Betty Friedan, a founder and giant of the U.S. “Feminist” movement, dead at 85

Betty Friedan has died at 85 of congestive heart failure. (If the linked four-page ABC News obituary won’t proceed page-by-page, click on “next” instead of the page number.)

Probably there’s not a Turnabout regular who couldn’t write a twenty-page comment on this woman’s career and significance so I won’t try to put in my “two cents” here. I’ll simply say that something which struck me about the linked ABC News obit was its complete omission of David Horowitz’s now-famous claim that, far from turning to feminism “out of the blue” in the 60s as a result of boredom in the traditional housewife role, Friedan had in fact been a professional journalist of the communist left for the previous quarter-century, was a known prominent Stalinist at Smith College, and was never in her life an ordinary housewife (her own ex said, after their divorce in the late 60s after twenty-two years of marriage, if memory serves, that she had never done housework, cooked, tended the toddlers, or otherwise played the trad housewife role during their entire marriage but had always had hired help come in and do all the domestic chores of a homemaker while she remained free to pursue her freelance writing career and other professional undertakings).

When Horowitz debunked her carefully-cultivated “originally an ordinary housewife” image it was big news, as I recall—at least it was on the internet starting around five or six years ago when I first learned it. How come ABC News in this obit has mentioned not a word of her life as a very active professional communist agitator prior to publication of “The Feminine Mystique” in 1963?

David Horowitz has said, “Her whole life is a lie.” (It looks as if at ABC News they’re still lying …)

7 thoughts on “Betty Friedan, a founder and giant of the U.S. “Feminist” movement, dead at 85”

  1. What “ABC News” … (ahem …) left out … of the obit …
    Because ABC News in its obituary of her didn’t see fit to include certain details of Betty Friedan’s personal and professional life prior to publication of her book, “The Feminine Mystique,” and her engagement in the “Feminist” movement, I’ll post an excerpt from a piece by David Horowitz from six years ago:

    “Betty Friedan presented herself in ‘The Feminine Mystique’—the 1963 book that launched modern feminism—as a suburban housewife who had never given a thought to ‘the woman question’ until she attended a Smith College reunion which revealed the dissatisfaction of her well-educated female classmates, unable to balance traditional roles with modern careers.

    “But, as Smith College professor Daniel Horowitz (no relation) revealed in his book, ‘Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminist Mystique,’ Betty was not very candid about the facts of her own life and the sources of her radical perspective. She was hardly a suburban housewife when she wrote those words, but a twenty-five year veteran of professional journalism in the Communist Left, where she had been thoroughly indoctrinated in the politics of ‘the woman question’ and specifically the idea that women were ‘oppressed.’

    “As [Prof. Daniel] Horowitz’s biography makes clear, Friedan, from her college days and until her mid-thirties, was a Stalinist marxist (or a camp follower thereof), the political intimate of leaders of America’s Cold War fifth column, and for a time even the lover of a young communist physicist working on atomic bomb projects with J. Robert Oppenheimer.

    “Not at all a neophyte when it came to the ‘woman question’ (the phrase itself is a marxist construction), she was certainly familiar with the writings of Engels, Lenin, and Stalin on the subject and had written about it herself as a journalist for the official publication of the communist-controlled United Electrical Workers union. [Emphasis added.]

    “Friedan’s secret was shared by hundreds of her comrades on the Left – though not, of course, by the unsuspecting American public – who went along with her charade presumably as a way to support her political agenda.

    “The actual facts of Friedan’s life—that she was a professional marxist ideologue, that her husband supported her full-time writing and research, that she had a maid and lived in a Hudson river mansion, attending very little to household duties—were inconvenient to the persona and the theory she was determined to promote.”

    Long live free Flanders!

    • The New York Times obit has the same lacune as ABC News
      The New York Times obit also doesn’t mention the completely credible scholarship about her communist past or about the central ideas of “The Feminine Mystique” representing long-standing, long-held Marxist tenets, not notions she dreamt up suddenly in the late fifties or early sixties as a result of being bored by the suburban lifestyle because it included raising kids and doing some laundry and housework—as if, by the way, anyone, be it a woman or a man, who lives alone and celibate with no family responsibilities doesn’t have to do laundry and housework—or hire someone to do it (which was what Friedan always did anyway, according to her ex). What was served up in her ideas about women and domesticity was the Marxist party line, already decades old by the time she rehashed it for us in book form as “The Feminine Mystique.”

