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Novelist Anne Roiphe has movingly written of the often difficult choices women must make about careers and marriages and children. Speaking of the ideological urge of some to discourage motherhood entirely, she says, "The very idea of removing by social surgery a woman's or man's connected love for a child is part of a coming ice age of relationships—the dehumanizing of mankind. We may find that intellectual activity is not enough, that achievement in the industrial, technological world, while important, is not sufficient, and that we also, man and woman alike, need the roots into biology, the touch of one another that child rearing brings."
Both men and women now seem to be edging toward Roiphe's idea: "As women, we have thought so little of ourselves that when the troops came to liberate us, we rushed into the streets, leaving our most valuable attributes behind as if they belonged to the enemy." It is not an argument for sweet maternal submission to the household gods but for an admission that, unless society is transformed in an almost Utopian way (far beyond merely providing daycare centers), women cannot free themselves totally from the destiny of raising children. It is also a recognition that the hard choices about families, children and careers cannot be made entirely through cold ideology.
WOMEN ABROAD: Breakthroughs and Bickering
Abroad, women are also moving forward, notably in developed countries. Economic progress is the necessary road to female emancipation. As a nation is industrialized, women are freed from much of the routine burden of the farm and the household.
Outside the U.S., European women fare best. In France, for example, some 22% of lawyers are women; so are 18% of doctors, 40% of medical students and 90% of pharmacists. President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing has two women in his Cabinet: Simone Veil (Health) and Françoise Giroud (Women's Affairs). Divorce and abortion laws recently have been liberalized, as have been property rights, which until recently sharply discriminated against women. Many of the changes are more apparent than real. Career women are largely a Paris phenomenon; in the provinces, the laws have changed much faster than the customs that limit many women to home and minor jobs.
British women have taken a rather relaxed approach to feminism, with a minimum of confrontation. Nevertheless, a bill guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work went into effect at year's end. And no one has made a better case for the competence of women than Margaret Thatcher, the Tory Party leader, who happens to be cool to feminism.
Italy is in the process of catching up with its