I agree that opportunities, particularly to enter the professions, were much more limited for women prior to the 60's. Sure, there were female doctors and lawyers before that time, one female physician acquaintance of my family graduated from med school in the 1920's, but generally women were encouraged to go into nursing and not medicine. And, while female lawyers gradually grew in numbers in the first half of the 20th century, Harvard Law School didn't admit a woman until 1950.
There was no lack of working women, my grandmother worked and was the main support of the family, and my mother worked before she married and went back to work when she was in her late 40's and her children were older. Women did a lot of factory work and most of the elementary school teachers and nurses were women, and the sales help in retail department stores was generally female outside of the men's department, but you never saw women selling something like automobiles, and the women in offices were mainly secretaries and not bosses. And, while I remember women commentators on the earlier days of TV, as Pemerson does, I also remember what a big deal it was when Barbara Walters became the first woman to co-anchor the evening news on a major network--as though there was some kind of question whether a woman could handle that kind of job, or be taken seriously, and that was 1976.
Prior to the 1960's there was a pressure, which ranged from the more subtle "what women were more suited to do", to flat out discrimination against hiring women in certain areas, which caused many girls and young women to forgo certain career or vocational choices and instead opt for something else, or something they could do until they got married, or something, like teaching, that had a schedule that wouldn't interfere with child rearing. I was raised, and encouraged by my family, to believe I could do anything I wanted to, without regard to my gender, but, at the same time, I was well aware that wasn't exactly the way the society around me functioned at the time. I never felt oppressed or limited in my options, but many women who were 10 or 20 years older than me did. Those were the women I saw who had the most regrets about not having had more of a chance at a college education, or grad school, and who felt they had given up a lot of dreams and a lot of their identity when they got married, and they were the ones I saw most affected by the women's movement--they embraced the idea of female self actualization, which was a big part of the feminist message.
I agree with Pemerson that women have to take the initiative, and that's just what they did in the 1960's in fighting for and obtaining civil rights and legal equality for women, and I still think that's the most important accomplishment of feminism, next to finally obtaining the vote. That fight did promote a sense of sisterhood, and it gave women, as a group, a sense of their political power and entitlement in controlling their place in society. And, once those doors opened more possibilities for women, the women came through them in droves. I am very grateful to the feminists of that era for opening those doors for so many other women. I am grateful that women today have lives that are richer in options, and choices, and possibilities. This was never about being like men, it was always about being more complete women, more fully realized human beings.
I can't see a flipside to feminism because I can't see a flipside, or downside, to encouraging human potential. I can't see a flipside because I think women have very significant contributions to make in terms of shaping our culture and our world, and they can't make those contributions unless they are allowed to have full opportunity and full participation. Women will continue to gain more real power and influence, and how that will, or won't, change things in the future remains to be seen, but, as that continues to happen, feminism will simply become obsolete.