      This NYT obit can be criticised in almost every paragraph. Here are a few instances chosen almost at random:

      The obit tells how “A Nebraska housewife with a Ph.D. in anthropology whom Ms. Friedan interviewed told her: ‘A film made of any typical morning in my house would look like an old Marx Brothers comedy. I wash the dishes, rush the older children off to school, dash out in the yard to cultivate the chrysanthemums, run back in to make a phone call about a committee meeting, help the youngest child build a blockhouse, spend fifteen minutes skimming the newspapers so I can be well-informed, then scamper down to the washing machines where my thrice-weekly laundry includes enough clothes to keep a primitive village going for an entire year. By noon I’m ready for a padded cell. Very little of what I’ve done has been really necessary or important. Outside pressures lash me though the day. Yet I look upon myself as one of the more relaxed housewives in the neighborhood.’ “

      Well, you don’t say! You have to do all those hectic things in the course of a day, hunny? You know what that’s called? It’s called LIFE, sweetheart! We all have to deal with it—maybe it’s time you started. There’s one word for what this anthropology Ph.D. is doing in that excerpt, and that’s “whining,” pure and simple. We all could do it but around age six or seven we grew out of that infantile whiny stage into a level slightly more mature, less conducive to whining. Women like this never grew out of that stage. This woman is whining about life and its responsibilites, that’s all she’s doing—as if any of us can escape those. She comes across not as an adult but a shallow, whiny, uncaring, selfish, perenially-dissatisfied adolescent. When these sorts of unpleasant female malcontents raise kids they’re dissatisfied and whine about how they didn’t have careers, and when they have careers they’re dissatisfied and whine about how they didn’t have kids. What they need most is not indulgence or pampering but a glass of cold water thrown in their faces exactly as used to happen to their sort in those wise old 1930s movies.

      Or, how about this: “The life [Mrs. Friedan] led, if educators, psychologists and the mass media were to be believed, was the fulfillment of every woman’s most ardent dream. Yet she was unaccountably tired, impatient with the children, craving something that neither marital sex nor extramarital affairs could satisfy. Her thoughts sometimes turned to suicide. She consulted a spate of doctors and psychiatrists, who prescribed charity work, bowling and bridge. If those failed, there were always tranquilizers to get her through her busy day.”

      Welcome to real life, Betty. By the way, about that line, “craving something neither marital sex nor extramarital affairs could satisfy”: what in the world is that supposed to mean??? I think the reporter who wrote this obituary is as weird as Mrs. Friedan.

      Or this: “‘The Feminine Mystique’ began as a survey Ms. Friedan conducted in 1957 for the 15th reunion of her graduating class at Smith.”

      No it didn’t. It began when she became a communist and party-line Stalinist at least a decade-and-a-half earlier.

      That’s when and where “The Feminine Mystique” began … but you won’t see that fact in the obituaries, apparently (certainly not in this New York Times posthumous puff piece, at any rate …).

      Long live free Flanders!

      • Mendacity
        As I understand it, within Marxist circles mendacity is a virtue if it promotes the party line; within Marxism morality is wholly nihilistic as a matter of principle.

        But, as you point out, is it necessary for observers to cooperate in that mendacity?

        • These journalists and editors are political comrades of hers
          “is it necessary for observers to cooperate in that mendacity?” (—MD, 8:18am)

          They cooperated in the mendacity during her life in order to support her agenda and now they’re cooperating in it in her death, for the same reason: to support her agenda. (Of course, this sort of mendacity-by-omission comes as no surprise in the case of the NYT or ABC News).

          As David Horowitz wrote in the article I linked in my comment above,

          “Friedan’s secret was shared by hundreds of her comrades on the Left – though not, of course, by the unsuspecting American public – who went along with her charade presumably as a way to support her political agenda.”

          The New York Times and the others doing this can certainly be counted among her “comrades on the Left,” no? Yes, they certainly can and that explains it. I predict we’ll soon see more objective, more complete accounts of her career in publications that aren’t committed to advancing what really is the Marxist agenda.

