Tags: Feminist | Mystique | 50 | Friedan

'The Feminist Mystique' at 50

Wednesday, 13 Feb 2013 09:41 AM

By Kathleen Parker

Share:
A    A   |
   Email Us   |
   Print   |
   Forward Article  |
  Copy Shortlink
Now is the time for all good women to pay homage to Betty Friedan, who 50 years ago wrote the game-changing manifesto "The Feminine Mystique."
 
With that book, Friedan helped propel a revolution led by, of all people, unhappy housewives.
 
One feels silly even writing such a sentence, but revolutions have to start somewhere. Why not in the checkout line at the Piggly Wiggly? Or wherever Friedan, who was actually writing magazine stories the whole time she was bored, went to shop.
 
Friedan did, indeed, identify and give shape to "the problem that has no name" — female angst born of privilege — but she also helped launch a flotilla of myths that have many women (and men) still scratching their heads.
 
As her critics have noted, Friedan didn't tackle any of the legal obstacles to women's equality. Nor did she pay attention to women of color or members of the working class. She mostly noted that women like her — well-to-do, well-educated, and stifled by domestic bliss — wanted and deserved more.
 
It simply wasn't fair that men had fulfilling lives, intellectually and monetarily, while women were expected to find satisfaction in the latest invention aimed at whiter collars and cleaner toilet bowls.
 
Anyone familiar with "The Stepford Wives" can grasp this notion. Thus, thousands of women like Friedan, recognizing themselves in her lament, charged out of their houses and into the streets.
 
Doubtless I would have been a member of the stampede had I been of age, but as it happens, I was being raised by a widower and assumed that all men delighted in carpooling and cooking. How little I knew of the toils of sad, wealthy women.
 
Thus, the feminist movement left the station without me except to the extent, as readers sometimes remind me, that I benefited from the protests of my foremothers.
 
Indeed, I am grateful for the suffragists who thought my vote should be equal to any man's. And I am thankful that the workplace into which I entered recognized my value. But the world in which I grew up never suggested otherwise.
 
In all those years when Friedan and colleagues were demanding an equal rights amendment, I only heard words of encouragement from a lawyer/father who demanded much and often intoned: "An unnecessary law is always a bad law."
 
He never once suggested that a girl was in any way less capable than a boy in any arena (the combat exception was so obvious in a household of male warriors that no one bothered to debate it).
 
The focus of most conversation was on simple principles: Hard work leads to accomplishment leads to self-respect. I could not divine a gender element to these truths. I also saw plenty of working women, including my pediatrician, as well as those who, despite having been professionals before becoming mothers, had chosen to run busy households.
 
Nevertheless, I was marinating in a culture that was shifting and I was surely absorbing the zeitgeist. But members of my generation also were becoming unwitting hostages to myths that few were brave enough to challenge. My own skepticism came to full fruition the moment I became a mother.
 
Unlike Friedan, I wasn't tethered to home but to a job. Rather than resenting the prospect of staying home with a baby, I was stricken by the realization that I couldn't. The "strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning," words Friedan used to describe thwarted ambition, was for me the sense of having abandoned my son.
 
Revolutions are like children — eager and hopeful in the beginning, then, like teenagers, suddenly riotous and unruly. They have their own ideas about things and pick up friends who are bad influences. Sometimes they need to be spanked. Fine, OK, a timeout.
 
Fifty years later, Friedan's movement has reached full adulthood and, one hopes, is seeing a shrink. Among lessons gleaned from the couch is that maturation requires recognizing our mistakes and our own roles in unwelcome consequences.
 
What worked for privileged, educated women hasn't worked so well for those at the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum. And while women have the same need as men to lead meaningful lives, the feminist mystique's great failing was in advancing the notion that caring for children posed an obstacle to self-realization.
 
In a twist to delight The Fates, Friedan's ultimate legacy may well be a stay-at-home dad, grateful for the latest appliance that liberates him to carpool and make organic treats — squealing oui, oui, oui! all the way home.
 
Kathleen Parker's columns appear in more than 400 newspapers. She won the prestigious H.L. Mencken Writing Award in 1993. Read more reports from Kathleen Parker — Click Here Now.
 
 
 

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Share:
   Email Us   |
   Print   |
   Forward Article  |
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Retype Email:
Country
Zip Code:
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
You May Also Like

Stephen Colbert's Humor Is No Threat

Monday, 14 Apr 2014 10:26 AM

In selecting Stephen Colbert to replace David Letterman as host of the "Late Show," CBS has waged war on America's heart . . .

Sen. Reid Bashes the Kochs, Capitalism

Monday, 07 Apr 2014 09:55 AM

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid broke down all barriers to protocol recently when he called the Kochs "un-American." . . .

Minimum Wage, Finger-Pointing Won't Work for Democrats

Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 10:26 AM

H.L. Mencken gets a workout in election years when voters are reminded by pundits of the curmudgeon's observation that n . . .

Newsmax, Moneynews, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, NewsmaxWorld, NewsmaxHealth, are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved