a little consciousness raising?
Ask a woman under the age of 30 if she is a feminist, and chances are she will shoot back a decisive, and perhaps even a derisive, no. But in the very next breath, the same young woman will allow that while she does not identify with the angry aspects of the movement in the '60s and '70s or with its clamorous leaders, she certainly plans on a career as well as marriage and three kids. She definitely expects her husband -- present or future -- to do his share of the dusting, the diapering, the dinner and dishes. She would be outraged were she paid less than a male colleague for doing equal work. Ask about the Supreme Court's Webster decision last summer allowing states more leeway to restrict abortions: she'll probably bristle about a woman's right to chose.
Call them the "No, but . . . " generation. No, they are not feminists, or so they say, but they do take certain rights for granted. "I reject the feminist label, but I guess I'd call myself an egalitarian," says Leslie Sandberg, 27, a political-campaign worker in Boston, whose attitude seems typical of her generation. "I'm feminine, not a feminist," insists Linn Thomas, an Auburn University senior, in another variation on the theme. Adds Thomas: "I picture a feminist as someone who is masculine and who doesn't shave her legs and is doing everything she can to deny that she is feminine."
Hairy legs haunt the feminist movement, as do images of being strident and lesbian. Feminine clothing is back; breasts are back; motherhood is in again. To the young, the movement that loudly rejected female stereotypes seems hopelessly dated. The long, ill-fated battle for the Equal Rights Amendment means nothing to young women who already assume they will be treated as equals.
Feminist leaders like Gloria Steinem and Molly Yard, president of the National Organization for Women, are dismissed as out of touch. NOW's call last summer for a third political party that would represent women's concerns seemed laughable to young women who do not want to isolate themselves by gender but prefer to work with men. When Sarah Calian, a senior at Brown University, went to hear Yard lecture on campus, she could not connect. Though Calian brims with ambitions for a major career and her first child by 35, she says, "I never felt so not a part of something. I don't know who she was talking to."
Sometimes even the women who participated in the feminist revolution, who shaped their lives according to its ideals, shake their heads and wonder. Call them the "Yes, but . . . " generation. Yes, these women in their 30s and 40s are feminists, but things have not worked out as expected. It is hard for them not to feel resentful: toward society for not coming to the aid of women in their new roles, toward the movement for not anticipating the difficulties. "We were promised that we could do it all and we would be as successful as men," says Carolyn Lo Galbo Goodfriend, 39, a mother of a five-year-old, who manages more than $300 million worth of accounts for Kraft General Foods in Rye Brook, N.Y. "But the trade-offs and sacrifices a woman has to make are far greater than a man's." Lo Galbo once met Steinem at an awards dinner and demanded to know, "Why didn't you tell us that it was going to be like this?" The matriarch of Ms. magazine answered with admirable candor: "Well, we didn't know."
Many mid-career women blame the movement for not knowing and for emphasizing the wrong issues. The ERA and lesbian rights, while noble causes, seemed to have garnered more attention than the pressing need for child care and more flexible work schedules. The bitterest complaints come from the growing ranks of women who have reached 40 and find themselves childless, having put their careers first. Is it fair that 90% of male executives 40 and under are fathers but only 35% of their female counterparts have children? "Our generation was the human sacrifice," says Elizabeth Mehren, 42, a feature writer for the Los Angeles Times. "We believed the rhetoric. We could control our biological destiny. For a lot of us the clock ran out, and we discovered we couldn't control infertility."
Nonprofessional women, poor women, minority women feel their needs and values have been largely ignored by the organized women's movement, which grew out of white, middle-class women's discontent. Most women of color say their primary concerns -- access to education, health care and safe neighborhoods for their children -- were not priorities for the women's movement. As for getting out into the workplace, well, poor women have always been there, mopping floors, slinging hash, raising other people's children. "I never saw the feminist movement as liberating me from the home," says L. Clarissa Chandler, a black social worker and feminist who directs the Alcoholism Center for Women in Los Angeles.
