IS FEMINISM DEAD; That's the Question Being Asked by More and More Modern Women Whose Own Mothers Went to War against Men. So Which of the Two Generations Is Right?
BRITISH women today are said to enjoy freedoms undreamed of a century ago: the right to vote, equal pay, even the right to have your own mortgage. So if all the big battles have been won, is there still a place for feminism? Or is the movement that fired a generation of women in the Seventies dead?
Femail asked a panel of leading female commentators: does feminism have any relevance to the women of today?
VIRGINIA IRONSIDE, 57, an agony aunt, is divorced and lives in West London.
IF I'M totally honest, I never quite understood what feminism's 'way' was in the first place. Equal rights, yes, yes, yes. But feminism? What was it exactly?
So, like thousands of women, I viewed it with caution and, indeed, some fear, partly because the cause, whatever it was, wasn't helped by angry, ugly, unhappy and raging women who seemed to want to blame their lack of prospects and sense of fulfilment on anyone but themselves.
Not only that, but feminism came from the States, and its strident and often bitter attitudes never quite clicked over here. English women want to wear bras to be comfortable and don't relish throwing them on the bonfire.
They also, on the whole, quite like men and find it hard to hate everything in trousers. I often felt like saying to the feminist action fighters: 'Oh, just shut up and get on with it!' Feminism seems to have led women down a blind alley. It's got them - well, some of them - to the very top of City careers; it's got the 'ess' removed from their job descriptions (as in 'authoress' or 'actress'); it's got them boozing with the blokes; it's got them childcare so that they can go on slaving their guts out all through the night if they want.
But has it made anyone happy?
Men are thoroughly rattled by it all - the young male suicide rate is soaring; thousands of children feel abandoned by mothers who care more about their office than their offspring, and most young women I know feel completely bamboozled by the amount of choice on offer.
Only last month, a survey showed that the majority of women are completely fed up with 'having it all'. Should they be breaking glass ceilings or looking after the kids? Or both? Should they go on the pull and have as many men as possible or have nothing to do with the opposite sex?
Suffragettes - now you're talking. I would have gone to the barricades with them and there's no question that without them, we women would be up a gum tree.
But feminism? Does anyone now know what exactly it is any more?
In retrospect, it looks as if Betty Friedan [the American feminist author] and co. may have been no more than pied pipers, who, with views that were never completely coherent in the first place, led us over a cliff - and it's only now we're starting to hear the screams.
AUTHOR Fay Weldon, 70, lives with husband Ron Fox and has four grownup sons.
TODAY, women control their own fertility. They can earn enough to support themselves and their family. If they can't, the state looks after them.
They are sexually free. They can take out mortgages. The courts are on their side in a divorce. Women with children normally keep the house and have custody of their children.
In all areas of their lives, they can claim equal rights with men. None of this was true for their grandmothers.
If a woman doesn't get equal pay and opportunities, she can sue. (Here and there, true, the old ways still linger.) Women can, in payment for past wrongs, call men all the names under the sun.
Any woman is free to say, disparagingly: 'Oh, men! Crude, coarse, insensitive bastards!' No man is free to say: 'Oh, women!
Irrational, moody, irresponsible bitches!' without uproar.
Today's young woman forgets that sexism is a twoway street. …