Accessibility links

Friedan Unleashed a Revolution


A couple of weeks ago, a perky woman newscaster on a U.S. cable television network reported that Betty Friedan, the founding lioness of the feminist movement of the 1970s, had died. But the newsreader badly mispronounced Friedan's name.

As a woman wrote later in an online chatroom, It is clear she had never heard the name Betty Friedan in her life. She probably thinks women have always been news anchors. How sad that she did not recognize the name of the woman who was instrumental in so many things our young newsreader takes for granted.

Lots of people who have heard of Betty Friedan misstate her place in history. She was not a man-hater, not a bra-burner, not a sexual confrontationist, touting the birth-control pill. A suburbanite, wife and mother, she would be forced out of the National Organization for Women, which she co-founded, for being too conservative.

Friedan didn't care for the growing lesbian influence in the feminist movement. And those who got a dose of her caustic tongue, abusive treatment of subordinates, and long-winded speeches didn't stay close for long.

But no one could deny the life-changing influence of her 1963 book The Feminine Mystique, which exposed what she called the problem that has no name. That problem was the hidden discontent of many American women. Friedan challenged the prevailing notion that women could find fulfillment through their husbands and children alone.

"We discovered we saved 11 hours a week NOT doing our makeup and hair," Martha Rosenberg wrote in a recent tribute to Friedan in an Evanston, Illinois, newspaper. They were hours that American women would use to excel in college and business, even as well-paid television news anchors. And it was Betty Friedan who lit the spark.

XS
SM
MD
LG