! On the other hand, stay-at-home mothers, who still make up one-third of all U.S. women with children under 18, feel their status has been depreciated by feminism. Sighs Dabney McKenzie of Montgomery, who describes herself as both a "feminist" and a "typical Southern housewife": "It's almost as if there's a caste system of employment, and motherhood is down there at the bottom."
It might be tempting to conclude from the wide-ranging complaints from so many quarters that the women's movement has failed, that rather than improve the lot of women, it has helped make their lives more complex and difficult. But for all the discontent and frustration expressed by women today, a vast majority revels in the breakthroughs made during the past quarter-century: the explosion of roles for women, their far greater participation in the country's political and intellectual life, the many options that have come to replace their confinement to homemaking. Very few women would like to turn back the clock. A TIME/CNN survey conducted by Yankelovich Clancy Shulman of 1,000 women across the country found that 77% think the women's movement has made life better. Only 8% think it has made things worse. Ninety-four percent said the movement has helped women become more independent; 82% said it was still improving the lives of American women.
Why, then, do so few -- 33% -- identify themselves as "feminists"? Why did 76% of those polled say they pay "not very much" or "no" attention to the women's movement? In many ways, feminism is a victim of its own resounding achievements. Its triumphs -- in getting women into the workplace, in elevating their status in society and in shattering the "feminine mystique" that defined female success only in terms of being a wife and a mother -- have rendered it obsolete, at least in its original form and rhetoric. "Saying the women's movement is dead is like saying the cold war is dead. No. No. It's over. It's won," insists Carol Gilligan, professor of education at Harvard and author of In a Different Voice, which explores the moral values and psychological development of women. "Those changes have been made, and they really are extraordinary."
Consider just a few measures of change. In the 1950s, women made up only 20% of college undergraduates -- in contrast to 54% today -- and two-thirds did not complete their degrees (conventional wisdom then held that an "M.R.S." was more important). As for aspirations, well, they were limited. When more than 13,000 female college graduates were asked, in the early '60s, how they defined success for themselves, the two most common answers were to be the mother of several accomplished children and to be the wife of a prominent man. In 1960, three years before Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, 34.8% of women were in the work force, in contrast to 57.8% today. The number of female lawyers and judges has climbed from 7,500 to 180,000 today, female doctors from 15,672 to 108,200, and female engineers from 7,404 to 174,000. The number of women in elected office has more than tripled since 1975 at the local level, though their presence has barely changed in the U.S. Congress.
Not all the changes were the result of feminist ideology. Female employment in the U.S. has been rising since the 1890s, accompanied, not coincidentally, by a rise in the average age at which women marry, a decline in family size, and a jump in the divorce rate. The sole exceptions to these trends occurred in the 1950s, when, in the prosperous aftermath of World War II, motherhood and babymaking became a kind of national cult: there was a return to earlier marriage, families were bigger and divorce rates stabilized. Though women continued to pour into the workplace during the '50s, this fact was blotted out by the decade's infatuation with blissful domesticity. In the larger historical context, feminism appears to have been a rebellion against the '50s and a course correction. It helped get earlier trends back on track and offered an optimistic, have-it-all ideology to go with them.
It is only now, when 68% of women with children under 18 are in the work force (in contrast to 28% of women with children in 1960), that maternity leave and child care -- always issues for the working poor -- have become important for the majority of American women. Only today does the women's movement seem remiss in having failed to give greater emphasis to these matters. "The things I fought for are now considered quaint," complains Erica Jong, a best-selling feminist novelist. "We've won the right to be exhausted, to work a 30-hour day. Younger women say, 'Who wants that?' They say, 'We don't need feminism anymore.' They don't understand graduating magna cum laude from Harvard and then being told to go to the typing pool."
