The Battle of the Sexes -- Despite last month's defeat of the ERA--goes on. Whatever a man's or woman's stance on equal rights under the law, most would agree that there's no turning back now . . . only the debate will be, not in state legislatures for a while, but in the living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and boardrooms of America. Here are some voices in that ongoing discussion of the changing roles of women--and men.
"The human race is much better at fighting," says men's movement leader Dan Logan, "than at making up."
But when it comes to the battle of the sexes, "I'm optimistic," he says. "Fortunately, we have at least one very powerful incentive to try and make peace."
Logan was one of about 40 men and women who gathered on a recent weekend to discuss "The Masculine and Feminine: Seeking a Balance in Self and Society." Sparked by what one man called "the post-ERA atmosphere of a tense and widening gender gap," the conference was at the Sevenoaks retreat center near Charlottesville, Va. Sponsors were the Free Men, a men's consciousness-raising and lobbying group; the New World Alliance, a network of people involved in "personal and political transformation" and the Washington Pathwork, a group devoted to the study of "human nature and spiritual law."
Here are excerpts from the talks of four panelists who examined current perceptions of sex roles and explored ways of mending the rift:
Dan Logan, 35, executive director of Free Men and co-founder of the National Congress for Men:
"Polarization between men and women has been there for centuries. We are brought up to distrust each other. Boys are snakes and snails and puppy dogs' tails, and girls are sugar and spice and everything nice. The woman is told men are only out to get sex; the man learns he's supposed to be everything the woman isn't. It's very destructive.
"Not to mention the fact that we are different. All in all it's really difficult to understand ourselves as men and as women aside from trying to understand the opposite sex.
"Twenty years ago the women's movement brought momentous change to the relationships between men and women. Most of it was positive . . . but the women's movement certainly exacerbated the tension between the sexes. A lot of this was due to the feminists' basic assumption that men oppress women. Without dealing with the merits of this . . . it's polarizing talk and it alienates sympathetic and liberated men.
"In prying loose women from the stereotype of homemaker, the women's movement set up its own stereotype of woman . . . the new woman, who was anything but a homemaker . . . which created more polarization.
"So how do we transcend this polarization between men and women?
"One, I think we can recognize that we are interdependent. Because we tend to pair up as men and women our roles are symbiotic . . . when there's movement in one, there's movement in the other. For every women's issue there is a companion men's issue. Women have difficulty getting equal opportunity in the workplace, men have difficulty getting equal opportunity in the home as parents. Until women are free, men won't be free. And the reverse is just as true.
"Two, we can recognize that we have a natural tendency to polarize. If we think that the quest for freedom from gender-role constraints is a battle of the sexes, it's going to be a battle of the sexes. I suggest that, instead of fighting each other, it just makes more sense to band together to eradicate stereotypes that limit us.
"Three, I think we need to see liberation as a process, not as a specific result. It's a process of seeing who we are as men and women. Not necessarily of defining new roles . . . but primarily of freeing ourselves from being tied to roles.
"Finally, I'd like to see an end to the blaming from women and from men. The only way we're going to end the cycle of bitterness is to try to talk to each other. I advocate no-fault liberation."
Diane Dodson, 35, attorney specializing in family law:
"A great many legal changes have occurred in the last 20 years, but we're in a difficult period right now. It's something of a hiatus between one line of change on a legal, political and social level and another set of changes that needs to happen.
"We have spent much of the last 10, 15 years dismantling overtly discriminatory policies in our social institutions . . . Despite the non-passage of the ERA, there have been huge changes in constitutional law that have by and large eliminated overt sex discrimination in the law, although some important areas remain. I think the ERA is extremely important for symbolic value and for solidifying protection.
"There've been a lot of changes in the structure of the family, and the legal structure needs to catch up. But a good bit has happened here as well. There has been increasing attention to the rights of children, and to recognition of the existence of 'unmarried families' . . . concerning the rights of unmarried fathers and the need to deal with property division among unmarried people.
"There's been an end to the idea that women would never have to pay alimony to men and that mothers always got custody of children. There's been good movement in the direction of joint custody and mediation as an approach to the ending of a marriage.
"But there are still some fundamental questions that stand in the way of realistically restructuring the roles of men and women. One is their different economic realities. Women still earn 59 cents to every dollar men earn.
"There are whole series of questions about restructuring work situations to let two people be parents and work at the same time . . . And there are still complicated questions in family area, particularly following divorce. It is still an economic reality that children who are in their mother's custody are living at a far lower standard of living on the whole than the father's new family is."
George Woolley, 41, psychotherapist:
"Over the last five years I've done a series of weekend workshops for men on the theme of 'Reclaiming or Finding Your Masculinity.' Consistent issues have come up, centering on competition, sexuality and fathers.
"The guys who have the most difficulty with competition have the persona of being 'good little boys.' Frequently they're also the jocks. The reason behind it, almost invariably, turns out to be rage towards their fathers.
"Sexuality is the area where most men focus all of their feelings of inadequacy. And it is never discussed. When I have brought up the subject in workshops, it's invariably the first time these men have ever talked about sex with other men, other than the cliche'd locker room, adolescent-level discussion. It's the first time they've discussed performance anxiety, what they like, what they don't like.
"Often, the primary focus of these workshops is the fathers. For men who are fathers, it's even a more sensitive subject than sex. Their entire identity is wrapped up in the role of fathering . . . and their functioning as a father is almost identical to how their father functioned with them.
"Men often go through resentment, anger and disappointment by the fact their fathers didn't show them how to be a man. They also get in touch with their need, longing and love for their fathers . . . and almost invariably a desire for more physical contact when they were kids.
"A major problem most men have is that they didn't get a sense of what masculinity is from their fathers. So as adults they've got two choices: to find their identity as a man from making contact with other men, or to get it from a woman.
"That's a major problem in relationships, that most of us try to get our identity as a man from our woman: Do we perform well sexually? Do we earn enough money? It's an issue that often isn't recognized until a relationship is in crisis.
"Men need to learn how to make contact with other men, and achieve closeness and emotional intimacy with them, so our identity as a man comes from other men. Grounded in that sense of who I am as a man, I can approach a woman from another whole place."
Anne Anderson, 39, psychotherapist:
"I don't think we're ever going to get rid of roles, they're a necessary part of how we make contact with each other. "But I think now we're stuck again . . . we're polarized into new roles.
"As things go faster and faster today, it is no longer possible to exist in any one role. Where we need to go next is to learn how to change from one role to the next.
"I think it's helpful to see a role as the way of accomplishing the task at hand, whether it's making love or doing dishes."