          Long live free Flanders!

  2. Has “Feminism” peaked?
    Australian tradcon Mark Richardson wonders if there aren’t signs women are wearying of femininsm:

    “Some years ago I was browsing through a pile of American magazines from the late 1940s in a second hand bookshop. The most interesting article I found was written by a female columnist (the magazine was from around 1946 or 1947). She argued that women had had enough of the hardships brought about by feminism (loneliness, childlessness etc) and that it would be a relief to return to more traditional values. Which is what women did in the 1950s […]. I wonder if we are now poised on the brink of another feminist down phase. There seems to be a similar weariness amongst women – an unwillingness to continue shouldering the burden of overwork and poor family outcomes which are associated with modern feminism. […]. Here is Amanda Platell explaining that despite her glamorous career and lifestyle she wishes to question the feminist legacy: [continue]

    And here, Steve Sailer blogs on the occasion of Betty Friedan’s passing with an entry that begins with an abrupt display of his often dazzling genius for sensing people’s real motivations underneath all the outward role-playing, rationalizations, pretending, and hype:

    “Betty Friedan, RIP, was a long-time Stalinist fellow-traveler who got bored with supporting the Soviet Union in the late 1950s and discovered a more fun way to indulge her inner diva by transforming herself into a celebrity feminist.”

    In Steve’s entry are a couple of personal reminiscences of Mrs. Friedan by prominent feminist Germaine Greer, little vignettes which if anything support Steve’s above assessment of part of the former’s true underlying motivations. See also the David Horowitz Salon piece on Friedan linked by Sailer in the excerpt above, at “Stalinist fellow-traveler,” in which he discusses the revealing facts of her Marxist past which her friends and allies endeavored during her life to cover up and which those friends and allies, now her necrologists, still endeavor to conceal—concealment revealing in itself as regards the meaning of her involvement in “Feminism,” fundamentally a Marxist movement.

    Long live free Flanders!

    • There are some encouraging
      There are some encouraging signs; just as Mr. Kalb found an interesting essay a year and a half ago by forty-something Naomi Wolf, reconsidering pornography and its effects, now young thirty-something women like Ariel Levy and Jillian Straus are beginning to question the status quo, particular as regards relationships, sexual intimacy, and female fulfillment. (Yes, they feel the need to offer a disclaimer, along the lines of, “I’m not a puritan, and here’s proof” and proceed to give examples of how modern and “with-it” they are, but then continue along the lines of, “but we’ve gone way too far the other way.” Which is only a partial understanding, but as Mr. Kalb commented vis-a-vis Ms. Wolf, it’s a start.)

      Meanwhile, the older generation of feminists keep extolling the virtues of being “cougars” or “seasoned women“, i.e. older, 50/60-something slutty women with 20/30-something “boy-toys”.

      Seems to me, though, that they’re having little influence on the next generation, which is encouraging.

      • “Cougar women”? Sounds like a bunch of Norma Desmonds.
        “Meanwhile, the older generation of feminists keep extolling the virtues of being ‘cougars’ or ‘seasoned women,’ i.e. older, 50/60-something slutty women with 20/30-something ‘boy-toys.’ “ (—Will)

        Right, wasn’t the definitive work on the “virtues of being cougars” the oft-shown Hollywood film “Sunset Boulevard,” about fictional movie star Norma Desmond who can no longer land a certain kind of film role (being … ahem … decades past her prime …) trying to make a much younger man stay with her, sleep with her, “love” her, by giving him with money and gifts?

        What these “cougar” relationships amount to is lonely women “of a certain age” (as they say in France to be polite) paying what are the equivalent of gigolos to stay with them in order not to be left alone and staring their own solitude in the face.

        WOW, what a FANTASTIC future for women: paid gigolos, kept boy-toys must be every woman’s dream! Young women must be chomping at the bit in anticipation! (especially when the boy-toys secretly manage to keep their young girlfriends on the side …)! Can’t imagine a future for women more ideal than that!

        “[…T]hey’re having little influence on the next generation, which is encouraging.” (—Will)

        Gee, I can’t imagine why all the younger women aren’t salivating over the prospect of that sort of future for themselves!

        Long live free Flanders!

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