Feminism has also been the victim of its own extremist rhetoric and a press that was happy to amplify it. Like any young, energetic social movement, feminism had its share of radicals. Groups like SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) made good copy. So did Germaine Greer, who suggested that women be "deliberately promiscuous" and boycott marriage. Bra burning always caught a reader's eye, though none ever took place. (Apparently the closest thing to it occurred at a protest of the 1968 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, when women tossed their bras into a trash can.) Friedan admits that in the heat of the battle to liberate the suburban housewife the language often became excessive: "It was literally throw the baby out with the bath water, throw out motherhood." Jong recalls a mood among feminists that was "anticosmetics, anti-lacy underwear."
To be sure, NOW always included in its platform demands for maternity leave, day care and respect for stay-at-home mothers. But even within the feminist movement, there was disagreement over strategy. In Lesser Lives, the Myth of Women's Liberation in America, author Sylvia Ann Hewlett tells how her late-' 70s battle for a maternity policy at Barnard College in New York City was opposed by feminists at the college's own Women's Center. "I was told," she relates, that "if women wanted equality with men they could not ask for special privileges." It was a sentiment often expressed at the peak of the movement, and is still heard in some feminist quarters today.
Such attitudes were more understandable during the early years. If the first women who knocked on the door to the executive suite -- or, for that matter, the firehouse or the construction contractor's office -- had mentioned maternity-leave benefits, the door would have been slammed in their faces. Similarly, the dress-for-success, male-clone look that now seems so ridiculous was a necessary bit of female camouflage for the first infiltrators of the corporate world.
But if feminism won its war, lifting women's status and self-respect, there are still enormous battles ahead and handicaps for American women to overcome. Among them:
The Wage Gap
It is shocking to note that women who work full time still earn only 66 cents to the man's dollar, a difference that has narrowed by less than a dime over the past two decades. One reason: 59% of employed women work in low- paying, "pink-collar" jobs, some because they are trained for nothing else, some because such jobs tend to be more compatible with child rearing. The gap can also be attributed to the relatively recent arrival of women in higher-paying professions and the difficulty they have had in penetrating the so-called glass ceiling, a bias barrier that keeps so many women from moving beyond middle management. Among FORTUNE 500 companies, less than 2% of top executives are female. Harder to explain is the fact that the higher women advance, the larger the wage gap. A May 1987 report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that corporate women at the vice-presidential level and above earn 42% less than their male peers.
Divorce and Poverty
The wage gap and the segregation of women into low-paying jobs, together with the lack of affordable child care, take their greatest toll on unmarried women, particularly single mothers. Today more than 60% of adults below the federal poverty line are women, and, contrary to popular mythology, the majority are white. More than half the poor families in America are headed by single women. In the early '80s the "feminization of poverty" became an issue for the women's movement, but the situation has barely budged. High divorce rates have added to female destitution. In The Divorce Revolution (1985), sociologist Lenore Weitzman showed how no-fault divorce laws -- passed in 43 states, largely in response to feminist demand -- have benefited men and impoverished women. Weitzman found that as a result of these laws, which largely eliminated alimony and often forced the sale of the family home, women and their children typically suffer a 73% drop in their standard of living after a divorce while the ex-husband's living standard jumps 42%.
The Second Shift
Vernal Brown, 39, does what used to be a man's job: making front bumpers in a Ford auto plant in St. Louis. Though her paycheck was essential for paying the family's bills, she says, her husband "expected the same as if I was a housewife. He told me that if I couldn't take care of the needs at home and have his food ready, I should quit." Instead Brown quit her marriage. Among the upper middle class, male rhetoric may sound enlightened, but the bottom line is much the same. In The Second Shift, a study of 50 mostly middle-class, two-career couples published this year, Arlie Hochschild, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, found that wives typically come home from work to another shift: doing 75% of the household tasks. "Men are trying to have it both ways," she charges. "They're trying to have their wives' salaries and still have the traditional roles at home."
