Betty Friedan: the mother of us all

Monday, February 6, 2006

I will never forget the day in 1963 when I was in a gathering of husbands and housewives in Richmond, Virginia, where we lived for the first four years of our marriage. The only woman in the group who had been educated in the “North” (Smith College) said, somewhat conspiratorially, to the other wives, “Have you read this new book, The Feminine Mystique?” It was a bombshell. There is a sense in which I trace everything that has since happened to me to that moment.

Oddly, I never actually read the book about “the problem that has no name.” I didn’t need to. I recognized it immediately from the descriptions I heard in reviews and conversations. Reading the excerpts today in the obituaries, I realize once again with wonder that she was describing me almost exactly.

What hath God wrought? The women’s movement and all the phenomena associated with it has been and continues to be the most far-reaching social upheaval that the human race has seen in recorded history, because gender is the most deeply ingrained (and most vexed) property of the human being next to being human itself. We are only beginning to see what it will all mean.

In the meantime, boys and men are having problems. To be continued…

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