Woman; 114; Betty Friedan
With an in-depth exploration of the world of women today with San Bruno. Good evening and welcome to woman.
We have a very special guest this evening.
She's probably more responsible than anyone else for the current women's movement in the United States.
My guest is Betty for Dan Bedi wrote The Feminine Mystique and founded the National Organization for Women. And that was only the beginning.
She continues to be in the vanguard of the women's fight for equality.
Welcome to women.
Good to be here. Betty can you describe what you were like just before you wrote The Feminine Mystique. Well I had to give some thought to that recently because of. Norton has just published the tenth anniversary edition of The Feminine Mystique and it was just a little over 10 years ago.
There was no women's movement of course and we had no word for sex discrimination in each one of us felt that she was terribly alone. And I wrote in the new epilogue in the prologue to the feminine mystique the anniversary edition.
So I wrote I remembered what it was like then I had I was then living in suburbia in Rockland County New York. I had three children.
I was occasionally freelancing for the women's magazines.
Within that complete framework of what I later called The Feminine Mystique you know just that women were supposed to live solely in terms of their home and their relationship ties but in children in so many of the things that now we are even the problems the.
Equality opportunity all the rest of it we have no words for that then it was that was all supposed to be erotic and way behind us and we were just in terms of feminine fulfillment.
And if people were working outside the home I mean they were sort of made to feel guilty no matter how much the money was needed and then they had to rush home or do other housework as they were being so unfeminine to work in the first place and you know heaven forbid that the husband should share the housework or the children should take the bus to the Little League game and I was presenting basically you know. But I would hide that from my suburban neighbors as if it were a secret drinking or something like that I mean I would sort of push the notes away and you know as I was getting to the final throes of my book if someone came over for coffee in the morning and I was really in the middle of something. I mean it was increasingly hard to hide. But it was and I remember Dein each chapter that I finished in my crazy and you know all of that and up to was say women are people women are human beings we're entitled the same rights Aborigines are human beings. What has it done to us why have we kept from facing this fact why have we not use the opportunities and not even seen the problems. Soon after the book came out 10 years ago it was like so many women who said it to me and I felt it myself. It was such a relief discover that we were not alone that we were not freaks that we were not meeting with an individual freakish psychological situation since I'm not a confessor expiate you know I just. But how did your friends react.
Your close friend.
Did you show people the manuscript before it was published and get my hands on it. You know I was a little leery about that I didn't and the editor of the publishing company started early.
I remember showing one suburban neighbor just a little piece of it.
She got so upset to know the answer came back to get it when she said you know it's like you're living among the starving Indians or something like I mean she was one of the starving Indians herself and she was upset and I for some reason something in me not consciously maybe but I knew that this was probably the most important thing I'd ever done were writing a book.
I've not ever written a book before I had been writing you know articles or earlier than that newspaper stuff.
But I mean I knew it was important and I wasn't going to let anybody mess with it.
You know and I just.
But if I had it I couldn't possibly have imagined 10 years ago what would have happened in less than 10 years the worldwide scale of this movement and how much we have changed the conscience of women the kind of the minute it began to change the institutions that have kept women from being so people and it is fantastic and I do believe that wow a lot of these children is amid a lot of it is not done and we may backslide from part of it that I really fully agree that my daughter and her generation by the time they reach adulthood they were have so many of these problems and kind of the same they have new ones that I think you cannot turn back its enormous tide. How soon after you published the book did now begin to happen. Well we started now in in 1966 so there was about a three year period in which. You see first you could only see all this in individual terms. And then he was very quick to see that it was more than consciousness and more that individual that it wasn't enough to say yes I am a person first you know I am not just like George's brother. My husband's wife I am a person first and I have been entitled to anything that any other American person or you know human being is a doddle too.
Because you then could see problems that you couldn't see before as long as you were brainwashed by the feminine mystique.
You could see that the society was structured against you that there was a lot of discrimination that kept you as operating as a person in society in the every field and profession was structured as a man's world. And the same time the home was too much structured as a woman's world and you were kind of between you and I have to change the world change society.
You couldn't do that alone.
