There are two intriguing articles on Betty Fridan today. Suzanne Fields, a conservative, notes some positive aspects of the Fridan legacy but says Fridan went too far:
“Betty Friedan made the mistake of imagining that all women were alike. She underestimated the passion of the conservative women led by Phyllis Schlafly, who almost single-handedly defeated the Equal Rights Amendment. In one debate, Ms. Friedan screamed at Mrs. Schlafly: ‘I’d like to burn you at the stake.’ Phyllis, who never loses her cucumber-like cool, replied: ‘I’m glad you said that, because it just shows the intemperate nature of proponents of ERA.’
“Betty Friedan and Phyllis Schlafly clarified the issues for women, issues that still teeter on the seesaw of public opinion. Betty had the media with her, but Phyllis had a grass-roots movement of her creation that’s still alive and well. John Kerry won the majority of single women in 2004, but George W. won the overwhelming majority of married women, who figured he would be more likely to keep the home fires ablaze.”
“Female Eunuch” author, Germaine Greer, meanwhile, feels that Friedan didn’t go far enough-and was overrated-by herself:
“Betty’s Zeitgeist was not mine. She had seen the alternative roles that women had fulfilled perfectly adequately during the war years closed to them, so they were forced to return to Kinder, Küche, Kirche. She contributed three children to the baby boom. That was the era of the New Look when hemlines dropped and waists were cinched and breasts were pushed out. According to Betty, what happened was that women’s sexuality was emphasised at the expense of all their other talents and attributes. What Betty saw as sexuality, I saw as the denial and repression of female sexuality. The Female Eunuch was conceived in reaction to The Feminine Mystique.
“The National Organisation for Women (Now) was Betty’s idea; she certainly founded it but it harvested a huge amount of energy that had been building up for years. The bringing of the important class action suits that would improve the lot of working women is something that American feminists should always be proud of. Betty was important to all of that, but not as important as she thought she was.”