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

  • Share
  • Read Later

(9 of 9)

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?

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. Next Page