Betty Friedan passed away yesterday at the age of 85, on her birthday. I just came home from two hours with my best girlfriend, toasting Betty with a couple of martinis and talking about the state of the world and the state of womanhood.
The Feminine Mystique was first published in hardback in 1963. It made not much of an impact. The next year it came out in paperback and became a million seller as women around the country caught on and said yeah, I don't have to feel weird because cooking, cleaning, changing diapers and driving the kids around the town doesn't really do it for me. I am a woman, yes I am, but I have a mind and I have abilities that go beyond this.
In 1964, I was starting my senior year in highschool. I was learning to play guitar and singing songs by Joan Baez, Judy Collins and Bob Dylan. I was planning to get as far away from home as possible when I went to college. I was trying to decide how far to let my boyfriend go which was not as far as I wanted to go, but you know, a girl from a good Christian middle-class family just cannot get pregnant in her senior year of highschool. So you see, I was pretty hip, I was pretty with it, but man, I had no idea what I was in for.
It wasn't until about 1972, when I was the mother of one boy and about to be the mother of another; when I was the macrobiotic cooking teacher of my town; when my husband was the natural foods king of the town but if I didn't make sure the bills got paid they didn't get paid; when I was expected to be at home cooking and taking care of those babies no matter what he was up to; when I had agreed to stop performing my music because he didn't want me up there on stage where other men could look at me; etc. That is when I needed Betty Friedan.
But she was there for me along with all those other great feminists. And even when they all started fighting amongst themselves, like strong, powerful people who start movements always do, still they gave us courage. So we formed our women's groups and we met and we discussed and we got it all off our chests and we supported each other and we moved into freedom. We made lots of mistakes. We were mean to our men. We went through stages of irresponsibility. We created havoc in our kids' lives. But we got free. We stopped being doormats and servants and we got a voice and we spoke our minds.
And some of the men got wise to what was going on, because they were into love and self-actualization and we all wanted to be happy and raise strong children and we wanted peace in the world. What I learned today, reading some of the articles about Betty Friedan, is that she was into the same thing. You can't have a strong, peaceful, lasting civilization when some groups of people are on top and others are on the bottom. But that idea will always be attacked. The ones on the top don't want anything to threaten their power and some of the ones on the bottom are scared to rise up. So it is not all worked out yet. There is a legacy from Betty which we must carry on. And we must teach our daughters and daughters-in-law and granddaughters the lessons learned, so they do not forget and lose ground. And we must teach our sons and sons-in-law and grandsons the lessons, so they do not forget.