No we have been isolated Up until then we have been isolated by the feminine mystique and we have been isolated individual suburban houses and I started city apartments or if we worked outside the home we'd still been isolated big because of our guilt sin our timidity and our self denigration and lack of ability to work with and affirm other women. But once we moved through the feminine mystique it became clear that you couldn't just solve this individual that you needed to move in then the civil rights movement the civil rights march the civil rights legislation of 1964 and begetting sex discrimination outlawed employment in Title 7 along with race discrimination and you have this sense that the government was not going to enforce this law that they were treating it as a joke that even the administrators of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission were treating the sex part as a joke and then people coming to me and saying we need you and you have the freedom to do it in. It was like a whole underground that I was going to be aware of of women in trade unions and women in the government women in the media and they came to you. Yes and and then as I was also doing research for my so-called second book which never got written because I started a movement instead about new patterns beyond the feminine mystique but I couldn't find in the United States new patterns.
All I could find was women with problems but no new patterns because society was structured against him. We all remember I was a third of the way through this second book and I said all it is so far is just talk because there was lots and lots of talk.
I mean there were panel discussions and more books and the president's commission on the status of women the state commissions cities were in they would make reports reports would be put away in government office drawers and nothing was happening and you and I had this discouraged he was already drowned in a wave of talk to the world about the problems and if there were real women. No you know they didn't want to go back they were it was painful but they were facing a whole new possibilities of life. But something had to happen to change the society in so I remember writing this happens of course talk all this happened is a change of consciousness.
But the first step of a revolution such as this is consciousness and the next step was to organize a movement to change society. And I guess what I did was put down.
The second book and I have to start the movement that became now in 1966. And in the seven years since then the movement is become worldwide.
It now has the identification of women now is of course the largest organization.
The only one with a national structure is the movement but now itself is merely the Who are you know the core perhaps of the mainstream of it being the 500 chapters in different cities and suburbs I think you have to in here in Buffalo and you know in every large city small in in the south west in the Northeast you never imagine did just that and it is where everybody is doing things. Everywhere there the agenda we mapped out roughly in 1996 just a handful of years. And now they're doing it on a world scale and now it seems to me that we reach a new stage again where there is this necessity. To take absolute responsibility you know for the power that we have or you have and do use it and you use it to move through the door we've opened for women generally to keep that door open in a period of economic turmoil so that it doesn't slam in our faces. Who are the wise it's just tokenism and a few women who will be in with the lead. The rest will be left you know behind.
And then also to see the larger implications of what we've been doing for men for children for the society as a whole and not just sort of the easy traps of the rhetoric you know.
I mean a male chauvinist pig and and you know in the Down With that sort of thing because that's not where it's at.
So you don't feel that sexual politics really has a place in the current women's movement.
Well it's there is certainly a note of that.
I think the note of that on the extreme fringe is basically at this point not too productive.
I think that that are our sexuality is a very basic part of us that has been very. Subverted distorted made unnecessary misery for women and men and a dehumanized sexuality for women and men by the very sex roles of farce absolute sex roles the mask the mystique and the feminine mystique that we've lived through and in the the exploitation of the frustrated energies and out of sexual energy itself by the profiteers by the neo establishment by large business by the mass media in trying to end the sexual set and then trying to make a product of sex and the dehumanizing of the Playboy bunny or that even you know the devices the vibrator and so on. And then the hostility that breeds in people women and men when they have to live in Mass.
And when their basic human and sexual need for intimacy and love is violated in this frustrated. But I wouldn't I hate to see the extreme fringe of the women's movement fall into that trap and then simply add to the dehumanization by an anti sexual rhetoric by a repudiation of human sexuality.
Or by a distortion of what our real politics have to be about. That is our real power to change society and to make it possible for women to develop to their full abilities and use them in society in every field and profession at the same time not sacrifice the human needs that women have as well as men for home for family for love for sexual satisfaction even to have children that we want to have a free choice whether or not to have them to build a new kind of home. And if you feel that happening though is that a real danger as well. No I think that that what is emerging is likely that the mainstream of the movement is as I say that women who do want equality who do want their full personhood in their decision making voice in politics and in the church in employment in profession but they also walk home as they would husbands or lovers they want children or not children but they will but say they want a good rich full life you know and that thats human and the rhetoric of the extreme fringe the hate rhetoric the antisexual rhetoric that is the radical Shiek rhetoric that is basically a note that will die out because it is a thing that does not speak to the needs of most women and it alienates more and more women.
We believe in one equality and therefore person it alienates our So.
More and more men who otherwise can identify with the movement and it is simply not where it's at now I don't in any means deny the right of people who voice this kind of basically alike sex class warfare you know it. It's a kind of a female chauvinism. I don't deny the right to say even if I disagree with it and in fact perhaps very good they exist in the extreme fringes of the movement because you know they do their thing and then it leaves the majority of women and Jew work.
