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The New Feminist Agenda (book review)

book cover image of The New Feminist Agenda
The New Feminist Agenda, by Madeleine M. Kunin, emphasizes that women need to lead the mission for family benefits, but everyone must be involved, because everyone is affected as the ripples move outward. Special interest groups also need to join forces for common interests and benefits. It’s the only way to overcome the power of the business groups. Kunin points out that refusal to support families in areas of education, childcare, family leave, and medical care undermines the workforce, as well as the families here in the U.S.

In addition, Kunin reminds readers that NOW pushed to get a comprehensive childcare bill passed back in 1971. Those children are now almost 40 years old, but the U.S. moves slowly. So slowly, she points out, that Liberia, Swaziland, Papua New Guinea, and the U.S. are the only countries that don’t guarantee any form of paid leave for families with newborns. It took 22 years to get the GI bill passed. Why? Because the government didn’t believe war veterans were capable of going to college. As this shows, change takes time. Fifteen years elapsed between the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the 1993 Unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act.

Kunin’s information makes it clear that the U.S. wears blinders where children, illness, and eldercare are concerned. When the workforce was primarily male, it was easy to ignore these populations. They became women’s responsibility. Kunin’s book doesn’t try to sell one answer, and she doesn’t advocate only for government policies or only for voluntary policies. Her research makes it clear that businesses and government must admit that the world changed, and they need to change too.

What does her research show are the benefits of good family and childcare policies? In one country, it resulted in a more stable workforce, fewer immigrant jobs, and more productivity. It wasn’t bad for business at all, which is always the hue and cry.  Along with those results, in a country where 85% of the men take parental leave too, divorce rates declined and women’s earnings increased. This is good news for families and the economy. Why are U.S. citizens always bombarded with alarmist reasoning and warnings?

Kunin reviews a variety of approaches used in different countries. She does an excellent job of remaining impartial and evaluating options, as well as possible compromises. In addition, she points out that countries with poor family/work policies face decline in population and competitiveness. Between 2007 and 2009, the U.S. birthrate dropped more than it has in the past 30 years. We also rank number one in the world for teen pregnancies. It seems apparent that we need to become more globally aware and learn from others.

There’s proof in this book that we can do better. Yes, there’s a “No New Taxes” mantra. However, one has to ask, Is it because people don’t want to pay or don’t like what they get now? Is it because we don’t know what we could be getting? Is it because we don’t understand that there are realistic choices? Or, is it because we’ve learned to distrust our government so much that we aren’t willing to take a chance on trusting them with a major overhaul?

A recent NPR poll brings home the dissatisfaction with healthcare and the burden of the present system. Yet, European and Canadian healthcare systems result in lower healthcare costs, despite universal access, along with better health outcomes. In addition, we are conditioned to believe improvements only come with taxes and additional government. It’s time to pull our collective heads out of the sand and quite buying everything politicians try to sell.

The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family is easy to read and understand. Surprisingly, with all the statistics and research, it’s not boring either. As a person, Kunin’s a fascinating woman who’s lived in the real world and made hard choices. If you are looking for answers and want information to make informed decisions, especially with an election coming up this year, you’ll definitely want to take a look at Kunin’s work. You’ll be shocked, amazed, and perhaps, motivated to demand more real answers.


Penny received a copy of this book for review from the author, publisher, or publicist. Any personal opinions stated in this review are her own.


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