The Second Sex

“The problem that has no name — which is simply the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human capacities — is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease.” – Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, The Second Stage and the Fountain of Age died today at age 85.

She played an instrumental role in the early feminist movement in America. At her 15th reunion for Smith College, while employed as a freelance magazine journalist, Friedan distributed a survey to the graduates who were nearly all housewives. Overwhelmingly, the response from the graduates was one of ennui and a feeling of ‘is that all’? Friedan prepared the piece for publication and was squarely rejected from every magazine she submitted it to.

Like any good academic, not wanting to waste work done, she expanded the research into a full book, The Feminine Mystique. The book tapped into a source of female frustration with playing the role of housewife and resonated with many: why should anyone expect that women, who have different life experiences, different interests, different talents, would all (or even mostly) find fulfilment playing exactly the same role as one another? Despite how ridiculous this may look now, fulfillment in motherhood and housewivery was exactly what post WWII society expected of women. Friedan provided a voice to the women who didn’t find such fulfilment.

Of course, as any movement develops, its founders become targets of internal criticism. Lesbians, black women, communists, for example, found no voice in writings of the heterosexual, middle class white woman’s book. Nonetheless,. Friedan went on to be a co-founder of NOW (and its first president) and, by all accounts, was instrumental in rallying women towards a cause that is now the full blooded movement known as feminism. She rallied in the 70s for abortion rights and for the ERA.

Later work focussed on the status of the Women’s movement in the 80s and her final book dealt with the identity and pscyhology of the elderly. She has taught at numerous institutions (including NYU and USC) and promoted the rights of women everywhere. Zichrona Le’bracha. Muffti has no doubt that if there is a heaven that contains inequalities, Betty will waste no time getting to work on straightening things out.

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  • zichrona livracha indeed. Heterosexist or not, we owe something to Betty Friedan.

  • When I saw that one of my colleagues here at Jewlicious (not too late to register for Jewlicious @ the Beach, so do it now!) had posted about the death of feminist Betty Friedan, I naturally assumed it was Laya. But it was really the Muffti what done it, this time. And I also read Michael’s post about CafePress and laughed out loud, the sound echoing throughout my tiny apartment.

    And as I’m typing this, not only am I fighting flu, but I face a week of deadlines and workshop-leading, schedule-cramming, laundry and battle with my arch-nemesis, the Dread Pirate Packing. And going into that week, it’s good to have people in your life who are both entertaining you and constantly full of surprises. Here’s to you, boys of Jewlicious. (And Laya and Alli.) You guys rock my world. See you all soon, either in Cali or b’ezrat Hashem, biyrushalayim.

  • Esther, I wouldn’t take the Muffti too seriously. He justs knows that rockin’ in a feminist stance is a surefire ticket to some play. Seriously, just try going up to a girl in a bar and smoothly dropping a line like, “Hey cupcakes, I wrote a post memorializing Betty Friedan on my blog. You wanna further explore the feminine mystique?” They melt like butter.

    As far as your toast to us, our humor and Muffti’s surprise betrayal of type (will the viewers mind this rewrite of his character?!), not only am I flattered, but I’m positively chuffed that those douchebags ck and the Middle weren’t included. As for your flu, I recommend vodka and hot tea. That’s what my mama prescribes.

  • Um, laundry is when like your clothing gets all dirty and you need to clean it.

    The Dread Pirate Packing is the force with which I do battle when I am forced to engage in one of my least favorite activities, say it with me: packing my suitcase.

    Maybe it’s the Nyquil.

  • It’s amazing that in Afgahnistan, women do not have any type of equal rights, but they do not rebel at all.

    For example, a man can take a second or third wife, and this woman takes up residence w/ the other first wife. Even to the point that the ‘honeymoon’ occurs in the same house for (2 weeks they have a honeymoon). This is according to the book, “THE Kabul Bookseller”, which the author claims is based on her living w/ such a family in 2003-4.

    One of the scary things she reports there is that many men, mostly merchants in Kabul, take advantage of young female teens or younger who go around begging more money, they do give them some money, after they have spent time in the back of the shop. Sad that during the Taliban rule, this was not happening, due to the religious police being around.

    One wonders, if morally speaking, there is merely a tradeoff over there.

  • Michael, you are so cynical. If you really think Muffti gets any ‘play’ from the ‘work’ he does for Jewlicious, you are sadly mistaken…

    Anyhow, there’s no rewrite of type nor character. Muffti’s generally a fan of people who stand up for human rights and do it intelligently and effectively.

  • Damn Muffti, you know I was jus’ playin’. Clearly nobody in the history of the universe has ever gotten play from their status as a blogger, which is why I accused you of it. The humor lies in the sheer ridiculousness!

  • I don’t know beans about Wendy Wasserstein but I thought somebody might mention her as she too has just died.

  • Michael, your naivete about the supposed incompatibility of play and blogging is entertaining.

    And Jewish Mother, the loss of Wendy is a considerable one. I did write about it on my own blog; post is here in case you or anyone else wants to read it.

  • Sorry, JM, Muffti has been in transit which has been an impediment to posting. Michael, good call 🙂 Muffti just htought maybe you knew something that he didn’t about parlaying blogging into heavy pettin’!

  • She found causes that were worth fighting for, hopefully there will be none in heaven; she must be exhausted!