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The Death of Betty Friedan.

category international | gender and sexuality | news report author Monday February 06, 2006 15:03author by obit (iosaf) Report this post to the editors

the Suburban Mother lives on.

In 1957 an american housewife, 15 years after graduation and into a young marriage with young children sent all her female fellow graduates a list of questions.
The "american housewife" had been born Bettye Naomi Goldstein, and at marriage became Betty Freidan. She was born on February 4th 1921 and died exactly 85 years later on February 4th 2006.
"some worry we'll lose our feminity if we become equality...since femininity is being a woman and feeling good about it, clearly the better you feel about yourself as a person, the better you feel about being a woman. And it seems to me the better you are able to love a man"

RIP = rest in peace
the materialist consumerist culture lives on
the materialist consumerist culture lives on

The route from radical Marxist and Jewish youth to "american married bliss" of the 1950s and her questionaire of 1957 brought
her through asking fellow women about their education, their subsequent experiences, and the satisfaction with their present lives.

She published "The Feminist Mystique" in 1963. She argued effectively on the basis of the questionaire that post War life so championed by the West and USA as "the best its ever been" had in fact stifled women's aspirations and potential.

It must be understood that the 1950's had produced a "cult of motherhood" in the USA and its satelites. In 1956 the magazine "American Life" published a special issue entitled "The American Woman" which glorified the woman who graduated from high school but eschewed university, married before 20, lived in the suburbs, happy faithful and with an average of 4 children by 32 years of age.

She was described as "pretty and popular" and chief amongst her skills were the ability to sew and good sense to offer foot massages. even more -

"A conscientious mother, she spends a lot of time with her children, helping with their homework, listening to their stories or problems.... in her daily routine she attends club or charity meetings, drives the children to school, does the weekly grocery shopping, makes ceramics, and is planning to study French"

Obviously that was utter utter shite.
& Friedan played her rôle in explaining why.
But if you circumspecit today, you'll see that the US
model of family female bliss, so uncomfortably close
to the pre-War European fascist model, is alive and kicking.

Look at the roads at the end school. Look to the supermarkets & malls which extended from American suburbia to Europe, first arriving in Ireland at Stilorgan, and now "our way of life".

Friedan may not have been "radical" nor even "revolutionary", her sucession to Emma Goldman, or Federica Montseny is not even being argued. But like them she walked in the footsteps of Mary Wollstonecraft, and like Wollstonecraft "she is vindicated".

1900 - 18.1% of the US workforce was female.
1910 - 20%
1920 - 20.4%
1930 - 21.9%
1940 - 24.6%
1950 - 27.8%
1960 - 32.3%
1970 - 36.7%
1980 - 42.6%
1990 - 45.1%
1995 - 46.0%
2000 - 47%
[source US bureau of labour statistics]

Throughout the developed world, women are still un-happy and are still force-fed consumerist materialist patterns of life masquerading as "life-style" which are unsustainable, both for their gender and wider societies. It need not be sourced, that when polled the majority of women do not feel their condition has improved "remarkably", and they still have unequal access to work, labour, professions, academia, government. They still don't appear to have a proper section.

My last obituary was for Simon Wiesanthal
and before that Gerry Fitt.

author by miscpublication date Mon Feb 06, 2006 15:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

unfortuanately the obituary for Angela Dworkin was removed from the site together with its links and comments. But there is a more comprehensive list of "2nd wave Feminist" writers available now on wikipedia

author by miscpublication date Mon Feb 06, 2006 16:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them" so had noted Harry David Thoreau a full century earlier But within 6 years of the publication of the "feminist Mystique" a generation of women who had themselves grown up under "suburban mothers" began to wonder at the social constructs being passed on to their own crop of little boys and girls.
So in October 1961 John F. Kennedy created a comission on the status of women under the directorship of Eleanor Roosevelt. Its aims :-
"To develop plans for fostering the full partnership for men and women in our national lfie". Two years later its report was published in the same year as Freiden's book we may read in its conclusion lines which i argue are still relevent to all interested in rights, liberty, equality and fraternity :-

"Women's aspirations must be fostered, beyond stubbornly persistent assumptions about women's roles or women's interests".

Of course the USA in 1963 was a virtual apartheid state. & Ireland hadn't even presented Dana to the Eurovision song contest. Freiden's articulation of "soft feminism" would in a generation harden to more "seperatist" and other positions. As indeed social movements facing other forms of oppression in the USA would abandon "pacifist" "religious" positions and leaderships for the radicalism of the amongst others the Black Panther movement.

Yet the start of such writing would also present the english speaking readers with Germaine Greer's "Female Eunuch" in 1970 and the presentation of Simon De Beauvoir's "Second Sex" in translation. Though De Beauvoir had written her seminal (no pun intended) treatise of Freudian existentialist feminism in 1949 until the door was opened to "mainstream readership" by Freiden translated copies of De Beauvoir's work were as hard to find in Ireland at least as a condom, or a Edna O Brien novel. So that Irish men could not allow their wives or daughters read how Woolstencraft had herself perverted the female identity by suggesting equality was "to be more like a man" and happy with his sections and vision and order.

One may posit a dialetical twist in contemporary gender politics, that now the most vocal proponents of a "family model" are indeed men as demonstrated by protest movements and journalists not only in the USA but UK and here in Ireland too.

would you like another cookie?

author by miscpublication date Mon Feb 06, 2006 17:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

But when one considers the recent victory of "Hamas" women we see that family constructs such as that eptomised by Mariam Farhat one of the 6 women elected to the PA assembly. Mariam Farhat is nicknamed "the mother of martyrs" because she has raised 3 suicide bombers.
"It is not only sacrificing sons," the 56 year old she said after learning she had won - "There are different kinds of sacrifice, by money, by education. Everybody, according to their ability, should sacrifice."