) Mainstream feminist groups look at the long way to go and wonder how the troops could have grown so complacent. Some see hope of rekindling the flames in the resurgent abortion issue. Membership in NOW, which was down to 160,000 last year (from a peak of 220,000 in 1982), jumped almost 100,000 in the aftermath of Webster. Many of the hundreds of thousands who participated in pro-choice demonstrations on Nov. 12, organized by NOW and other groups, were marching for the first time in their lives. Among them was Emily Friedan, 33, a Buffalo pediatrician and Betty Friedan's daughter. "For 25 years I have rarely appeared with my mom. This April I marched with her because of the abortion issue," says Friedan, who has organized a local chapter of Physicians for Choice. The abortion issue has helped galvanize college-age women -- and men -- out of their political inertia. Alexandra Stanton, 20, took a year's leave from Cornell to launch Students Organizing Students, an activist group devoted to protecting reproductive rights. SOS has already launched chapters on 100 college campuses. Says NOW president Molly Yard: "Abortion has strengthened our abilities to campaign on many issues."
Others believe those in the younger generation will catch on to feminism after a little reality therapy. "They don't recognize discrimination as undergraduates because it's so much less overt than in the outside world," says Patricia Ireland, 44, executive vice president of NOW in Washington. Many women do not see sexism as an obstacle until they are well along in their careers and angling for a promotion or until they have their first child and their juggling act begins. Observes Ireland: "Feminism is a movement where women get more radical as they get older."
But reigniting the feminist movement as it used to be is no more possible than a return to the simpler times before feminism. By the early 1980s, more imaginative women in the movement began to speak of a second phase that would be quite different from the first. Friedan, as usual, was out front. In her 1981 book The Second Stage, she called on her feminist sisters to go beyond "sexual politics" that cast man as the enemy and denied women's "roots and life connection in the family." The movement must change its focus, she argued, from succeeding in a man's world on a man's terms to achieving a balance between this new role and woman's traditional roles as mother and tender of the hearth. To achieve that balance, urged Friedan, the structure of the workplace and the home must change. And men must be enlisted to participate.
Friedan was rebuked at first for backtracking, for consorting with the enemy. But slowly her view has prevailed. Asked to select the most important goal for the women's movement today, participants in the TIME/CNN poll rated "helping women balance work and family" as No. 1. Second was "getting government funding for programs such as child care and maternity leave."
The so-called second stage is marked by a discussion about "feminine values" and teaching men and male-dominated institutions to share them. "In the second stage," says Ann Lewis, a founder of the National Women's Political Caucus, "we will not enter the work force as imitators of men. We will not deny the fact that we have children and, yes, think about them during the day. Nor will we deny that we as society's caretakers have responsibility for elderly parents. We bring those values with us."
But what does that mean in practical terms? Some of the needs are obvious. There is no balancing the demands of work and family life -- for men or for women -- without a national consensus on family policy. Part of this is guaranteeing employed parents the right to take time off after the birth or adoption of a child without risking the loss of their job; more than 100 nations ensure such rights for women workers, according to Sheila Kamerman, a social-policy professor at Columbia University. Equally essential is some sort of financial aid or subsidy to help the working poor and the middle class obtain quality child care; most West European countries have such programs.
Legislation on both parental leave and child care has been inching through Congress. Hopes for passing some version of the Act for Better Child Care (ABC) before year's end were dashed two weeks ago by political wrangling over how to finance it. A family-leave bill is also stalled. Policymakers in some states are not waiting for Washington to act. Seven states, including Minnesota, Oregon and Rhode Island, have already adopted comprehensive parental-leave laws; ten others have passed maternity-leave bills.
Legislation, while vital, will not in itself revolutionize the workplace. Parental leave after the birth of an infant quickly comes to an end. The best child care in the world is no substitute for a mother or father being there -- at the playground, at the gymnastics competition, at the dinner table. And * being there is getting harder for full-time workers. Since 1973, Americans' average workweek has grown six hours, from under 41 hours to nearly 47, according to a Harris survey. Earlier this year Felice Schwartz, president of Catalyst, a research and advisory group that focuses on women in business, proposed a now infamous solution. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, she proposed that professional women who prefer not to sacrifice family to ambition be relegated to a slower career path that would top out at middle management. They would get by with shorter hours and schedules flexible enough to permit the occasional trip to the pediatrician or school play.
