Today, Rich’s reflections on maternal ambivalence and the struggle to lay claim to one’s own experience are familiar. The women’s health movement did much to rectify the medical field’s paternalism toward women, though anti-choice politics have threatened this progress. But as the backlash against feminism took hold in the 1980s, discussions of private and public became distorted. The notion that the two spheres might be reorganized has disappeared from public consciousness, and the question has become whether women can “have it all,” or whether those spheres can be “balanced.” There is now more possibility for humane relationships between the sexes, but little economic and political support for alternative family or communal structures. Discussions of the social dimensions of relationships run constantly up against the idea of “choice.” Feminists concerned with economic and racial injustice recognize these injustices as the limits of choice. Yet even these discussions are often more focused on recognizing those limits than thinking about how a different social context might change things.
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