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Posted May 13, 2003
A fascinating collection of facts (not there really is such a thing as a fact, if we take this book seriously...but I'm being curmudgeonly) that gets Rosen et al's agenda into the open. If it's true that western culture is a superstructure of male dominion, then all we have to do is rid ourselves of that superstructure...and then endure the extermination of the 5+ billion extra people the superstructure makes possible for the world to carry in a post-agricultural world. Simple, no?
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Posted July 4, 2001
As a genuine member of the baby boom (born 1948), I lived through the times and events Ruth Rosen describes in her enthralling and enlightening 'The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America.' But I was one who fell through the cracks of the social movements of the 1960s and 70s. I had been too thoroughly saturated with the traditional upbringing of the 1950s. Except for brief flirtations with rebellion, I slipped unscathed through the 60s and settled into peaceful conventionality in the 70s. I survived as a dutiful and conservative wife and mother through the 80s, but by the mid-90s, repression no longer sufficed. I flowered into full-blown, and sometimes militant, feminism. So why did I even need a book like Rosen's? Because if I had found myself, I had not found my past. Like an adopted child searching for her biological mother, I began exploring my own past, not as an individual, but as a member of a society and a product of a culture. More than anything, I wanted to know how in the world I ever escaped being an activist all those years ago, and how I survived in not-so- blissful ignorance nearly thirty years of the feminine mystique. Other books had chronicled the events and collected the documents of the Second Wave of feminist activism, and I had read several personal memoirs by activists whose names had become familiar. But in 'The World Split Open,' Ruth Rosen, history professor at the University of California at Davis and frequent contributor to The San Francisco Chronicle, explored the events, the personalities, the social and cultural contexts, the causes and effects, the whys and the wherefores. In a nutshell, she put everything in a nutshell. In her preface, she calls the modern women's movement 'The Longest Revolution,' and there is no question that the changes effected by the movement constituted a true revolution for men as well as women. And while she gives full credit to the foremothers of 'women's liberation,' Rosen carefully notes that the movement of the latter part of the twentieth century had a clear beginning quiet separate from the First Wave's emphasis on getting the vote. In the 1960s and 1970s, when the movement was in full flower, women began to question virtually everything, from accepted perspectives on history and economics to sex and relationships. They wrote and spoke, protested and organized, and most of all they raised the consciousness of other women. Using documentation from contemporary sources as well as numerous interviews with the participants, Rosen provides a clear, concise, yet comprehensive analysis of the major issues the movement addressed, as well as how the movement impacted the activists and vice-versa, from speak-outs on rape and abortion, to paranoia over FBI infiltrators. She also turns a sometimes critical eye on the shortcomings and failings of both the movement and many of its participants, but recognizes how much they had to overcome and how little they started with. If there is any shortcoming in the book, it lies in the lack of more recent developments, both in the political climate and the movement itself. Although Rosen addresses some elements of the conservative backlash that struck the women's movement in the late 1980s and through the 90s, especially the monumental rise of the religious right, she does leave a yawning gap between the movement's heyday of the 70s and 80s and the beginning of the twenty-first century, when feminism reached out from the United States and truly embraced the women of the world. On the other hand, that may be material for yet another book. For most important in 'The World Split Open,' Rosen repeatedly reminds the reader, especially one like me who has joined the parade that nearly passed her by, that 'The Longest Revolution' has only begun. 'As each generation shares its secrets, women learn to see the world through their own eyes, and discover, much to their surprise, that they are not thWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.