At first glance, the difference between the role of women in the public sphere in 1900, at the fin de siècle, and in 2000, at the millennium, appears tremendous. In terms of fashion, educational opportunities, employment, legal and civil rights, participation in the dominant culture and gender role expectations, the long-skirted, corseted suffragettes seem light years apart from women who take their active and passive voting rights for granted, see nothing unusual in single motherhood and abortion, and dress whichever way they choose, in skirts, pants, shorts, suits, and gowns. Yet writings of contemporary avant-garde, Marie-Thérè se Kerschbaumer (b. 1936), Elfriede Jelinek (b. 1946), and Marlene Streeruwitz (b. 1950) as well as somewhat more conservative women authors, Anna Mitgutsch (b. 1948) and Barbara Frischmuth (b. 1941), reveal that serious issues remain unresolved. Male-female relationships continue to be unequal in the home, in politics, and on the job market. Women are still barred from top positions and denied equal access in the social arena. Even more problematic is the fact that the prevailing mentality in the dominant culture, internalized by women at a young age, continues to relegate girls and women to a secondary role and thus prevents them from living up to their potential. The outside pressures on women to be submissive and women's internalization of the socially accepted roles reinforce one another.
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