Beyond Feminism

Article excerpt

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Two students from the Rutgers University Republican Club greeted me at Newark Airport. They were animated and said they expected a good crowd for the speech they had invited me to give. They knew the crowd would be a good one because protesters had been tearing down the flyers they had put up all over campus.

Controversy sells, particularly on a campus.

The title of my speech guaranteed a little controversy: "Dilemmas and Conflicts in Feminism and Family - Beyond Ideology." The hot buttons - feminism, conflict, family - were all there.

Uh, said one of the young women, that wasn't the exact topic header they had used on the flyers.

Oh?" I asked. "What did you say I would talk about?"

One of them handed me a bright pink flyer, with bold black print announcing that the topic was "the evils of feminism." But that wasn't all. The smaller print picked up Rush Limbaugh's description of feminists as "Feminazis" (a word I've never used), and I was described as the enemy of feminists, coming to Rutgers "to knock some sense into your brainwashed, liberal followers."

Gee, kids, thanks a lot. When we arrived at the lecture room, a crowd was gathering, and most of the early-arriving students credited the flyers for bringing them out.

I welcomed everyone - a range of conservatives, liberals and radicals. There were as many men as women. I tried to identify political attitudes by hairstyle and dress, but that wasn't possible since college students today nearly all dress alike - casual. Despite the uniform dress, nearly everybody seemed itching for a fight.

But it didn't happen that way. I surprised everyone by conceding that the second half of the 20th century had been rocked with sweeping change, much of it good for young women and thus for young men. But in expanding choices, there is also a narrowing of possibilities as cultural roles frequently compete with their inner desires to forge identities.

They must experience the conflicting push and pull at both male and female lives in relation to feminism and family. There's no unifying or single cultural ethos to guide them to personal authenticity. …