I hope increasingly with men though sometimes we have to fight men too.
What about men's liberation liberties are I think that's the next thing and I think that's going to happen. I mean I think that that men more and more being young ones you know ones that aren't so you really do there see their stake in what women have been doing in the women's movement there was a ration we would implies men's liberation to from the vast and Misty from the burdens of the guilt to the torments.
Not only of of woman's nonlife and frustration which she takes out. Inevitably I manage children but of their own necessary feelings of inadequacy.
If they can't live up to a definition of masculinity that make must make most men feel inadequate and defeated even before they begin and makes them drive then a heavy heart attacks and dying of it 30 aided you know their 40s and so I mean that's that's right and that's linkage with this obsolete mask and mystique you know that and the torment built into the family with opposite sex roles we've both been living which somehow makes us very vulnerable to the I don't know that it's a conscious conspiracy but to the forces that somehow profit by keeping us moving on this rat race that you can never win and. Always frustrated. Always lovely always isolated always feeling this condition of impotent rage which I think has been the condition to many a man as well as women. We live in has been not to difficult to make each other scapegoats for that and yet you know we are indissoluble together women in bed and the next stage of the women's movement is word that will not beat women against men but with good and bad together the sex role revolution obviously basket and feminine mistakes and the institutions to restructure not about us but you restructure the family though the church and all the institutions the structure of the practice of medicine and law and all the rest that have been built around these obsolete sex rows. Let's backtrack a second to when you first wrote the book and your own marriage dissolved at that point. Well not at that point it took. It was easier for me to write this I had to seek it even to start the words will be there to do that much more painful thing of making very crucial steps in my own personal life and I think incidentally that for all women we must realize that for all women I mean what is really threatening about the women's movement is not to men but to women. It requires courage on our part to move from a pattern that is a painful as it may have been it seems safe seems secure in to risk ourselves in new ways and to to take risks to make decisions to go on around and I'm not saying at all though it was necessary for me to end a marriage that should have been in the law but I didn't have the guts to do it.
I don't think that to walk out of a marriage is the answer for every woman. In fact I think that that is sometimes too easy to make the marriage of the husband the scapegoat that when we come to grips with what we really want in life beyond marriage and we begin to do something about it.
We get more confidence in ourselves and get less angry because we're doing things that maybe the marriage can be sort of put on a better basis and that the man even if the man is initially threatened. By a woman really moving into her own identity and stop manipulating unmasking and Heidi then he can get over that because he can see great benefits. That's not true for all of us some of us were holding on to very bad marriages because we were afraid to go it alone and that was my kids.
How do you feel about consciousness raising as a tool. Well I have a quote and I'm not sure it's accurate.
Did you once say that consciousness raising is like looking into your own navel a little bit I think that everything we do is geared First of all to changing our own consciousness and that of others and then which is the first step you know requisite to changing society.
But what does change your consciousness you see.
I mean I think that everything we did in the movement that has changed society has been a thousand percent more conscious reason to the people who did it that Eddie a matter of hours moaning and groaning around the living room. In effect it may be a great relief at first to realize that you know you're not alone. Did your sisters have the same grief the same misery the same problems that is a relief. I guess I did that in writing my book and many of us in the beginning did that in other ways but I think what I noticed is if the conscious raising groups stay that way they can just mutually egg each other on in a rhetoric that doesn't really give them more confidence that doesn't really change their consciousness. Their ability to act and move in different ways and they can somehow keep them well away either self pity or in an empty rhetoric rather than to move. When we take it action to change society whether it was the gaining the right to control our own bodies in our reproductive process and to decide when and whether to have children and the right to medical help at abortion as we did in New York State and in the Supreme Court decision or whether it's breaking through sex discrimination to refuse to serve women where restaurants where you know business like should place or do. We did serve women at night unless they were escorted by a man which assumed that I were prostitutes or whether we take on the question of discrimination against women in credit. When we do something and when we effect a change and when we discover that we have the ability to hold a press conference to take on a legislator to change a piece of legislation to amass a difficult complex a body of legislative material you learned you can do a television program whatever it is. We become different too you see we what more than our consciences change our whole behavior possibility our total person who is one step forward in the development of our potential.
So you only think it's effective.
