Do you ever get tired of hearing feminists yammer on about their children?
I’ve never been on a panel of TV show with a child-bearing feminist that she didn’t work it into the conversation. And go on and on about being a mother. Thank you, Betty Friedan.
The late Ms. Friedan, who died over the weekend, once called the family a “comfortable concentration camp.” Late in life, however, Ms. Friedan realized that feminists may have gone too far with the Nazi biz.
In a 1981 book, “The Second Stage,” the founding mother of radical feminism opined that maybe feminists had gone too far with the anti-guy first stage of feminism. Here is how one sympathetic reviewer summed it up:
“In conversations with young women around the country, [Friedan] finds an “unarticulated malaise” suggested by a questioning of whether it is really possible to combine marriage, children and career. From men who overidentified with their jobs only to discover that human satisfaction had eluded them, she hears warnings about ‘dead ends for women’ if they, too, follow this path.
“Given such distress signals, and the continuing political backlash against the women’s movement (apparent in the stalled effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment), Mrs. Friedan concludes that the women’s movement has created a ‘feminist mystique’ that threatens to become every bit as confining as the “feminine mystique” she identified in her earlier book. If it was necessary in the “first stage” of the women’s movement to break out of the “feminine” mystique, with its image of a woman “completely fulfilled in her role as husband’s wife, children’s mother, server of physical needs of husband, children, home,” then in the “second stage” it will be necessary to go beyond the ‘feminist mystique,’ which has limited women to a reactive stance, as they press their “grievances against men in office and home, school and field, in marriage, housework, even sex.”
“The cost of this feminist reaction against male domination, Mrs. Friedan now believes, is that many women felt forced to abandon or deny their human needs for home, mate and children. She argues that by turning their backs on the family, many members of the women’s movement abandoned that institution to the opponents of feminism, who have effectively used the defense of traditional family values as a platform from which to attack the Equal Rights Amendment, procreative choice and homosexuality. In ‘The Second Stage,’ Betty Friedan makes a bold attempt to regain control of the family policy agenda. Her strategy calls for a joint effort by men and women to redefine what is meant by success at home and on the job so that the needs of both sexes for achievement, intimacy and nurturance can find adequate expression. She reports on research that contrasts ‘Alpha,’ or ‘masculine,’ leadership styles, which draw on quantitative analysis, with “Beta,” or “feminine,” ones, which, according to at least one scientist from the Stanford Research Institute, are based on more “intuitive” thinking and a ‘contextural’ power style. Mrs. Friedan responds by calling for a type of leadership marked by fewer confrontations and greater adaptability.”
In other words, Ms. Friedan has a PR problem on her hands, and she decided to solve it by being less hostile to men. She did not backtrack one iota on her belief that the “first stage” of feminism was fighting male domination. One of her solutions: further feminize the work place, stigmatizing the conflicts and confrontations that are necessary.
It is interesting that feminists reacted harshly to Friedan’s call for less hostility to the concept of the family-it showed how deeply hostile they innately are to the traditional nuclear family. But the outpouring of laudatory sentiments in the wake of her death shows that it was only a minor blip.
And the endless palaver about children shows that feminists got Friedan’s message. She was nothing if not a PR genius. Next move: grandmother charm bracelets for feminists?