The so-called battle of the sexes is killing us. It's not win or lose — we're all losing.
MORE AND MORE of today's women feel that life — real life — is passing them by. Single working women now want marriage and children. Married working women are beginning to realize it's now or never as far as their childbearing capabilities. Having children is more important to them than they thought. The trend since the mid to late '70s is toward more children, families again. In America, for example, the U.S. Census Bureau expects that by the mid '80s births will again surpass the four-million-a-year mark. Of course, these figures reflect that more women in the United States are reaching childbearing age. But these statistics also include those women in their 30s who have postponed having children. Does this mean the traditional family with father as provider and mother as homemaker is making a sudden comeback? Hardly, but the inevitable backlash against feminist oratory opposing the values of family and home has now grown into recognizable proportions.
Change in Directions
Leaders of the feminist movement once sent eager disciples toward the magical goal of "fulfillment." Now, almost two decades later, women find they are no closer to true, satisfying fulfillment than before. Of course, many women, and more men, were immediately repelled by the extreme rhetoric of the more radical feminists, who pitted the values of family life and motherhood against female careers. Few in the Western world, however, have escaped the influence of the upsurge of female feminist demands. Now, Betty Friedan, the American author in 1963 of The Feminine Mystique — the book that is said to have inspired the women's liberation movement — is admitting she was wrong to create the impression that career superseded family life and motherhood. She's calling for new directions, or, as per the title of her latest book, The Second Stage. She claims the first stage of the women's movement is over and admits, "But I hear now what I would not let myself hear before — the fears and feelings of some who have fought our movement." Mrs. Friedan, the mother of three, is being criticized by other feminists for her turnabout, but insists: "The so-called radical feminists developed a lot of rhetoric against the family and against the role of woman as defined in the family... but a lot of it was twisted somehow and began to be repudiation [of the family], throwing the baby out with the bath water. They seemed to create the impression that the all-important thing was career and profession, and... downplayed the part of woman that is defined in terms of love and nurturing" (The Christian Science Monitor, December 10, 1981). Some new women's groups say they have gone beyond the second stage to stage three. Babette Francis, founder of an Australian group called "Women Who Want to Be Women," was quoted in England's Daily Telegraph: "Women will not truly be free until motherhood is given the status of a viable career in its own right — with all the feelings of self-worth and independence that such status implies" (The Daily Telegraph, December 11, 1981). Also from The Daily Telegraph: "In Canada, Mrs. Catherine Bolger has launched a similar crusade with the publication of a series of newspaper criticisms of the 'Genderless Society,' calling for a renewed appreciation of the value of the differences between the sexes." But even though Mrs. Friedan and other women's groups are saying they never meant for the feminist movement to deny family or to label men "the enemy," it happened nevertheless. Alienation between the sexes, varying from the strident to the unspoken and spoken suspicions, has been only one of many unwelcomed fruits of the so-called liberation movement. Men and women have gone through such a tumultuous alteration of traditional thinking and values that both sexes appear confused.
How Do You Treat a Woman?
Men in today's world are often perplexed. How do you treat these "new" women? Some women are offended at chivalrous conduct while others bemoan the demise of chivalry. Is it Miss, Ms. or Mrs.? Career or family or both? What do women really want? Women aren't sure anymore. They too are often confused. Especially those who embraced the more radical elements of the women's liberation movement. Also entering the picture is human nature. Women who once felt sorry for those women of past generations who were "trapped at home" now find themselves also without a choice — forced out of the home by social and economic pressures inexperienced by the majority of their mothers and grandmothers. These new women find they are expected to have a career outside the home, not only by their friends and neighbors, but in many instances by their husbands. In such circumstances, home and hearth can look a lot more appealing. Having time to enjoy their children and to get involved in their interests, time to spend with husbands, time to exercise, time to develop an interesting hobby — these are, tragically, luxury items for most working women. Women are complaining they don't have enough time to themselves — and they don't. Women are trapped, really trapped this time, locked into a demanding, stress-filled life-style by economic pressures, many times beyond their control. Even middle-income families who look to the traditional rule of thumb — that no more than 25 percent of monthly income be allotted to pay for rent or for mortgage principal, interest and taxes — are virtually cut off from any hope of home ownership. Seventy-five percent of American families don't make that much money. Women are feeling the pressure to stay in the job market. Most couples go into marriage today assuming both members will work, even after children come along. Their bright dreams for the future are predicated on it. And, of course, some couples' dreams are brighter than others. They want success and all the material trappings that go along with it. And they don't want to wait around forever to have and enjoy those things. Attaining the heights defined in this world as success exacts a high cost, and too often too much compromise of principles. There's something wrong with a system that pressures men, and women, to become workaholics, climbing over their co-workers to succeed, leaving broken families in their wake. No one, man or woman, should bow to the forces of greed in this competitive, materialistic world we live in.
Needing One Another
The incredibly sad part of this whole issue is that men and women need each other so badly. No one should have to face today's fast-paced, nerve-jangling world all alone. Most everyone needs a close intimate someone, who can be depended upon to provoke one to push a little harder when discouraged, to comfort when down, to be honest about a fault. Someone to share life's joys and trials and who will be around to reminisce about them afterward. Men need women and women need men. And both need to know they're needed. The recognition of that mutual need should be constantly reinforced. One of the major divisive points of the so-called liberation movement has been the disregard for those very human needs between men and women. Human beings need to be loved, comforted, and appreciated. Most of the misunderstandings between the sexes could be avoided and eliminated by admitting and expressing those needs. Such admissions and expressions would lead to mutual appreciation and respect, and go a long way toward healing past wounds. It's time to call a truce in this foolish no-win war. Time to regroup and reevaluate, time for peaceful negotiations, time to go forward toward reconstruction and building for the future. None of which will be possible without giving up the selfish way of get and cultivating the way of give — of love and outgoing concern for another. It won't be easy. For some it's going to take bold decisions, for others unheard-of changes in lifestyles, a lot of deep discussion between husbands and wives, which will include some long-range planning and in-depth introspection and understanding. What does each really want out of life, and what do both want to achieve together as a family unit. Instead of flying off in separate directions, pulling families apart, two working together, giving each of their individual strengths and talents to gain a common purpose, would be almost certain of attaining the right goals.
The Delusion of Self-fulfillment
As for self-fulfillment, forget self-fulfillment. Self-fulfillment has become an obsession in this age. Chasing after that elusive goal is the key to the problem. How frustrating to ask — morning, noon and night: Am I happy? Am I fulfilled? Male or female, single or married, if you have no more purpose to your life than self-satisfaction, you will be the most miserable of human beings. Why are you here? What is the purpose of your existence? Is it only to become married and have children? Is it to become professionally trained through years of education and experience just to sacrifice health and principles to reach the top in some profession? If you're looking to these temporary goals to make your life worth living, to make you happy, you are ensnared in the same trap most in our society have fallen prey to. Women, the answer is not battling men. We're all in this together, male and female. We need each other to make it. Find out your purpose for being. Read Herbert W. Armstrong's free booklet Why Were You Born? It will open your mind to an understanding of your reason for being that you have not had before, an understanding that comes to you free, but that is priceless.