Living: Onward, Women!

The superwoman is weary, the young are complacent, but feminism is not dead. And, baby, there's still a long way to go

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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.

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