Women beware women

Cinema - The Stepford Wives, the 1975 horror movie in which independent-thinking women were turned i

Clare Rayner, agony aunt
I don't know why they would want to remake it. At the end of the original, the awful husbands won, and I think the new version feminises it and the women win. In a strange way, I think that somehow diminishes it. The original was a very feminist film. It was saying: "Is this really what you want?" I think there are still a lot of women today who would like to stroll around like Nanette Newman. It made the point that not all women are the same, but it was also saying that if women want to behave like that, then bugger it, let them. The film was a warning. I think that ghastly show Footballers' Wives does something similar.

Marcelle d'Argy Smith, former editor, Cosmopolitan

There still are Stepford Wives. Some women will ring you, get into the bath and then suddenly say: "Have to go, my husband is here." I still hear lots of women saying: "Oh, my husband would never allow that." Many women are shrewd enough to know that it pays huge dividends - beneath the docile compliance, they can do what they like and remain every man's dream. Basically, there are still women who will never go out and slog to buy their own swimming pool.

Meghna Abraham, NGO human rights lawyer, Geneva
The idea of women being placed into moulds is still very relevant. There have been gains through feminism, but now there are different kinds of pressure. For instance, you see young women in the UK going out in winter weather in extremely uncomfortable clothing just to look attractive. In Switzerland, even educated women are pressurised to look a certain way. Cosmetic surgery has become mainstream. Liposuction is fairly normal. There is intense focus on clothes and beauty aids, and especially anti-ageing techniques. There has been a considerable backlash against feminism. When I attended a social forum in India, young women were reluctant to define themselves as feminists because it is perceived as negative and anti-male. It may seem as if feminism isn't needed any more. Access to careers and education is no longer a problem, but now there are other kinds of barrier - for instance, the so-called "glass ceiling issue".

Jenni Murray, presenter, Woman's Hour

I'm happy to say I've never seen The Stepford Wives, but I am aware of its resonance. If the "perfect housewife" is making a comeback, I may as well kill myself, having entirely wasted my breath for most of my life. I get so tired of these outdated "sex war" stories. The happiest I've felt for a long time was earlier this year, when I chaired a Fathers Direct conference and heard significant numbers of men asking, "How can I juggle my job and my family?", just as women do. There does seem, in some quarters at least, to be a realisation that it is not the duty of one half of the human race to service the other's domestic requirements.

Cherayar Thomas, management consultant

It can still be a challenge to be treated equally both in the workplace and beyond. I am constantly infuriated by waiters presenting my boyfriend with the wine list in restaurants. Even if we are breaking the conventional moulds, we are creating new ones for ourselves to fit into. Now the struggle is about trying to be all the things our mothers and grandmothers were, while also being successful career women and still managing to look great. I guess we have more choice than ever. But choice means more decisions, and perhaps we look towards role models for guidance, which could be interpreted as conforming.

Edwina Currie, former MP

When I was first discussing the idea of writing a novel, my agent suggested that I write about what husbands get up to at Westminster while their wives think they are in parliament. I said: "But a few of us have husbands at home, not wives." He said I should write "The Stepford Wives for politicians", and that novel was called A Parliamentary Affair. I don't think there has ever been such a thing as a servile woman. Even 30 years ago, they just pretended to be servile so they could get what they wanted.

Dr Christine Auld, Scottish GP

It's not cool to be a stay-at-home mother any more, but in many ways I think women today are victims of feminism, in that they are now expected to be so many things at once. Many of their health problems could be sorted out with a change of lifestyle, but it's not so easy. In the west of Scotland, men tend to be smothered by their mothers and are used to being looked after, even when their partners are working. However, it's men I feel sorry for these days. They have much bigger identity problems.

Virginia Ironside, agony aunt

I have seen the original film and I believe that women have moved on since then. Feminism is no longer relevant or threatening. That's why the remake of the film portrays it as entertaining and silly. Women have advanced so much in our society. There are far fewer rights and wrongs, and we have an amazing amount of freedom and choice. We can marry who we want, we can have careers, we can be academics, we can have a family, we can have children on our own. If we like, we can go to the pub and get pissed. I never had any time for feminism. I was born into an unusual situation, as my mother was a career woman. Feminism is old hat. Women can now laugh at men for being male. In many respects, we now have more freedom than men do.

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