Is feminism dead?
Well, Time magazine seems to think so.
And, much like the Harvard Business Review's "Mommy Track" article earlier this year and Newsweek's 1986 cover story, which professed that single women over 40 had a better chance of getting killed by a terrorist than getting married, the Time cover story has generated much discussion among women.
"This is the kind of story that will produce a lot of mail," acknowledged Time spokesman Brian Brown.
Bannered "Women Face the '90s," the Time cover features a woman with a briefcase in one hand and a baby in the other. She is supposed to symbolize women who feel betrayed by feminism because, as the magazine asserts, "they tried to have it all and now they've just plain had it."
Time doesn't define what \o7 feminism \f7 is supposed to be; yet the article claims to find a schism between the older generations of women who started the fight for economic, political and social rights equal to men and today's younger generations of women who seem to be complacent or even angry about what women's liberation has achieved.
The reason, Time explained, is that women under the age of 30 picture a feminist, to quote one college senior, "as someone who is masculine and who doesn't shave her legs and is doing everything she can to deny that she is feminine." Because of this, the magazine said, these women dismiss leaders like Gloria Steinem and Molly Yard as "hopelessly outdated."
As for women in their 30s and 40s, the magazine claims that working mothers and single career women, as well as nonprofessional women, poor women and minority women, feel betrayed by the feminist movement not only for failing to warn them about the sacrifices that women had to make in exchange for equality but also for pursuing the wrong goals when its leaders pushed more strongly for the equal rights amendment than for child care or flexible working hours.
Even more provocative is a poll that found that the vast majority of American women today don't even identify themselves as feminists.
To those that do, them's fightin' words.
"I was really mad when I saw the cover," exclaimed Leslie Wolfe, the executive director of the Center for Women Policy Studies in Washington and a woman who proudly calls herself a feminist. "I've never been called a dinosaur before. I don't \o7 feel\f7 like a dinosaur."
"The article really upsets me because I think it's inaccurate and very destructive. I'm ready to write them a letter," declared Judy Auerbach, director of USC's Institute for the Study of Women and Men. "Feminism was the most significant social movement to have occurred in centuries. And what really makes me mad is this flippant desire to dismiss it as dead."
In fact, Time magazine almost went with a cover line, "Is Feminism Dead?," according to the author of the article, senior editor Claudia Wallis. "The only reason we didn't was a very pragmatic, stupid reason," she admitted. "We had just used the line, 'Is Government Dead?' And we couldn't use it again."
Still, some feminists believe that the article, just by raising the question, could be just as devastating to feminists as Time's infamous 1969 "Is God Dead?" cover story was to the clergy. Carole Hemingway, the KGIL radio talk show host who describes herself as an ardent feminist, is hoping for a backlash. "Look what happened to God after that Time magazine cover. God just came out and said, 'I'll show you,' and then fundamentalism began sweeping the world. Now Time is asking is feminism dead, and I say, 'Watch out!' "
Actually, the article seems to draw the conclusion that the women's movement is alive and well: it's just the concept of feminism that's expired.
Specifically, a Time/CNN survey conducted by Yankelovich Clancy Shulman of 1,000 women across the country found that the vast majority think the women's movement has made life better, helped women become more independent and is still improving the lives of women.
But when it came to identifying themselves as feminists, only 33% would do so. And 76% of those polled said they pay "not very much" or "no" attention to the women's movement.
"Boy, this is really out of touch with the women's movement today and even with their own poll results," said Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, who has spent her career championing women's causes. "My feeling is that there is an enormous interest in the women's movement, in Los Angeles and nationwide, and I base that on my personal experience. I am inundated with requests for speaking engagements and interviews about the women's movement."
If Time is correct that feminists missed the boat on some issues, that may not necessarily be their fault, argues Marge Tabankin, director of the Hollywood Women's Political Committee. "Maybe the women's movement didn't move fast enough in understanding some needs, but that's how change takes place. The article really didn't do justice to explaining the process of a revolution in the making."