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Phyllis, feminism has not failed.

Byline: Dianne Williamson


Regular readers may have noticed a pretty hilarious comment last week from a member of one of those absurd "white pride" groups.

According to Russell A. James of North East White Pride, it's no longer the black people we should worry about. "It's Jews, homosexuals and radical feminists who are causing the problems," James said.

Well, I suppose that's awfully progressive of him. And while he didn't elaborate on the trouble-making tendencies of the Jews and homosexuals, he's not the only person picking on the pesky feminists these days.

In a controversial new book, conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly claims that "feminists love divorce" and have contributed to the high divorce rate in America. She says that feminists "wanted to be independent of men and liberated from the duties of marriage and motherhood." With no children to raise, feminists are free to indulge their selfish goal of, um, being happy and fulfilled.

The book is a bombshell for two reasons, the first being that lots of people had no idea that Schlafly was still alive, let alone continuing to churn out such drivel. But she's 86. Who knew?

Next, it's remarkable that an intelligent woman such as Schlafly insists on demonizing feminists and continues to claim that the 1950s were a halcyon era in which women were delighted to don aprons and make like June Cleaver.

She writes that "feminists demeaned marriage and motherhood even though most women want marriage and motherhood. Feminism has run its course, and surveys show that women are not as happy now as they were in the 1950s." According to Schlafly, feminism has been an utter failure, with none of its goals having been achieved.

I'm a bit confused. If the hairy man-hating feminists have succeeded in their insidious plot to turn June Cleaver against Ward, how has the movement failed? And if feminism has indeed failed, then what's she complaining about? And didn't Schlafly herself benefit hugely from the women's movement by becoming a lawyer and author while bearing six kids? Didn't she spend much of her time on the road, away from her family?

Sure, there was less divorce in the '50s. But that doesn't mean the marriages were better - it means that women weren't taught to seek their own paths and to realize that they didn't have to stay in bad relationships. That's called progress. In our mothers' generation, most women never dreamed that they, too, had a right to be happy. Nor were abused women encouraged to leave abusive husbands - they were encouraged to suck it up.

Titled "The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know - And Men Can't Say," the book's co-author is Suzanne Venker, an outspoken critic of career women, who has written a book about how motherhood and jobs don't mesh. Golly. Has anyone told Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin?

Cynthia Enloe, one of the misguided career women pitied by the authors, seems pretty happy to me. A noted professor at Clark University, the 72-year-old Enloe has been showered with countless honors and awards, including Fulbrights in Malaysia and Guyana, guest professorships around the world, honorary doctorates and her selection as "Outstanding Teacher" at Clark three times.

But when she graduated from Connecticut College in 1960, most of her classmates were married and living in the suburbs within two years.

"Very few of them imagined it was possible to combine motherhood, marriage and professional lives," Enloe said. "They knew their husbands could, but they never imagined it for themselves."

That's because lots of employers wouldn't hire women with kids. And inadequate childcare was a problem. The removal of those and other obstacles are largely the result of feminism, she noted.

"If feminists were so opposed to marriage and children, why would they have spent decades fixing the childcare problem?" Enloe asked, logically enough. "This isn't anything new for Schlafly. She's been saying it for 50 years and for 50 years she's been wrong. Feminists aren't against marriage. What they're against is abusive marriages, and men having unequal rights in marriage, property and the workplace."

Yeah, pretty radical stuff. But if feminism accomplished anything - and it did, despite Schlafly's claim - it opened the doors for women to make their own choices and not be confined by narrow expectations and roles.

"Women and men have thought more deeply about what it takes to achieve genuine happiness," Enloe said. "And that's called progress."

Contact Dianne Williamson via e-mail at
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 1, 2011
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