Both Slate and Jezebel are running pieces today on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. The book was a grenade tossed in the cultural landscape and when it detonated, it left American families shattered, women of color sidelined and the millions of children without fathers.
Good work, Betty.
In all fairness to Noreen Malone, writing at Slate, she does acknowledge that “…work doesn’t automatically put you on the road to self-actualization (as Friedan implies it does), and the degree to which it contributes to it probably waxes and wanes at different points in a person’s life. What about women (or men!) who genuinely do find the bulk, or even part, of their creative fulfillment in more traditional homemaking tasks, or at least less corporate ones, and who derive their sense of mission from helping people—even if mostly the ones related to them?”
Work doesn’t automatically put you on the road to self-actualization. When you consider the “work” women actually do, that’s a giant NO SHIT SHERLOCK.
What exactly is so fulfilling about being a secretary? Still the number one occupational category for women.
Jezebel, in an uncharacteristic recognition of reality, has noted that women still don’t achieve very much, despite 50 years of college degrees and boisterous cheerleading telling them they can do everything men can do, backwards, in heels!
The idea that we may be on the wrong track, culturally, naturally never occurs to old Jezzie. Nope. If what we have isn’t working, well then, we must need MORE OF IT! Genius. In service to this idea, they have created a “reality check” for young women. I’ll give you the summary:
Teach girls to angrily blame others for their choices, emphasis on anger
Force them into STEM fields, against their curiously stubborn lack of interest in those fields
Teach them to be sluts and just call it “sexuality”
Teach them to be activists in supporting important causes like “slutwalks”
Teach them to put their own inflated sense of ability and worth at the center of their life narrative
Force them into creative fields (I thought we wanted STEM?)
Teach them a sense of entitlement to leadership
Teach them to choose only the choices preapproved by Feminist White Ladies™
Wow. Gee, I sure hope my daughters grow up to be feminists. Sounds like a world of happiness, right there.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the worst book every written for women, I’d like to offer my own “reality check” for girls and women.
Let’s start by teaching young women to calm the fuck down. There is no conspiracy/patriarchy designed to enslave you in the kitchen wearing nothing but an apron and Chanel No.5 (although that sounds like fun).
Feminism, by and large, has confused two separate ideas: patrilineage and aristocracy. Patrilineage is simply the custom of having children bear their father’s surname. When a family unit is formed, the family shares a single surname and in our culture, that surname belongs to the father. It says nothing about the personalities or the quality of the relationship between the two individuals who have formed the partnership.
It always makes me laugh to hear women say “I kept my own name”. Uhm. No you didn’t. You kept your FATHER’S name, or if you are the product of a single mother, you kept your GRANDFATHER’S name. That’s just how we roll. Our names come from our fathers. Get over it.
The word “patriarchy” is thrown around by feminists to describe this mythical place wherein all women were oppressed and exploited by all men, who had all the rights and privileges of both citizenship and sex.
Most MEN had no rights or privileges of any kind. They were just as oppressed and exploited as women. By whom?
By an aristocracy of both MEN AND WOMEN. Queens Victoria and Elizabeth are the longest reigning sovereigns in the written history of the world, and neither of them took any particular interest in the plight of the working class, unless forced to by the circumstances of history.
The last men in England, for example, did not win the franchise until 1885. One generation later, women secured to right to vote, too. Until then, almost all men and women were peasants slaving on lands owned by a ruling elite.
You want to hate something? Hate the crown. The rich (both men and women) are the ones who oppress and exploit, and confusing “rich” with “men” misdirects our anger and our strategies for redress.
Let’s teach young women that their interests and proclivities tend to be dramatically different than men’s and that’s okay. It’s okay to let men dominate in STEM fields, where they continue to discover and invent technologies and tools that astonish us and transform our world. Forcing women into these fields against their natural instincts or abilities is only going to slow that rate of discovery. Women who WANT to be there should be, just as men who WANT to be first grade teachers should be.
