Fruitless feminists

CATTON, PIA

Fruitless Feminists by Pia Catton S tirred by the discovery of soccer moms, feminists are now on the lookout for minivan madonnas. "Family feminism," a new twist in America's most malleable...

...Feminism did not move in a wrong direction," Roiphe said...
...It's more like a lobbying group for anything women want at any time women want it...
...But this was not a sentence she spoke, or even came close to speaking, during the panel discussion (though she did turn sociobiologist when she informed the room that "we turned our attention away from the fact that we are a species...
...The intellectual and emotional misfit between child care and feminism was observed but not solved...
...In the early 1990s, "pro-women" meant "power feminism," which preached the idea that women aren't victims but are natural aggressors...
...The irritation between mothers and non-mothers was swept under the rug of sisterhood," Roiphe writes in Fruitful...
...Forget feminism, and think "feminists" instead...
...As the decades of relativism roll by, the "pro-women" list grows longer, more complex, and contradictory...
...Which feminism...
...I asked her afterward if she thought those voices were still dominant...
...The panel's moderator, Susan Bianchi-Sand of the National Committee on Pay Equity, said that the biggest problem facing feminism is lack of youth involvement...
...No, it was just that, in the movement, "some voices became more dominant over others...
...Now, motherhood and feminism can "dialogue...
...But only pro-women ways of life, of course...
...So where does this leave feminism...
...The publication of novelist and columnist Anne Roiphe's manifesto for "family feminism," Fruitful, was the occasion for a panel discussion called "Motherhood and Feminism: A Dialogue" in Washington last week...
...They seek a voice that offers clarity and understanding in a very confusing culture...
...Was it a problem that feminism "lost focus"i.e., did not pay attention to the concern she describes in Fruitful as the most important thing in her life, being a mother...
...Being "pro-women" has meant different things in different times...
...In the '80s, "pro-women" meant opposing pornography and demanding speech codes at universities...
...Family feminism," a new twist in America's most malleable social movement, seeks to enlist women who want to listen to their maternal urges rather than ignore them...
...The voices of family feminism have been overwhelmed...
...Pro-women advocates of a shortened work week and their small-business-owning sisters can hold hands and sing numbers from "Free to Be You and Me...
...But somehow we lost focus...
...There was precious little debate about either motherhood or feminism...
...The only way to make sense of feminists today is to think of them as women of the Left, accepting of any and all ways of life...
...Alas, there wasn't a lot of dialoguing going on, just a lot of rambling familial anecdotes offered by both panelists and audience...
...Young women seem to think the job is done," she said...
...Since they have the opportunity to achieve economic security, they no longer need feminism (the ingrates...
...both were unambiguously accepted by everyone in the room as unambiguously good for women...
...Whose feminism...
...Now, four years before the new millennium, "pro-women" means, in Betty Friedan's words, "chosen, affirmed motherhood...
...And no wonder...
...Yes, with a PTA card in one hand and a NOW card in the other, mothers need no longer feel neglected by the feminist movement...
...Go right ahead...
...I wouldn't have written the book if they weren't," she said...
...What they do not need is a feminism that creates chaos...
...What feminism...
...In the '70s, independence and autonomy were pro-women...
...Feminism fails to attract young women not because the "job is done," but because there is no common job to accomplish...
...Given all this comradeship, the movement just cannot understand one thing...
...It makes no difference if Roiphe's "family feminism" contradicts other elements of feminism, because feminism is no longer an ideology requiring philosophical consistency...
...What was established wisdom in the '70sthe axiom that "biology is not destiny" sounds nonsensical in the 1990s, when Anne Roiphe is able to say flat out that "some parts of the anatomy are destiny...
...many in the audience and on the panel would have eaten her alive for criticizing feminism...
...And yet the source text for the panel was a book by a feminist dissatisfied with feminism's view of motherhood...
...Pro-women stay-at-home mothers are every bit as feminist as pro-women lesbians...
...What Bianchi-Sand does not understand is that the inconsistencies of feminism are what drive young women away from it...
...But simply adding another element to the feminist mix...
...But when fellow panelist Heidi Hartmann, director of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, asked Roiphe to clarify her criticism of the feminist movement in Fruitful, the author backpedaled and sidestepped at the same time...

Vol. 2 • December 1996 • No. 13


 
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