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The battle for equality is almost totally won in Scandinavia. Divorce is relatively easy, abortion is mostly free, and in Sweden, either parent can receive temporary compensation from the state for staying home with a baby or a sick child, instead of going to work. To demonstrate that the country cannot function without them, Icelandic women staged a one-day strike in October: schools, theaters and telephone service were all shut down.
More Japanese women than ever are working in fields that range from physics to zoology. Yet most women still wield their power in the home, following the ancient saying: "A wise falcon hides its talons."
In the less developed countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, women are much further behind. The profound differences among women of varying cultures were starkly revealed at the U.N. World Conference for International Women's Year in Mexico City last summer. The meeting bogged down in bickering and accomplished little. Women in much of the Arab world remain isolated and subservient; in Saudi Arabia, they still inhabit harems. But in Egypt and Lebanon, stirrings of emancipation are evident.
By becoming the first modern woman dictator last year, Indira Gandhi proved anew that women can be as domineering as men. An ardent feminist, she has fought the Indian practice of bridegrooms demanding dowries. (One telling vignette: in response to a suitor's request for a motor scooter as a dowry, one village girl jilted the man; he had to settle for a sheep from a less affluent bride).
Indonesian women are scarcely concerned with equal pay and abortion, since they must still contend with forced marriage and polygamy. A marriage law passed in October makes it harder for a man to take a second wife or to dismiss a spouse with the curt command: "I divorce you." In 1975 Thai women won the right to run for election as village chief or attain the rank of general in the army. But they still cannot sign a contract or apply for a passport without their husband's permission.
China furnishes proof that total revolution does not necessarily bring equality of the sexes. Women dress like men, walk like men, work like men, but, with the exception of Chairman Mao's wife Chiang Ching, few have attained positions of importance in the country.
THE FUTURE: Reordering the Roles
American women, if they have not arrived, are the process of arrival. Just how far they will go—and how fast—is not totally clear, for women are themselves altering the destination, changing it from a man's world to something else.
A lot of men are enjoying the change. They are discovering there is much in women's liberation that is to their benefit—a loosening of their own role as breadwinner, for example. But it would be foolhardy to ignore the many men who regard the women's upsurge as a threat and try to keep women—wives, daughters, co-workers—in "their place." As more women arrive on the job market, more men may wonder if they will lose their own posts and