Norman Podhoretz {"The Disaster of Women's Lib," op-ed, Aug. 21} refers to the "role reversal between the sexes," which he assumes women want.

Let's look at a few examples. Women are fighting in their "Take Back the Night" movement for the privilege of walking the streets safely at night, of walking safely under a beautiful starry sky, even of walking unconcerned from a late night meeting to a parking lot. Are we asking for the privilege of molesting and raping men in dark corners? Hardly. This is not role reversal; this is working for the same privileges men have.

Women are fighting for the right to choose a career based on their own interests, talents and education, whether as engineer, full-time homemaker or senator, and not to have to end up willy-nilly as a secretary, teacher, nurse or waitress -- worthy professions all, but a pitifully limited selection when we are considering millions of women. Are we asking for the privilege of cracking a management whip over subservient men in the work place? Hardly. We are not expecting a role reversal; we are asking for the same career choices that men have always assumed as their right.

Women are fighting for economic security and equal wages, fighting against the "feminization of poverty," which is an increasing problem. Are we asking for control of most of the wealth and for men to give up their bank accounts and pensions? Hardly. We are not expecting a role reversal; we are working for equal financial opportunities and security.

I am in my 60th year. After 25 years of the women's movement, I have more respect for myself as a worthy person; feel more comfortable about my body, my age and my many roles; have a freer, stronger relationship with my husband; have abandoned silly feelings of competition with other women; and joyfully accept the kinship I have with all women in their "infinite variety." Sometimes I even manage to keep a sense of humor about bigots. "Quite an impressive record to have compiled in a mere 25 years." -- Mary Lyons

Surely Norman Podhoretz realizes that centuries of wife beating, marital infidelity, child abuse and rape were not caused by women's liberation. The modern phenomenon of high rates of divorce may be partly due to women's decreased tolerance for less dramatic domestic abuses of power, but even Podhoretz must agree that acceptance of degrading but commonplace situations of verbal abuse and alcohol/drug abuse is not preferable to divorce.

It can be said that women's liberation had unfortunate side effects (such as the contribution to the "sexual revolution" and the discouragement of femininity) and has not ultimately freed women from age-old problems. But it is irrational, silly and irresponsible to blame women's current sad condition on the movement designed to improve it. Perhaps the solution has failed, but it certainly did not cause the problems. -- Vivian F. Cooper-Capps

I am a 65-year-old lady, and I have the following comment on Norman Podhoretz's article:

He should be on his knees thanking Mother Nature for not burdening him with the pains of childbirth or those of menstrual periods. But I guess nature knew better than to place those tasks and impositions on someone who couldn't have the strength to endure them!

Instead, Podhoretz blasts at women -- the species that alternates as sex-driven maniacs and child-bearing machines -- for daring to ask that their capabilities, their productivity, their intelligence (attributes that, I am sure, Podhoretz believes are God-given rights of men) be extended the same consideration as men's.

Podhoretz's extremism reflects his narrow perception of a woman's place in life. I do not have contempt for Podhoretz; I only have compassion. -- Gabriella Cahill

I wonder if Norman Podhoretz would have labeled the freeing of slaves as "Slave Lib," declared it a "disaster" and asked ponderously if slaves "were better off now than they were before" simply because society's relinquishing control over the potential of this large segment of the population also led to a major change in the structure of society.

Yup, there's no doubt about it. Sudden insight into the absurdity of previously imposed limits upsets a few schedules, removes a few home-cooked dinners and angers the previous keepers of the key. The perception of it all as "disaster" labels the one perceiving as the angry, inconvenienced one, rather than as an astute social commentator.

-- Nancy A. Sias

By using two works of fiction that detail failed relationships Norman Podhoretz attempts to support a case for reviving the good old prefeminist days when men were men and women were women. He concludes that "what these two tales tell us is that women's lib has been a disaster." What Podhoretz fails to recognize, however, is that from time immemorial novelists have been writing of "broken marriages" and "desperate little affairs." Are the relationships in, say, "Anna Karenina" or "Lady Chatterley's Lover" of the type that Podhoretz views as ideal? Or is he, in reality, advocating a return to the really good old days epitomized by the marriage of June and Ward Cleaver?

Social, political and economic changes have always caused an upheaval in personal lives, but that does not mean that the change is undesirable. Perhaps the relationships that cannot adapt to the new way of life are, in truth, doomed to begin with.

-- Sara Leibman

Norman Podhoretz has shown social scientists how they can greatly simplify their research techniques. Instead of collecting data on a subject and analyzing them, just read a couple of novels dealing with the subject, and there the answer will be.

-- Jo-Ann Butters Segall

As Norman Podhoretz himself admits, 25 years is not a very long time. I have little argument with his description of the disruptions and heretofore ill effects of women's lib. However, the hope remains that both men and women will ultimately be better off -- perhaps, if we are lucky, in only another mere 25 years.

-- Margery O'C. Kemper