Again and again, my mind returns to the letters I receive from women discouraged and frustrated in their relationships with men. Recently, when I was thinking about a photo I had seen of Gloria Steinem in softly curled tresses, the letters and the photo jelled and became an insight: The chief exponent of female equality was urging her flock forward to a more fulfilling phase of its upward climb — renewed appreciation of the female qualities that many women renounced when the fervor for women's lib was at its height. Our instinctive knack for compromise and cooperation — the diplomacy and tact we had transformed into art — was tossed aside with disdain, suddenly seen as a relic from a different time, a sign of our weakness.
Well, it's time to reclaim that "soft" touch as progression toward a more complete expression of womanhood. We're second-generation feminists now; we don't have to spout our message at the drop of a hat. Seems to this seasoned woman that we've behaved like nouveau riches with our new wealth of power, squandering our energies. Our wasteful expenditure of anger has alienated potential friends in the male camp and made it nearly impossible to make new ones. Is this why we've come so far, to escalate hostilities between the sexes? I think not. I see this as the perfect time to be creative when we assert ourselves and discriminating about when we do so.
The "fusion feminist," the new breed of feminist I'm herewith proposing, moves forward with her new selfhood well-defined and her womanliness undiminished (even, perhaps, with a dollop of irreverence added to the mix). This new breed of woman can practically assume a man will understand her right to partnership. She is a primary person, defined by her own achievements and no longer dependent on a husband for status. But she doesn't feel pressured to deliver a strong message of undependence verbally, because a strong sense of self and quiet confidence make her the message. A strong presence speaks louder than words.
The fusion feminist hasn't forgotten past oppression, but she is too much of a humanist to condemn according to gender and too aware that oppressors — those who would return women to second-class status — exist in both camps. When this expanded woman enters a coupled phase, she keeps her individuality but will mold that undependence to suit both individuals, in the spirit of fellowship. She is able to suspend the sovereignty she has earned, knowing she is not surrendering one iota of her identity in the process. Willing and able to lead, she can also assume the role of co-pilot when the situation calls for it.
She can disagree without being disagreeable because she voices her needs in a relationship. And even when directly contradicting, her manner is less confrontational because she is sure of her ground. She is eloquent in her own defense.
DEAR READERS: We've uncovered a treasure-trove of "Single File" paperbacks — in perfect condition, ready to read. Send $15 and your address to: Susan Deitz, C/O Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. I'll send you a signed copy.
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