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January 17, 1992 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-01-17

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 17, 1992 - Page 5

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I see as symptoms of this paralysis the
impotence in the face offundamentalist back-
lash ... the failure to mobilize the young gen-
eration who takefor granted the rights we won
and who do not defend those rights as they are
being taken away in front of our eyes, and the
preoccupation with pornography and other
sexual diversions that do not affect most
women's lives.
--Betty Friedan, afterword to The Second
Women's rights activists, ranging from
Friedan, founder of the feminist movement, to
University students, are anxious about what
they claim to be a gradual erosion of women's
Some proponents of the women's move-
ment question whether the movement itself
even exists.
Nearly 30 years after Friedan's pioneering
novel The Feminine Mystique hit the public,
more than 350 people came to Rackham Audi-


Milanowski, co-president of Students for
Life and a feminist, asserts that calls for 'repro-
ductive rights' have crippled women.
"Abortion does not liberate women, it vic-
timizes them," she said. "Basically the feminist
movement, as most people see it, has abortion
as the number one priority on its agenda and I
don't think that represents all women's views
on abortion, or society's views on abortion, for
that matter."
She added, "The feminist movement is go-
ing in the wrong direction. It's helping people to
hurt themselves. Alleviating the economic prob-
lems - that's where I'd like to see the feminist
movement go.
Turning back the tide
You must do something. You must get

reform for
or issues?
When Betty Friedan came to the
University last month to speak about
the internal division within the
feminist movement, her words rang
true on a broader scope.
Friedan feels the new-school
feminists are misdirecting their
efforts by concentrating only on
select issues, such as
equal employment

cause they were not taught how to network and
challenge fundamental ideas, as the '60s femi-
nists were forced to do.
A telling sign of this communication gap is
that women's rights advocates who are visible
at the University said that they have not been
exposed to supporters of women's rights from
another age group. The same is true of older
women, some of whom are still active in the
women's movement.
Manchester, Mich., resident Eileen Parker,
42, argued that younger women are less active
now than before because they have become
accustomed to many rights that were previ-
ously unavailable.
"The younger women seem to have kind of
taken it for granted that they're on equal foot-
ing," she said. "It just doesn't work that way."
Parker recognizes that it was easy to be-
come involved in the '60s women's movement
because "people were speaking out on every-
thing." She believes that a shock to women's
rights is necessary to transform the women's
movement from sluggish to activist.
"I see a generation gap in that many of the
ideals of the '60s are simply not working for
women," said School of Social Work student
Carolyn Milanowski.
Director of Presidential Communications
Shirley Clarkson agreed that the '60s genera-
tion has not fulfilled a role of communicating
with the younger generation.
"Maybe my generation hasn't done a good
job communicating what the problems and
barriers are," she said. "A lot of times we focus
on the individual issues and not the social
Rackham student Robert Garisto, 27, ar-
gued, however, that feminists from the '60s
who are still immersed in the women's move-
ment communicate adequately with younger
women's rights advocates. He added that they
even provide a source of inspiration.
In reference to Friedan, Garisto said, "I
liked the fact that she was very much in favor
of the young people carrying on and updating
the struggle."
Additionally, RC junior Dawne Morano,
20, asserted that ties between the two genera-
tions are growing stronger.
"They're really trying to pull younger
women into and kind of continue what our
mothers and grandmothers have done," she

sary to succeeding in equalizing the status of
men and women. "These are men and women's
problems. You need (men's) help and you
need to change their views. They have to be
involved," she said. "A lot of women in the
'60s didn't want to work with men. It worked,
but I don't know if it was the best way."
While he is uncertain about future devel-
opments, Garisto argued that it is now easier
for men like him to consider themselves femi-
nists. "People have grown up a little bit. It's a
little more acceptable to be a feminist," he

