Feminism at the Crossroads

Feminism at the Crossroads

Feminism, like Broadway, the novel, and God, has been declared dead many times. Indeed, unlike those other items, it has been declared dead almost since its birth—by which I mean its modern rebirth in the 1960s. Feminism has also, as Susan Faludi demonstrated so cleverly in Backlash, been blamed for making women miserable, for causing everything from infertility—see? you waited too long to get pregnant because you were hell-bent on a fancy career and didn’t settle for that nice boy next door twenty years ago, and now look—to poverty and divorce, which in this version of life is always initiated by men. And if that line doesn’t work, there are always children, as in: feminism is all right for women, but what about the kids, foisted off on day-care centers run by child molesters and deprived of paternal authority by divorce, which in this version of life is always initiated by women.

So it’s with great pleasure and some relief that I observe that we are not gathered here tonight to debate whether feminism is actively bad or just irrelevant, but to discuss its future direction. “Feminism at the Crossroads” —that sounds dramatic, doesn’t it, full of promise, or is it threat?—of challenge at any rate, opportunities to be seized or missed, of signposts that if rightly read will send women onto the broad main highway of civic life and personal happiness but if misread or wrongly chosen will send them down some ill-lit alley, or even up the proverbial garden path. I will quarrel a bit with that metaphor later, but first I’d like to observe that a crossroads is a much more exciting place to be than a graveyard, so clearly we are making progress!

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Lima