Well, almost everything. There's actually another difficulty with starting a new women's movement: The Great Cause it would be fighting for isn't immediately obvious. Sure, there are plenty of big problems out there: Too much pressure on working mothers. Not enough job flexibility. And women aren't making enough of the decisions in our political system. (We need a House and Senate where women have a critical mass. Not because it looks more seemly but because virtually everything works better when both sexes work on it together.) Yet as far as inspiring a national movement goes, these wrongs aren't as blatant—or as compelling—as the one faced by women at Newsweek back when the magazine decreed that the men did all the writing while the women did all the research.
But if it's blatant we need, the world is happy to oblige. Our Great Cause could be absolute zero tolerance for violence against women (refusing a marriage proposal shouldn't be grounds for having acid thrown in your face, and, honestly, what part of "restraining order" do people not get?). Or an end to international slave trafficking for the sex trade. Or equal rights to an education for girls in every country around the globe. Not to mention solutions to the nuclear arms race, global warming, genocide, and all the other challenges that are ours because they're everybody's.
Women of my generation often say they wish younger women knew what we went through back in the day, when we were fighting so hard for our rights. But if you ask me, we had a great time. There's nothing more wonderful than being out with your comrades, protesting something that is clearly, patently, obviously wrong, or agitating for something that is clearly, patently, obviously right. You have solidarity and self-satisfaction and the knowledge that history is on your side, all wrapped up in one package. And the people who are out there with you will probably be your friends for life—no matter how streaky your non-self-cleaning windows may get.
Gail Collins is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. Her latest book, When Everything Changed (Little, Brown), charts the history of American women over the past 50 years.
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