Women's Liberation Part 6
Just as their predecessors, the suffragettes, secured the right to vote for women within a short period (a right they left unused by not electing women to political power and by not stopping war), Women’s Liberation saw most of their demands fulfilled immediately. The outrageous inequities in the law had, after all, been established by men for women’s protection. But the ladies themselves did not see it that way and, when they insisted on change, within months they succeeded. The right of a waitress to work night shifts, the right of a woman mechanic to carry heavy duty equipment, the right to mount telephone poles, the right to pay alimony to men, the right to use her own surname and with that the right for a wife to act as a solely responsible legal person, the right to military service, the right to fight in war, etc- they have them all. Infected by this wave of general generosity, even the government did not want to be left behind: In the future, it proclaimed, government contracts will be given out to only those companies who do not discriminate against women willing to work.
But the army of suppressed women eagerly awaiting that moment of liberation simply never materialized. As soon as the first American woman climbed a telephone pole; the first female plumber, construction worker and furniture mover had been photographed and the photos printed in newspapers all over the world; the uproar died down. Why should it have gone any further? After all, it is not much fun to repair water pipes, lay bricks or to lug furniture. Unlike men, women can choose whether they want to do drudgery or not. It is logical that most of them decide against it. And given the choice, they will also avoid military service and going to war. Women think of themselves as pacifists: wars are started by men, despite women’s right to vote.
Left in the lurch by their own sex, the theorists among Women’s Liberationists further entangled themselves in details: can every sexual intercourse with a man be considered an assault? Should a vaginal orgasm be accepted at all? Is the lesbian the only truly emancipated woman? Is the woman question more urgent than the racial question? And so on. Enticed by the extensive publicity awaiting them, a number of attractive “emancipated” women joined the movement. (Where else does a pretty woman attract more attention than among ugly ones?) And women could not possibly imagine themselves having the problems they were discussing (discrimination against an attractive woman does not exist, either in her professional life or in her private life), they soon took on leading roles within the movement and turned it more and more into a branch of American show business and – as defined in the previous chapter – into a “genuine” movement for emancipation.
Meanwhile, the exploiters living in the suburbs started to organize. The Liberationists’ loud demands for work, and the men who were willing to gratify these demands, unintentionally put the suburban ladies into a most embarrassing situation. In organizations such as Man Our Masters and Pussycat League, they assured the world how wrong the aims of Women’s Liberation really are and how much happiness a woman can find in the service of her husband and children.