Paula Bear, I thank you for pulling together ideas we have been throwing around into one coherent agenda for the new feminist! I do feel like we are reaching a consensus here. While some of us see the effects of feminism as much more positive than others, I think our vision for the future is similar. I would add some things to the wish list. Health care. As long as health care coverage in this country is most often tied to a full-time job, it is difficult to get away from a patriarchal model for work or family. As many have mentioned, there needs to be a much greater focus on encouraging men to be a part of family life, to be able to take time off if children are sick, etc.
The culture that prevents men from being equal parents needs to be fundamentally shifted, and many countries have found practical ways of pushing issues like that. In Denmark, there is paid maternity leave, and separate paid leave for fathers. If the father does not take the time off, it does not transfer to the mother. In Sweden time can be transferred, but there is a debate about whether it would be better to shift the system so that each parent gets equal time.
In Sweden they have major ad campaigns to get fathers to take time off (dh gets mail every so often that glamorizes spending time with your kids, and reminds fathers of their rights). At times they have had ads with famous men pushing strollers or with baby in a Bjorn carrier, to promote paternity leave! Norway recently had ads with the (handsome) Prime Minister pushing a pram while on paternity leave! This has made a big difference to the feminist agenda in Scandinavian countries.
My personal view is that one full-time worker and one at-home parent is not the ideal configuration for a family. Both people make sacrifices that in the long run are unfair. (And it is a much greater sacrifice for men, in my opinion, as they cannot have time with their babies later.) Sharing work and family gives both parents a more even balance of the joys and responsibilities in life. The system in the US is set up in a way that makes sharing a real challenge (often because of the health care issue).
I am one of the oft-disparaged mothers who worked even though my husband had a six-figure income, because in principle I did not want dh to increase his earning power while I lost mine. It had nothing to do with consumerism. We lived in a duplex and drove ten year old cars! But I was looking five years down the line. It was clear to me it would be harder and harder to share work and family if dh was the one who worked and I was the one who was home, so I continued working from home. My kids were never in day care because I couldn’t find a day care I liked, and they finally went (at 4) to a Montessori school for 12 hours a week. After taxes (dhs income put me in a high bracket) and expenses, I basically made nothing. But after a few years we were able to shift to sharing; he works less and I work more and we share child time and housework equally. If I hadn’t continued working, that would have been impossible for obvious reasons. Sharing means that dh has a fair portion of the time with our children, something I think is so good for them as well as for dh. Our household income is half of what it used to be, and we pay high taxes here in Sweden, but life is so good.
Subsidized child care, flextime, paid time off when the kids are sick, and respect for children in the society (which makes childcare a very different thing) all make it easier for us to choose an alternative balance of work and family. Here dh takes half the time when the kids are sick. That was always my responsibility in the States. He leaves work at three two days a week. They would laugh at him if he asked to do that in the US. But giving him more freedom means more freedom for me, and a better life for our children.
There are US groups working on these issues, I did research a few years ago, and will try to dig out my notes. The Child-Friendly Initiative is working on creating a more positive and respectful attitude toward children in the US, something I think is really valuable. www.childfriendly.org
(They may still have an article I wrote about traveling with children in Sweden in their article archive.