said. "But who knows what the active again. You must all get ac-
future holds." tive again.
LSA junior Elizabeth -Friedan's speech
Britten still feels a sense The spectrum of meth-
of belittlement by ods used to counter the
people who disagree The feminist move- perceived tide against
with her feminist ment is going in the women's rights is
views. She com- vast, including such
mented, "My male wrong direction. It's actionsasletter-writ-
friends laugh at me helping people to hurt ing or protesting.
(for saying things themselves.' Donovan en-
that Friedan ys)...dorses the method of
They just think I'm -Carolyn Milan owski education."It's really
hysterical."S ofS a important that women
School of SOCIal keep speaking out," she
Work student.; asserted. "They have to
InaCtion do all the traditional things
-letters to the editor, let-
The middle of the road ters tocongressmen... Wehave
Is your own private cul-de-sac tokeep people informed that things
I can't get from the cab to the curb haven't changed. When women become
Without some little jerk on my back aware of inequality, they need to speak out
Don't harass me about it."
Can't you tell Parker argued that the Anita Hill con-
I'm going home troversy and the possible overturning of Roe
I'm tired as hell v. Wade would act as catalysts to precipitate
I'm not the kind I used to be a stronger women's movement.
I've got a kid "People will feel threatened - personally
I'm 33 threatened. I don't think in the '80s women felt
Baby get in the road any real threat to their personal freedom -their
Come on now, the middle the road autonomy," she said. "People were more turned
- The Pretenders, "Middle of the Road" inward and they weren't looking at the broader
Women's rights advocates are afraid that pictures as much."
there is a general trend of complacency and The abortion issue already leads Morano to
inability to speak out against perceived soci- participate regularly in clinic defenses. She
al ills. defends this 'militancy' by arguing that the
The sense of a faltering and backtracking insistence of rights in reality is more important
women's movement afflicts both feminists of than theoretical assurances.
the '60s and the current generation. She said, "It's not just enough to address the
"It's kind of quieted down. People are legislature. You have toaddress theclinic doors."
worried about jobs," Donovan said. "Peonle She added that people who rebuked women's

sexual harassment,
and reproductive
She maintains
that the real war
must be waged to
change the attitudes
of a male-dominated
world that still treats


torium Dec. 9 to get an update on Friedan',
insights into the status of women.
Perhaps most interesting about the audi-
ence was the fact that two generations were
represented. Both younger and older people
- two groups that often use different strate-
gies to pursue the same goals - came together
to hear Friedan.
They all listened, but when it was over, not
everyone agreed - for as many issues cur-
rently split different generations of the
women's movement as bind them.
Afearof backlash and powerlessness brings
together the two groups of feminists. And
common myths about feminists perpetuate the
notion that feminists are simply male-bashers
who also hate women who "sell out" to tradi-
tJon feminine
And while
participation in
the women's
movement sig-
nifies different '
meanings for
women's rights x.. ...
activists' com-
mon dream is to
achieve equal-
ity, economi-
cally and politi-
cally, and to be
able to live their
lives as they de-
"You can be
anything you
want - even if -
you want to be a housewife. That's OK too,
just as long as you keep broadening your
education," argued Jennifer Hall, a first-year
RC student. "My mom - she's not a radical,
but she's definitely done her part. She hasn't
let gender get in her way."
Yet, as Friedan's controversial statement
about the relevance of sexual politics to the
women's movementindicates, women's rights
advocates have internal conflicts and disagree-
ments between the generations.
This infighting stems from many sources,
including a lack of communication between
feminists from the'60s and feminists from the
'90s and disillusionment with the progress in
achieving economic and political equality.
Communication Gap
Most authors have to work hard to limit
their bibliographies. In researching the next
generation of feminists, I had to make an
* especially vigorous effort just to locate one.
While visible feminist voices in general are
scarce, the next generation seems to missing
them almost entirely. They have not had the
chance to define themselves or an agenda
concerning the issues that they care about.
- author Paula Kamen
In her 1991 book, Feminist Fatale: Voices
from the Twentysomething Generation, Kamen
argued that a communication gap between the
generations of feminists exists because older
feminists focus on concerns that were imme-
diate to them in the '60s, such as instituting the
Equal Rights Amendment and fighting for

rights proponents for their
feminism were doing so out
of concern for image. "It's
like kissing the ass of the
male power structure."
On the other hand, it is
inwardreflection that Shupe
believes is the next stage of
the women's movement.
"That's how we should look
at people: not based on gen-
der. It should be more di-
rected toward improving
young women as who they
are as individuals. Not de-
b nying that being a woman is
' ~part of you, but notyou. This
is what young women want
today.I don't think anybody
Fi V 'can deny that."
Friedan's calltoaction is
FLE PHOTO voiced by many other femi-
nists. Yet as the goals and methods of action are
debated, supporters of the women's movement
continue to work in splintered groups for a
particular agenda.
Yet, Friedan evoked memories of the Uni-
versity as an institution for social change and
even said, "We have to defend the rights we've
been taking for granted. I hope that you will rise
again in the defense of women and the larger
issues of life and humans in this nation."

