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by Christopher Chantrill
February 05, 2006 at 12:46 pm
THE 1963 BESTSELLER The Feminine Mystique is credited with starting the Second Wave of feminism that transformed the relations between men and women in the second half of the twentieth century. On Saturday February 4, her 85th birthday, its author Betty Friedan died of congestive heart failure. Writes Margalit Fox in The New York Times about the 1963 plea of this educated suburban housewife from Rockland County, NY:
With its impassioned analysis of the issues that affected womens lives in the decades after World War II including enforced domesticity, limited career prospects and, as chronicled in later editions, the campaign for legalized abortion The Feminine Mystique is widely regarded as one of the most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century... Ms. Friedan charted the gradual metamorphosis of the American woman from the independent, career-minded New Woman of the 1920s and 30s into the vacant, aproned housewife of the postwar years.
By 1966 Betty Friedan had founded the National Organization for Women, and the postwar feminist movement was running at full flood.
Friedans idea for the book came from a survey she conducted at the 15th reunion of her class at Smith College. She found among her educated women classmates a nameless, aching dissatisfaction, a discovery that forced her to confront the painful limitations of her own suburban idyll. But in The Second Stage published in 1981 Friedan seemed to retreat from her Mystique argument, writing that The equality we fought for isnt livable, isnt workable, isnt comfortable in the terms that structured our battle.
So who was Betty Friedan? The suburban housewife, the feminist activist, or the revisionist? In Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminine Mystique academic Daniel Horowitz revealed that Friedan was not indeed the simple suburban housewife she had advertised herself to be. In his review of Horowitzs book conservative activist David Horowitz (no relation) wrote that as
Betty Goldstein, she was a political activist and professional propagandist for the Communist left for a quarter of a century before the publication of The Feminist Mystique launched the modern womens movement... Her husband, Carl, also a leftist, once complained that his wife was in the world during the whole marriage, had a full-time maid, and seldom was a wife and a mother.
The (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,60-2026461,00.htm) London Times agrees. For 20 years before her book appeared, she had worked as a journalist for union and left-wing newspapers and magazines and campaigned for a number of radical causes.
Understandably, Smith graduate Friedan wanted to appeal to her readers as everywoman. But was she right about life in suburbia? What do real suburban women think about living in suburbia?
In Men and Marriage published in 1986 George Gilder reported that sociologists find that women deeply enjoy suburban living. Researching the lives of suburban Chicagoans, sociologist Herbert J. Gans found that only 10 percent of suburban women reported frequent loneliness or boredom. Helen Znaniecki Lopata found that
suburban housewives, by a significant margin, were more likely than working women to be using their education in their lives, to be reading widely and curiously, to be maintaining close and varied friendships, and to be involved in community affairs.
But throughout the last generation public policy in the western world has assumed that women are imprisoned in cages out in the suburbs aching to be freed into the satisfactions of paid employment and a career. Yet even feminist Maureen Dowd in Are Men Necessary? has admitted that high-status educated women, the women whose marriages are advertised in The New York Times Sunday Style section, are turning overwhelmingly away from careers and towards full-time motherhood.
Betty Friedan is survived by three children and nine grandchildren. She wrote The only way for a woman, as for a man, to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own. There is no other way.
But many of the women inspired by her book and the movement she helped to create have found themselves childless on the wrong side of fifty and discovered that they really wanted children after all. Which is more important for a woman: to create children or find herself by creative work of her own?
Would it make a difference to a woman if she knew that Friedan was not an ordinary suburban housewife after all? Or would she have come to think, following researcher Lopata, that the role of a housewife provides her a base for a multi-faceted life, an opportunity few other vocational roles allow, because they are tied down to single organizational structures and goals? Would she decide to live a life, like Friedan, in which creative work could wait until after she had started a family?
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable...
[1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, Letter to Lord Lytton
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, The Scientist as Rebel