Let’s tell young women the truth about their sexuality, and their fertility. Most women will want to have children. That’s the instinct that keeps us alive as a species, and all the iPhones and Pinterest boards in the world isn’t going to change that. And most women will not only want to have children, they will want to BE WITH THEM. Women’s fertility peaks at 25 #sorry feminists. After 35, you are on a long, painful road to Clomid and IVF and after 40, the deal is pretty much done. You will not be having any children.
We need to teach young women to respect their fertility and to plan their lives around that. Biology. Always. Wins. Heading off to college and trying to launch a “career” (most likely as a secretary) during peak fertile years is a recipe for total disaster, as global birth rates in the feminized world demonstrate.
The best possible scenario to raise children is a nuclear family (two parents, gay or straight) splitting responsibilities and sharing labor. Since women FEED babies, that means that the domestic labor is hers, and productive, economic labor falls to her partner.
All of that strongly implies monogamy and fidelity. Teaching women that acting like sluts and having sex with a lot of different men outside the bonds of a loving relationship (whether that results in marriage or not) is somehow empowering and evidence for their strength and independence has had devastatingly predictable outcomes for young women: cutting, drug addictions, depression, eating disorders, suicide.
Feminism tells young women pernicious lies about their own desires: most women want loving, stable relationships with men they care about and feel deeply connected to, and they will want to have children and raise those children in the context of that sort of relationship. Young women need to be encouraged to make the kind of choices that will allow them to fulfil those desires.
Let’s teach young women that there is a difference between what you WANT to do, and what you are ABLE to do. This is toddler-ville, people! No, you can’t be anything you want. How does this even seem like a sensible thing to tell anyone?
True story: When LittleDude was three years old, he got a pair of Superman pajamas with a little cape and he was soooooo excited. He stripped down and could barely hold still while I helped him don his new suit, then he climbed up on the back of the couch and flung himself down on the hardwood floor! It was a nasty landing. Poor little guy. I picked him up, sobbing, and he said to me, “Mommy, these don’t work!”
He really, really, really wanted to fly. He could not have wanted it more.
Guess what? He can’t.
Teaching young women that they can be firefighters or astronauts or combat soldiers or the President or a unicorn trainer when they grow up is encouraging them to ignore what they are ABLE to do and just focus on what they WANT. Hey, for any women who are in fact, ABLE, every opportunity should be open (except combat soldier), but the fact is that most of them are not capable of taking on physically demanding jobs that require enormous strength of either body, will or mind.
When we teach young women to focus on their ability rather than their desire, we encourage them to take rational stock of themselves, and we counter the cultural pressures towards self-absorption and narcissism. Be who you are, to be certain, but know who you are and what you can do, first and foremost.
Let’s teach young women that there is nothing wrong with being First Officer. The USS Enterprise D has a crew complement of 1014 and only one of those people is the Captain. Most people, men and women, are not cut out for the Captain’s chair and that is just fine.
We can’t all be Captains, obviously. Teaching young women that they are not ambitious enough, that they will never be fulfilled, that their accomplishments amount to zero unless they are in the Captain’s chair does a huge disservice to all the many men and women who are happy to be crew members and gives permission for women to sneer at other women who are happy with their lower ranks.
It goes by the name “The Mommy Wars” in popular culture, and it is essentially a movement to devalue, discredit and shame women who would rather care for their own families than earn money caring for someone else’s. When the only measure of a woman’s value comes in the form of dollars earned, women who stay at home to care for their families have no value at all.
That’s nice, isn’t it? Feminism: making women feel like shit for 50 years.
And finally, let’s teach young women that they are not special. Young women need to know they are not better than men, they are not morally or ethically or legally superior to men, and we need to encourage them to start agitating for changes in the law and culture that will make those truths the reality. Let’s make young women activists? Oh hell yeah.
Insist on equal treatment before the draft board. Insist on equal custody agreements when marriages dissolve. Insist on the right to bodily integrity for both boy and girl babies. Insist on fair schooling that respects both boys and girls. Insist on equal health care and social spending. Insist on the right to raise your own children without shame.
It boils down to this:
How’s that for a reality check?
Lots of love,