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What's Happened to Feminism?

Written by Jane Brooks

Columnist Jane Brooks wonders if the feminist movement speaks to today's young women.
Exactly how far have we come, baby?

This is the question I asked myself while standing in line with other baby boomerettes and young coeds hoping to nab the remaining seats to hear feminist political activist and writer Gloria Steinem speak at a local college.

In front of me a lovely young woman with coiled braids and an ankle-length flowered dress wanted to hear what Steinem had to say about being married. Her friend, a tall Lisa Loeb look-alike, hadn't even planned on going until she realized she'd already seen that evening's episode of The Simpsons.

Steinem's message hasn't changed much. She discussed politics, both in the home and out, and the need for women to take an active stand in deciding which politician has their best interests at heart.

She reminded us that the most dangerous place for a woman is the home, where she is most likely to become the victim of violence, death or (worse?) replacement by a "younger worker," a euphemistic jab at the trophy wife.

Could these bright, accomplished young students relate to these issues?

Not entirely, according to student Liz Bonovitz: "I've never felt that boys were more favored in school or that my jobs didn't pay as much as boys would've made." Bonovitz believed that in some ways, her gender has worked to her advantage. "I started baby-sitting at 12. Nobody would have hired me at that age if I were a boy."

She's got a point. Perhaps this is the new feminism, an awareness of the perks of being a woman instead of focusing on the disadvantages. Bonovitz concedes that inequality issues might hit home once she gets into the work world, but she's confident of her abilities and the opportunities to succeed.

Steinem spoke of the need to create democratic families before we can have a democratic state. Listening to the students, I felt encouraged that someday women may no longer need a feminist movement and that maybe, just maybe, my sons and their friends will be among the empathetic, fair-minded men who help to close the gender gap and create a true democracy.

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