Schwartz's "Mommy Track" idea unleashed a torrent of condemnation. Critics asked why women, and for that matter men, could not make a temporary switch to a slower track. Why couldn't workers slow down and speed up depending on the changing demands of their personal lives? Author Sylvia Ann Hewlett foresees a "sequencing" pattern in which dual-career couples would alternate the times in which they focus heavily on their work. A mother or father might be intensely involved in a project for a period of time and thereby earn credits for time off to spend with the family during a slower period. To make such a scenario possible, Hewlett points out, the wage gap would have to close. Otherwise the woman's career, being less lucrative, would always seem the more expendable of the two.
Today many major law firms have a slower Mommy Track, but women who choose to switch to such "part-time" positions (as many as 40 hours a week instead of 70) generally do not have the option of picking up speed again; they are out of the race for partnership. Other fields are even less accommodating. "In academic science, the granting situation is so tight that even if you are very creative, if you divert your energy to a child, it will be extremely difficult to compete," says Lola Reid, a research biologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. Reid, who has a one-year-old daughter, advocates a separate pool of grant money for scientists who are in their peak years of child rearing. Otherwise, she says, "we're going to lose a highly trained population; they will simply drop out of the field."
It will take a good deal of pushing and prodding to bring about such developments. But around the U.S., that pushing and prodding is slowly taking place. "There are 600 women's business organizations in America," says Wendy ^ Reid Crisp, director of the National Association for Female Executives, "from women in film to women in construction." Most of the groups were born in the 1980s, says Crisp, and their main focus is changing the workplace, battling the glass ceiling and pushing for child-care benefits. Labor unions are also playing a role in these struggles. In any given month in cities around the country, seminars, workshops and conventions assemble to discuss these same concerns. "This is not the organized women's movement," says Hillary Clinton, a partner in a Little Rock law firm and wife of Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. "It is not top down. It is bottom up." The emphasis is on practical solutions, not rhetoric. Men are often included, and the tone is less confrontational. "Who wants to walk around with clenched fists all the time?" Clinton asks.
Many feminists believe men will resist these changes. "It means more competition at work and more housework at home," says Patricia Ireland of NOW. Others argue that men will see benefits for themselves. "It's women's demands that are making the workplace more livable," says Warren Farrell, a self-proclaimed "male feminist" and author of Why Men Are the Way They Are. "Companies did not have to be flexible in the past because men were their slaves."
Already there are numerous signs that male attitudes and values are becoming "feminized," though most men might reject that description. In a survey conducted last summer for the recruiting firm Robert Half International, 56% of men polled said they would give up as much as a quarter of their salary to have more family or personal time. About 45% said they would probably refuse a promotion that involved sacrificing hours with their family.
That may be a reflection of how things are beginning to change at home. Although married men do only about 30% of the housework today, according to Joseph Pleck, professor of families, change and society at Wheaton College, two decades ago they did just 20%. Pleck sees a "silent revolution" in male attitudes. "I don't predict that we'll be seeing fifty-fifty any time soon," he says, "but a jump of 10% in a national sample is a big change." Other studies have shown a growing role for men in caring for children. For 18% of dual-paycheck couples who work separate shifts, the father is the primary child-care provider during the wife's working hours. The more "women's work" men perform, the more respectable that work becomes and the less men take women for granted. "If men start taking care of children, the job will become more valuable," insists Gloria Steinem.
"My father was convinced the center of the world was 36 Maplewood Drive. His idea of a wonderful time was family dinner . . . I'm beginning to think my father really knew what he was doing."
-- Ad campaign circa 2090
Still a little farfetched, perhaps, but it sounds better that way, doesn't it?