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Back to the Family After All - An Excerpt from The New Feminist Agenda

Back to the Family After All - An Excerpt from The New Feminist Agenda

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Feminists opened up thousands of doors in the 1960s and 1970s, but decades later, are U.S. women where they thought they'd be? The answer, it turns out, is a resounding no. Looking back over five decades of advocacy, Madeleine Kunin analyzes where progress stalled, looks at the successes of other countries, and charts the course for the next feminist revolution—one that mobilizes women, and men, to call for the kind of government and workplace policies that can improve the lives of women and strengthen their families.
Feminists opened up thousands of doors in the 1960s and 1970s, but decades later, are U.S. women where they thought they'd be? The answer, it turns out, is a resounding no. Looking back over five decades of advocacy, Madeleine Kunin analyzes where progress stalled, looks at the successes of other countries, and charts the course for the next feminist revolution—one that mobilizes women, and men, to call for the kind of government and workplace policies that can improve the lives of women and strengthen their families.

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Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing on Feb 01, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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12/16/2012

 
The New
Feminist
 
AgeNdA
Dfi  nx Rvfr W, Wrk, d Fy
maDeleine m. Kunin
 
ChapteR 2
Bac to t Family, Aftr All
It may seem a retrograde step to suggest that eminists like me, who stroveto liberate ourselves rom the limited roles o wie and mother, have comeull circle to ocus, once again, on the amily. At the start o the eministrevolution, we did not dwell on the question o who would take care o the children. We assumed things would all into place. Child care centerswould spring up like fowers and workplaces would be magically trans-ormed to meet our needs. The catch phrase became “we can have it all.”Not everyone agreed. Critics like Phyllis Schlafy, leader o the conservativeEagle Forum, pronounced that i women would stay home and ulll their proper housewie role o serving their husbands, all would be right with theworld. Despite the nascent debate between stay-at-home moms and work-ing moms, not many women heeded Schlafy’s advice. The “daddy goes towork and mommy stays home” portrait o the American amily is as quaintas a Norman Rockwell
Saturday Evening Post 
cover. Just 20 percent o young amilies t that model. Hal the workorce is comprised o women.The 1970s exodus o millions o American housewives rom their split-level ranch homes was blamed on the seductive powers o eminism, therevolution that destroyed the amily. Today, the culprit is no longer eminism;it is economics. Women are streaming into the workplace because their income is essential; 40 percent are either single working mothers or marriedmothers who earn as much as or more than their spouse.
1
Feminism canstill take some o the credit or blame. Without access to education, withouta cultural shit in the role o women in society, women today would not bequalied or these jobs.Feminism shares another responsibility or our present dilemma: oncewe got out o the house, unlike our European sisters, we ailed to makedemands o our government or paid amily leave laws, workplace fexibility,
 
BACk TO The FAMILY, AFTeR ALL
 
7
and quality child care. American eminist groups claim that child care was ontheir agenda rom the start. Others disagree.In
The Second Stage
, Betty Friedan tried to move eminists to ocus onissues that are most important to amilies, and the balance between work and amily was one o them. That message, recall some eminist leaders, didnot go over well. “People killed her,” remembers Ellen Galinsky, coounder o the Families and Work Institute, who says she, too, encountered scornwhen she raised the issue o child care at eminist conerences.Some eminists argued that the movement’s ocus needed to remainnarrow or it to succeed. Others simply thought the issue was boring. Says Janet Gornick, who has written widely on amily/work questions, “Childcare and amily leave was ho hum. I heard this said on a thousand occasions,that maternity leave was a middle-class issue, while they were ghting or reproductive reedom and to be ree o domestic violence.” The irony o this, she points out, is that the lack o child care is what stalled progress inthe ensuing years or poor women—especially those removed rom publicassistance—by preventing them rom being integrated into the labor market.Muriel Fox, a coounder o the National Organization or Women(NOW), disagrees that the movement deemphasized amily issues. “NOWwas a leading orce in Congress to get a child care bill passed,” says Fox,reerring to the comprehensive child care bill passed by Congress in 1971 andvetoed by President Richard Nixon. “Don’t listen to anyone who perpetuatesthe myth.”Indeed, NOW’s statement o purpose, which Fox calls “one o the greatdocuments o the twentieth century,” seems enlightened on this ront: “Wereject the current assumptions that a man must carry the sole burden o supporting himsel, his wie, and amily, and that a woman is automaticallyentitled to lielong support by a man upon her marriage. . . . We believethat a true partnership between the sexes demands a dierent concept o marriage, an equitable sharing o the responsibilities o home and childrenand o the economic burdens o their support. We believe that proper recog-nition should be given to the economic and social value o homemaking andchild-care.” A dierent perspective comes rom Eleanor Smeal, a ormer president o NOW, who today is head o the Feminist Majority. The eminist agenda has

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