'Feminine Mystique': 50 Years Later, Dated But Not Irrelevant


Modern Woman Is Too 'Fiercely Independent'

But others like Rachel Dallman, a 24-year-old ski instructor from Stowe, Vt., reject Friedan's strident brand of feminism -- "the political is personal" -- an attitude that she says hurts both women and men.

"Today's modern standard of a strong, feminist woman is one who is fiercely independent, unwilling to admit any need for love or tender affection, and makes a point of pushing away the advances of anyone, man or woman, who would want to help support her in any way, all in an effort to appear in control," said Dallman, who dropped a minor in women's studies because of the "aggression and assumptions" she saw in classroom discussions.

"Take Marnie's relationship with her long time boyfriend," she said of a character on "Girls." "She disregards him, treats him as an inferior, attempts to be a strong, feminist minded woman, and when the relationship ends, she is both confused as to how he could ever leave her, and emotionally distraught.

"And if the situation happens to be between a man and a woman, it is all too easy to place blame on the men these days," said Dallman, who is in a "healthy, very happy relationship" with a man she considers her equal.

"They have become in popular culture the image of the bumbling fool, the husband who can't fix the sink properly, the boyfriend who you couldn't possibly have as stimulating a conversation with as you could your girlfriends," she said.

Her friend Julia Levine, 28 and a program coordinator for a literacy program in Stowe, calls the angry feminism of Friedan's day "unappealing and unproductive."

"At this point, it seems like a caricature," she said. "I appreciate what the women's movement of the latter half of the 20th century did for my generation, but I just don't feel indignant rage about my gender's position in our society."

Levine, who is married, said she is ambitious and that she will always have a career, but realizes she will be the "primary nurturer," when she and her husband have children.

"I'm OK with that," she said. The couples shares household chores -- he does the laundry and she vacuums, pays the bills and organizes meals.

"I think of us as true partners, equal in the amount of work we put into our home life, but the delegation depends on our interests, skill set and ability," she said. "There is an enormous amount of communication and mutual decision making in our relationship. He has an opinion on the curtains and I have an opinion on car maintenance. It's a very modern arrangement."

Levine, who worked as a healthcare volunteer in Africa after college, is more concerned about women's rights on a global scale.

"Who am I to whine about being a woman in America when some women in Nepal are still forced to give birth alone in barns?" she said. "I worked with students in a small village in Tanzania who sold their bodies to pay for their school fees. I just don't feel subjugated in my society, especially in comparison to what I've seen on my travels.

"Women before us have given us the power to continue to move forward, but I think we are doing so with a quiet confidence rather than anger," she said. "To honest, I feel bad for men. Their reign is coming to an end."

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