Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Naomi Wolf says "don't blame Betty Friedan"

But reading Friedan would not encourage those budding feminists in India to abandon their deepest personal and familial attachments, and that was certainly not the message that most American women who read The Feminine Mystique at the time of its publication took away from the book. Women who changed their lives in response to Friedan's book disproportionately went into the helping professions. They became teachers. They founded women's centers, domestic-violence shelters, programs for displaced homemakers. They embarked on projects designed to help people.....

Mid-sixties women did not use Friedan's message as an excuse to abandon their children, husband's and homes. Instead they found a way to demand more freedom to decide on how many children they would have and whether they could work outside the home, or get more education....what really changed the culture was the availability of reliable birth control and colleges that offered courses in Women's Studies. Though I had six children at home I volunteered in helping to bring a Head Start program to my home town...with other women from my Lutheran Church Women's Society. We tended to use our existing resources to affect positive change. It was the young college students who were radicalized by the movement, but Betty Friedan was not responsible for this process, even though she was a target of the John Birch Society whose members then, as now, wanted to preserve the status quo. The Vietnam War and the opposition to it by college students, mostly due to the threat of being drafted if their GPA sank too low, was the major reason for this opposition. Though there often is a new idea that triggers radical change expressed in the press, it is actually historic events that precipitated the idea.

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