women as second-
class citizens. If you
can change the way
people think about women, Friedan
says, then issues like those mentioned
earlier will take care of themselves.
In short, Friedan doesn't want to win
some battles and lose the war.
But while her thinking is gener-
ally sound, her strategy for waging
this "attitude" war is not without its
own flaws.
In Friedan's favor, you can legally
mandate that an employer treat
women and people of color in a fair
and professional manner, but that
same employer may go home,
mistreat his wife, and be a member of
the Ku Klux Klan - and legally.
Legal reform has its limitations.
While the problem will have been
dealt with in the legal sense, the roots
of hate still exist.
Such reformists would merely be
taking a sick plant, spray-painting it
green, and declaring it healthy. While
it may look healthy, its roots are as
diseased as ever.
Real change doesn't take part in
the laws of a nation, but in the minds
of its citizens.
n WOvO1, ie aLLGuu ww Fi ieiaUi
wants to wage is a nebulous one, and
its proponents could lose all sense of
direction and hope.
We live in a free society in which
attitudes cannot be mandated, no
matter how correct they seem. You
can change policies and laws, but you
can't change someone else's mind.
(We can only hope that one day,
people will do it for themselves.)
And without issues to key on,
activist groups lose sight of their
goals and quickly disintegrate. After
all, the task seems impossible: to
convince people that the structure in
which they have been raised is
somehow flawed.
A person who was raised in a
family in which all the women stayed
home, kept the house, and had babies
will likely have trouble understand-
ing why some women would want to
do anything else.
This is why most activists focus
their attention on legislation. Their
goal is to change policy in such a
way that no matter how people have
been raised, they will have to obey
certain rules.
For example, the Civil Rights
movement had specific goals, such as
changing the "separate but equal"
status with which Black Americans
were saddled, in the hope that one
day people of color would be treated
as full-fledged citizens. This reform
has worked, but only in a limited
While we no longer have separate
bathrooms for Blacks and whites,
most people acknowledge that racial
tensions are higher than ever.
You can't win the war without
fighting some battles. The problem is
these battles have a limited scope.
So this leaves us with the problem
of how to bring about a just society;
neither specific issues nor attitudes
can be used to solve the whole
problem - you need a little of both.
Everybody involved needs to see
the value in the other's methods.
They need to understand that both
crnnk cof thnnah aet . h e me


said. "They're realizing that we are coming of
age and we're getting political. We are the ones
that can run for office. If anything happens, we,
the young feminists, are going to make it hap-
Women today are facing a backlash - a
profound backlash. There is a new feminine
mystique on the horizon - a new attempt to
define women in relation to men - to define
them as sex objects again.
- Friedan, in a December speech at
Rackham Auditorium
The recent controversies stemming from
Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment
by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
and the William Kennedy Smith rape trial have
regenerated voices advocating action to im-
prove women's position in society.
With the re-emergence of these voices,
concerns about personal safety, women in po-
sitions of political power, and the progress
made by the women's movement have also
University alumnae Jennifer Greene, 24,
asked, "Why don't more women represent me
in government?" She quickly concluded, "Then
I realize how little what goes on in the Senate
reflects my priorities and my agenda. I can't
help but wonder, if more women were in-
volved in local and federal government if my
agenda would be pursued more closely."
However, Nursing student Nicole Shupe,
former MSA Women's Issues Commission
chair, argued that negative thinking is counter-

are so busy, especially at my age. I look around
at the women I know... They're no longer
active or very politically involved."
The younger generation perceives and fears
the same sense of inaction among peers.
Greene remarks, "I know a lot of people
that really believe Roe v. Wade will be over-
turned. I've got to the point where I'm worried
less about that than what the response will be."
Women's rights proponents are growing
disillusioned and tired. Britten said, "I'm tired
of fighting... There are so many roadblocks in
terms of employment and child care... The
stereotype of a career woman as a bitch is
becoming overwhelming now."
Demonstrations like the Take Back the
Night march assist in promoting the visibility
of women, even if no other tangible goal is
reached, Britten said. "Mass functions like
that generate a lot of publicity. Yet often they
do nothing... Without functions like that it
would be easy to dismiss the women's move-
ment. If you don't keep yourself in the public
eye something will take its place."
Yet actions taken by feminists are often
regarded as being too militant by other femi-
nists. While Shupe labels herself a feminist,
she argued that she is a feminist in definition,
but not in reality. She asserted that she be-
lieves in the equal rights of women, but not in
the militant approach used by modern radi-
"Very militant women continually put men
on the defensive. Nothing moves anywhere
that way," she explained. "Some women to-
day would not join NOW (the National Orga-
nization for Women) because they don't want




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