Daughters 'threaten feminism'

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The Independent Online
THE BACKLASH against feminism comes not so much from men as from daughters rebelling against their mothers, one of the high priestesses of feminism will argue in a new book.

Erica Jong's first book for four years will cover a range of subjects including the iconisation of Diana, Princess of Wales and President Bill Clinton's problems, the castigation of working mothers and what makes the perfect man.

A polemicist, poet, novelist and essayist, Erica Jong's work has been translated into 27 languages and she has been given the United Nations Award of Excellence. Known for her commitment to women's rights, authors' rights and freedom of expression. She has a website on which she conducts a lively discussion for writers and posts creativity tips for fans.

Her best-known work is the explicit and provocative Fear Of Flying, published in 1975. It captured the spirit of the time with its fictional heroine's conflict between her desires for sexual fulfilment, career satisfaction and security. It made Jong a feminist heroine for the young, just as her mid-life memoir Fear of Fifty published in 1994, related to the concerns of women in middle-age.

The new book of essays What Do Women Want? Power, Sex, Bread and Roses will be published by Bloomsbury in January. Jong, 56, claims in her new work that Hillary Clinton has had a pivotal role in paving the way for the first female president. She adds: "Our love-hate relationship with Hillary Clinton mirrors our ambivalence about powerful women. The ambivalence has shifted in the last few decades and will shift even more as our brazen daughters take over the world."

On the subject of brazen daughters, she says that feminism has suffered a backlash because of daughters rebelling against the creed of their mothers. "How can anything espoused by their mothers be either radical or real? But note that our daughters none the less want everything that feminism stands for: equal pay, egalitarian marriages, and a place in the White House (without being smuggled in by the President for unpresidential duties).

"Feminism is the whole climate of their lives, the air they breathe. It hardly even needs a name anymore. This is good."

Looking back on the Louise Woodward case, Jong despairs that "in an age when most mothers work because they have to, it is nothing short of astounding that this case resulted in raving callers to talk shows who scream that Dr Deborah Eappen deserved to have her baby die because she left him with a 19-year-old nanny. So much for 25 years of feminism."

Jong is more ambivalent about the Princess, saying: "Why should I doubt that Diana was kind? I'm sure it never occurred to her to renounce her whole clothing allowance and donate it to land-mine victims so they could buy prostheses. I'm sure it never occurred to her that one pair of South Seas pearl-and-diamond earrings could fund a whole anti-land-mine charity for a year."

On the perfect man she concludes: "The perfect man is, after all, the one who sees the best in you ... because he loves both who you are and what you can become, his vision helps you become more truly yourself. As you grow sure of yourself in his love, you generously mirror his best self as well.

"I used to be intrigued by things that ended relationships. Now I am most fascinated by what allows them to continue."