Culture

Feminism: A Rich White Girl's Game

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Second wave feminism, popularized in the 1960’s, is a rich white girl’s game. Just ask Betty Friedan, or better yet, Wendy Davis.

PBS’s 1964 featured commentary on the then-nascent women’s movement that would become known as Second Wave Feminism. The segment contains clips of commercials advertising household products marketed to women to make their lives easier in the home juxtaposed by Feminine Mystique author Betty Friedan’s response to these technological innovations: Women were increasingly bored.

Clips from a Friedan interview (what a miserable looking hag) reveal a perspective fueled by stereotypical thinking. Describing “the problem that has no name” she explains, “it’s not being anybody in themselves, really…” detailing that these women lack role models; even the women on TV are nothing more than “mindless little drudge[s]…whose greatest thrill is to get that kitchen sink pure white…”. Embracing Freudian psychology, Friedan dismissed the roles of wife and mother as useless, even detrimental in light of the now-disputed Alfred Kinsey’s quack theory that “parasitical mother-love” made men gay.

The stereotypes upon which Friedan based her claim revels in the kind of ignorance common among upper middle class white women who could afford to be bored at home. Women composed over 1/3 of the workforce in 1960; contrary to Friedan’s audience, 19 million women were active in the labor force in 1964. When commenting on why black women by and large never read Friedan’s book, Michelle Bernard observed that most black women “…believed that Friedan’s  work spoke only to a privileged class of white women who had nothing better to do than whine about how difficult life was as a stay at home mother.”

It becomes obvious reading The Feminine Mystique that Friedan never intended to market to an audience of working women who would’ve appreciated the technological innovations entering the home. Friedan loaded her book with (now disputed) academic citations that would only have been recognizable by her fellow Smith College graduates and their educated, upper-class compatriots. This nomeklatura-style intellectualism comes as no surprise when Friedan’s communist past and Marxist agenda is taken into account:

“…under her maiden name, Betty Goldstein, she was a political activist and professional propagandist for the Communist left for a quarter of a century before the publication of “The Feminist Mystique” launched the modern women’s movement.

…Friedan was from her college days, and until her mid-30s, a Stalinist Marxist, the political intimate of the 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 in Berkeley’s radiation lab with J. Robert Oppenheimer. Her famous description of America’s suburban family household as “a comfortable concentration camp” in “The Feminine Mystique” therefore had more to do with her Marxist hatred for America than with any of her actual experience as a housewife or mother. (Her husband, Carl, also a leftist, once complained that his wife “was in the world during the whole marriage,” had a full-time maid and “seldom was a wife and a mother”).”

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That isn’t to say you need to be born rich in order to be a feminist; you simply need to find someone to pay your way into the upper echelon. PJ Tatler’s Bryan Preston covered a story published in the Dallas Morning News detailing the sordid past of Texas Democrat Wendy Davis. The gubernatorial candidate’s trailer park, single teen mom’s background story made for good press until it was disavowed in the Sunday expose. Despite her humble beginnings, Davis managed to get an Ivy League education, dumping her husband after he’d paid her final tuition bill for Harvard Law.

The story of Texas Democrat Wendy Davis rings eerily similar to Friedan’s. Like Davis, Friedan had no problem lying about her past in order to cultivate and sell her public image. Just as Davis tailored her “average woman” history as a trailer-dwelling divorced mother, Friedan carefully edited her back story to eliminate any questionable chapters:

“Friedan suggested that she was not some academic authority writing from afar about the conditions that made women unhappy. No, she suggested, she had been as passive as any of her readers: her authority to speak had nothing to do with her graduate work in psychology; it came instead from her decision to lead a life typical of suburban middle-class women of her generation.”

Also much like Friedan, Davis dropped her children into the lap of their father in order to pursue her political goals:

“For Davis, who rocketed to national fame on the back of a filibuster she mounted to defend late-term abortion, leaving her children behind while she pursued her career would become a theme. She left them behind again after the divorce, and was ordered to pay Mr. Davis child support. She said at the time that “it was not a good time” for her to raise her children. Davis’ daughter asked the court to grant Mr. Davis conservatorship of her.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that Wendy Davis cultivated such a huge following despite her short tenure in the Texas senate; she followed the Friedan plan for public success. Then again, with the distractions of husband and children out of the way, if she didn’t have politics Wendy would probably be rather, well, bored.