The Betty I knew

Germaine Greer in The Guardian:

Betty1 Betty Friedan “changed the course of human history almost single-handedly”. Her ex-husband, Carl Friedan, believes this; Betty believed it too. This belief was the key to a good deal of Betty’s behaviour; she would become breathless with outrage if she didn’t get the deference she thought she deserved. Though her behaviour was often tiresome, I figured that she had a point. Women don’t get the respect they deserve unless they are wielding male-shaped power; if they represent women they will be called “love” and expected to clear up after themselves. Betty wanted to change that for ever. She wanted women to be a force to be reckoned with, and yet she let Carl Friedan have all the income from The Feminine Mystique. Or so she told me, sotto voce, in 1971. Something to do with community property, I guess. She was not yet divorced from him then.

My difficulties with Betty begin with the fact that, as I see it, it’s the three million readers of The Feminine Mystique that made the book great. Morever, I disagreed with its basic premise. Betty’s Zeitgeist was not mine. She had seen the alternative roles that women had fulfilled perfectly adequately during the war years closed to them, so they were forced to return to Kinder, Küche, Kirche. She contributed three children to the baby boom. That was the era of the New Look when hemlines dropped and waists were cinched and breasts were pushed out. According to Betty, what happened was that women’s sexuality was emphasised at the expense of all their other talents and attributes. What Betty saw as sexuality, I saw as the denial and repression of female sexuality. The Female Eunuch was conceived in reaction to The Feminine Mystique.

More here.