"IF women CAN…..why didnt they? why dont they?"
"The desire to free oneself from work was common to all classes and both sexes. "Dr Joanna Bourke of Birkbeck College, London, has studied the diaries of 5,000 women who lived between 1860 and 1930. During that period, the proportion of women in paid employment dropped from 75 per cent to 10 per cent. This was regarded as a huge step forward for womankind,"
More on the same could be found on Angry Harry's site under, "Did women really wanted to go out to work?"
In Anatomy of Female Power the author makes the case that women were divided into three classes,1) women who were happy to be matriarchs(like the anti-suffragist in the 2nd link of the previous reply to sojournerscribe), 2)tomboys who would like to do what men did and are not exactly radical feminists but women who men like welcoming into their midst, and then the 3)termagants who are desperate to unveil the male subservience.
The matriarchists as the overwhelming majority before they were overwhelmed.
His summation of the 2nd wave:
Bored martiarchists (like Betty Friedan) and frustrated tomboys (like Simone de Beauvoir) kicked it off;
Termagants (like Andrea Dworkin) made a public nuisance of it;
Satisfied matriarchists (like Phyllis Schlafly) oppose it;
Non-militant tomboys (the female yuppies) have quietly profited from it.
Taken from here:
He made the case that for the matriarchs, feminism was trouble in their paradise. Not so for the latter two.
After the 2nd wave, the matriarchs lost, Phyllis Schlafly's gains notwithstanding. The tomboys like Camille Paglia were slowly sidelined and they didn't have much of a stake in it anyway(though they are the ones men usually think of as "moderate" feminists). The war wasn't exactly between men and women, but between women themselves. There was a good history of such in Sweden that I can't locate now; the see-sawing battles finally leading to the rout of the housewives after 60s.
All this was pointless to most men, the real problem for men arises from the fact that feminists, the real feminists won't leave them alone(and the small matter of not liking men having sex with women). For instance, the "equality" that could have meant women getting their own institutions then turned into that men have to accept women in their own institutions in the name of equal rights, then they have to stop noticing such differences in the name of sexism, then if they still don't stop or criticize feminism and its contradictions then it's misogyny, etc..
This equality then isn't content with smashing old boys' networks, but has to go in the young boys' network as well(video games), feminists march in after men have erected their edifices then in the name of equality and the weight of oppressive history, sideline men themselves. The normal women who would have been included more gradually then are made to thank and follow feminists instead of the men themselves.
They are not merely content to be copycats, they have to call men's identity in question to legitimize their own existence as women.
The problem is that it can't really go that far without making a mish-mash of itself. It was built on shaky grounds, like the 2nd waver whose death is recently in the news.
What has allowed it to take roots to such an extent can be seen in the redstocking manifesto.
"Women are an oppressed class."
"We identify the agents of our oppression as men. "
"We identify with all women. We define our best interest as that of the poorest, most brutally exploited woman."
the so-called patriarchy theory, thenceafter calling feminism into question means calling <i>all</i> women's interests into question and then it's a short way to misogynist-ville and shutting down the whole debate. So it doesn't help that women like Christina Hoff Sommers(or Kathleen Parker), who are usually mothers of sons, don't correctly identify feminism and still think that it has merely overreached or been corrupted by man-haters. Even Wollstonecraft wasn't above the sexual identity politics of 1st wavers.(H/T Mark)
And the above is combined with the twisted logic of autonomy theory of liberalism which Mark has pointed out for years in his criticism of feminism. While feminists pay lip-service to women's wishes to do whatever they want, they are usually quite hostile when they don't do as feminists wish them to. Feminists however can't do it much overtly or they risk bringing men into the equation and losing the show of female solidarity that allows them such power. They merely chip away by using women's best interests canard.
This isn't some aberration of history, for example in Sir John Glubb's essay, Fate of Empires, he quotes an Arab historian who is befuddled by women who want to take up men's occupations of clerk, judges, etc. Sir Glubb notes that such demands are usual in empires in decline, why they might be so is perhaps explained in Unwin's Sex and Culture.
Feminism has had the benefit of institutionalizing itself in academia, and thus continue while earlier it would have meant the end of the tribe, nation, etc.