"We are going to lead factories, we are going to lead farmers," said Jamila al-Shanty, 48, a professor at the Islamic University here who also won a Hamas seat in parliament.
"We are going to spread out through society. We are going to show the people of the world that the practice of Islam in regards to women is not well known."

Hamas is understood by its supporters to encourage, and in some cases pay for, the education of women. Sabrin al-Barawi, 21, a chemistry student, is one case of "feminist Islamist" who was cross-posted and syndicated throughout the internet in the last 2 weeks. She describes how she has grown up with Hamas programs for women: social groups, leadership courses, Koran classes.

"It's not only religious," said Ahlan Shameli, 21, who is studying computers. "It's the Internet, computers."

"Before Hamas, women were not aware of the political situation," she said. "But Hamas showed and clarified what was going on. Women have become much more aware."

Certainly the role of grass root Hamas female activists in circulating propaganda and staffing the social centres, schools, universities and hospitals set up by Hamas as an option to the ineffective and corrupt services offered by Fatah is something new for many Islamic purists :-

"In Palestinian society, our values do not accept women to go out and campaign in the street. It's really a new phenomenon, especially for Hamas."

One Fatah female member Reem Abu Athra, who directs women's affairs in the Fatah youth wing, rued the ignorance of "women" in her party :- "Fatah took women for granted, and this is one reason it lost,"

you'll have a cup of tea now I suppose?
Ah go on! you will.

long way to go to suburban motherhood.
long way to go to suburban motherhood.

author by redjadepublication date Mon Feb 06, 2006 17:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

'unfortuanately the obituary for Angela Dworkin was removed from the site together with its links and comments.'

Angela Dworkin might be alive - but Andrea Dworkin is dead.


author by Johnpublication date Mon Feb 06, 2006 18:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Which aspects of consumerist culture do you object to? Washing machines? Dishwashers? Electric irons? Vacuum cleaners? Toasters? Microwave ovens? Its easy to tell you're a man. I doubt if many women object to these. Its capitalist consumerist culture that has liberated women from spending all their time scrubbing, cleaning and cooking. If you knew any real women, you'd also know that women are far greater consumers than men. Most men would be happy to lie on the settee all weekend watching football on tv. Its women who drag them out shopping. Just wait until Ikea opens in Ballymun. I bet you 90 per cent of those queuing outside will be women.

author by Joan O'Neillpublication date Mon Feb 06, 2006 18:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Which aspects of consumerist culture do you object to? Washing machines? Dishwashers? Electric irons? Vacuum cleaners? Toasters? Microwave ovens? Its easy to tell you're a man. I doubt if many women object to these."

No, what we do object to is the fact that so many men avoid, or plain refuse, to do their share of necessary household chores. Particularly when all those devices you have listed are available.
I thought men were "into" gadgets.

author by R. Isiblepublication date Mon Feb 06, 2006 19:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Luckily Friedan's outspoken homophobia and wish to isolate "women's rights" from lesbianism was countered by the Gay Liberation Front

Related Link:
author by miscpublication date Mon Feb 06, 2006 21:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

But her contribution to occidental feminism is still important nonetheless, JFK was hardly a paradigm of gender politics, but his support of the comission in 1961 is still significant.

I hope the data I have left on Hamas and Women and their progressive stance on the inclusion of women in what is still seen as an extremist Islamist political tradition sinks in. & it was nice to see Dworkin's obit come back from the abyss.

As for John's defence of consumerism, I wonder to what extent he has ever considered the effect on the environment and global wellbeing of the invention and marketting of "disposable razor blades". I have sometimes argued in workshops on the subject, (which ye have to invite me to do in Ireland some day) that late Capitalism really began with "throwaway innovation".

and as a man on the hetrosexual end of the sexual orientation spectrum I have to admit, I think the Hamas cover girl is cute.
Just as cute as Lelia Khalid was in her day. You can see a photo of Lelia Khalid and learn a little about her, in the Sunday Papers "dark side of the moon" edition I wrote on July 3, 2005 Lelia's picture was published on 6/7/05. Hmmmmm. boys and metrosexuals alike can go that article too, and appreciate the beauty of the girl at the G8 protest who is in the other comment to that Sunday Papers.

Ah yes.
you'll be asking what's all about and what's going to happen next, once you've had your tea and cookies.

author by Johnpublication date Tue Feb 07, 2006 14:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Yes I have considered it. In fact, I think of little else. The effect on the environment and global well-being of the invention and marketing of "disposable razor blades". is that there are a lot more clean-shaven men around, which I'm sure most women are extremely happy about. If these had been around in the 1880s, perhaps Karl Marx would have shaved more often, found women fancied him a bit more and consequently spent more time on his social life and less time writing crap. Millions of lives would have been saved in the twentieth century as a result.

author by Pedantpublication date Tue Feb 07, 2006 18:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

.. the book referred to above as 'the feminist mystique' is actually the 'feminine mystique'.

author by old flamepublication date Tue Feb 07, 2006 20:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I had the pleasure today of bumping into an old girlfriend. & since she's muslim, and always was, and neither defines herself as a "good muslim girl" or a "bad muslim girl" I've asked her to do an interview on "Muslim women and kissing, sex, orgasms, and all of it". This interview will be broadcast on radio later this week and a transcript translation to english will be placed on the internet. For those of you with active imaginations the "all of it" bit of the interview will be about "Hamas, Hizbollah, Fatah, Turkish European ambitions, integration, & how you get being a modern woman past your mammy".

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