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05. March 2009

Edit Schlaffer © L.Kropiunigg

Edit Schlaffer

New Women-Old Values?

Reflections by Edit Schlaffer

The young women of today are completely different. Interesting. But different how? The young women of today have completely different worries. Really? And the women’s movement? It comes from a different era, as toothless as the unions. It was once populated by energetic female fighters who were against sexual exploitation, who had no desire for push-up bras and high heels. That’s how for the clichés go. But: where there are inequalities, sooner or later there are also rebellions. Women were at the forefront of one of the most important 20th century social movements: equality and justice in parliament. They also approached work and bed with esprit, stamina, and often unorthodox methods. Feminists were women who unconcernedly went on their way, and who could not be stopped by any attempts at deterrence.

The tyrants were attacked: the capital that derived profits from unequal pay for equal work, and the patriarchy that used a net of privilege and discrimination to guarantee the inequality in relationships and lifestyles between men and women.
An armada of skilled craftswomen and craftsmen as well has stepped up to a total renovation of the giant construction site of gender equality.
Feminists were the watchdogs of the early seventies. But when we study the paths of young women, they have several things in common with their mother’s generation: they achieve a great deal, but their path is an obstacle course and the barriers still consist of a complex mixture of conventions, prejudices, and self-sabotage.
But the world has changed just as quickly as the self-image of women as well as the interior and exterior relationships of men and women. The superpower man has collapsed; the armada of men in pinstripes who steered the world economic ship has failed due to its own deficits—their lack of a sense of reality and feeling of balance, their personal greed and their unstoppable power trip. They have faltered due to their masculinity. Horst Kristof, a columnist with the New York Times, describes Wall Street as the ultimate male bastion. Management meetings have approximately the same composition as a urologist’s waiting room. Apart from the principle of fairness, the result was influenced by shady decisions. The Journal for Evolution and Human Behavior published a study that could prove that men who are surrounded by other men in their status group tend toward risky behaviors when making financial decisions. So what more are young, educated, and ambitious women waiting for? We live in risky times, which are too short to think about whether we feel comfortable with the label feminism or not. It is time for action and women can do it if they want to.

This commentary was published in the Austrian weekly newspaper Die Furche on February 13th 2009.


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