In an epilogue to “The Feminine Mystique” written a decade after the book was published, Betty Friedan wrote, “It isn’t really possible to make a new pattern of life all by yourself.”
As much as has changed since “The Feminine Mystique” was published, we still don’t get to check off anything on that long, long list of “restructuring.” We have put the basics in place for our generation; now, we’re working to fulfill their promise for our children. During the Room for Debate discussion, Shelby Knox, a young activist, said, “the biggest challenge to my generation of women is this idea that we are equal. That everything has been won. We think that every time we meet a barrier, it’s our fault. It must be something we’ve done because the promise is there.”
Gail Collins asked, what still enrages you as a woman now? I’m asking, what enrages you as a parent?
I’m enraged every time a parent, man or woman, pretends that he or she doesn’t have a nanny, or a babysitter, or a grandparent, or spouse, helping to prevent the needs of a family from becoming a barrier to work or career. I’m enraged every time we talk about “women who choose to work outside the home” as though every woman had a “choice,” and no man ever wanted to “choose.” I’m furious every time someone calls those things “women’s issues” when what they are are family issues — and family issues affect everyone.
What’s your cry of rage?