It becomes an effective political tool and well but I use political in the largest sense not the narrow partisan politics since there's a lot of that. Yes what we've been doing in the women's movement is in many sense more truly political for this era then that anything that Republican Party the Democratic Party or the left wing communist or Maoists. All these rhetorical sights that are they are basically dealing with political rubrics terms slogans that are either completely cynical and you know as friends as we're learning in Watergate and are just devoid of concern for people or express their concern in such outmoded ways. They are no longer applicable for the present at least dealing with the real lives of women as we have done in the women's movement. We have been genuinely political in the sense of changing society and using the power of people to change society.
But it's a little bit like when you look back to the origins of this of the black civil rights movement the young black people the women in the South who refused to ride any longer in the back of the bus the young people that refused to be.
You know they sat down to lunch counters and they insist they're being served you know like I mean you would be nice.
They don't really open those lunch counters and ended that stigma. That said the plots were less than four you would be nice but they changed themselves. They changed themselves. They became more confident. They went one step further to their own full person and they got rid of a lot of that self-denigration that was taking it into themselves the put down by society.
Women have been doing this this last 10 years and they have been doing it.
I think most constructively and most productively by the actions that have been change their own lives and by which they have united together in organizations like to change society and that these are the important things the real actions that have really changed society and the real risks they have taken in their personal lives and in the public lives the rhetoric is very in consequential if not destructive. The conscious raising groups in so far as they just wallow in the rhetoric are in the end not completely productive although they can be a step if they lead to further const constructor action. The exhibitionism and the kind of extreme rhetoric that the media picks on has been counterproductive really just any improvement in the way the media has treated the women's movement I know you are. You constantly complain about that but it's it's much improvement. This program is an improvement I would say the fact that there is this program.
There should be many more like it in Boston. Recently the major television station gave a whole day to a program for women and I while I don't think they did it so well and they did there were certain to have to rip off and not really that you know we would still know the fantastic response made them see what is important. Yes it was. I think that there is the importance of the arc. Class action suits in all three networks. They are not using enough within four producers four directors. There are not enough women in serious news commentary it shouldn't be just talking about women. I mean Pauline Frederick says retired Where is our female Cronkite.
You know we've got to have we're getting all these roles not just about women but women responding commenting on it and doing active roles in every aspect of television. But we're getting there we're moving there.
I would like to spend the last couple minutes we have talking about priorities your priorities the priorities of now.
Well I think my priority and I hope the priority of doubt will get is to Reidy.
Move responsibly understanding the power we have and move it to confront the very real problems that that still exist for our women and it can be exacerbated with this economic situation where for instance that we are in a situation where with the energy crisis real or not real you know in the economic turmoil could be used as an excuse to take attention away from the movement that we have built up so well to break through the Sex Discrimination against women in employment. We would after all in times of recession and depression in the past have been the last hired first fired. We dont want that to happen again. I am working right now to put together an economic think tank for women because Thomas and all sorts of people like that with women respond to women leaders where the spring that will take the necessary steps not only to keep women from being the victims of the economic turmoil that exists today but to take what has come out of the women's movement and see how this opened up a really great new horizons for the economy. You know as a whole. We must. There are certain manners like Schild care Social Security. Other questions are limited. A new parity of housing credit and other social changes that have to happen now that we have with it are moving quite surely toward equality and they understand that their place is in society as well as the whole need a different kind of home.
It means real change in certain measures in society. We must all use our political strength to do so my priority is just is to move from the rhetoric to the real changes and to marshal our political power in new ways. And I mean our real political power in the largest sense not just party politics in elections although that too has we come in to 74.
Then the next thing is the role of man and the relationship of women in bed on new terms and the breaking through of the sex role for man and everything in the world.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- Episode Number
- Betty Friedan
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- WNED (Buffalo, New York)
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- This episode features a conversation with Betty Friedan, the author of "The Feminine Mystique" and the founder of the National Organization for Women. She is largely responsible for the women's movement in the United States.
- Woman is a talk show featuring in-depth conversations exploring issues affecting the lives of women.
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Director: George, Will
Guest: Friedan, Betty
Host: Elkin, Sandra
Producer: Elkin, Sandra
Producing Organization: WNED
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: WNED 04291 (WNED-TV)
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- Chicago: “Woman; 114; Betty Friedan,” 1974-01-30, WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 21, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_81-9995xhm0.
- MLA: “Woman; 114; Betty Friedan.” 1974-01-30. WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 21, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_81-9995xhm0>.
- APA: Woman; 114; Betty Friedan. Boston, MA: WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_81-9995xhm0