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And rims in the first volume of the memoir as Memoirs of a dutiful daughter. And of course I've read everything she ever wrote ever since it was wonderful to see her looking you know not the same but the same person so to speak. There's a bit and the book on old age where she speaks of Goya a who and the self-portrait that he did in his 80s of an old man with a great sized white beard leaning on two sticks and underneath something that said I am still learning. I have a feeling sad to go along with that if you have any kind of special impact on you when you first read her. It's interesting to me now in retrospect that I managed to read all of the second sex and connect with it emotionally but not personally. She seemed to me to be such a very special person that if one did not have those kinds of intellectual credentials then one couldn't aspire to that different kind of life. Now I suspect that was a measure of me more than I was her at that point not
to have really connected with what she was saying but it wasn't until much later. In my life I mean that my first reading of her was in the late 50s just as I was graduating from college and only in the mid sixties as I had finally begin begun to come to myself to some similar realizations Did she really have an impact and then of course enormous huge impact. You know I couldn't understand why I hadn't. You know in the first place. Well you know I say in 19 I think it was in 71 that the French women signed the abortion petition to which he refers. And the film that also had a great impact on all of us in this country and we did ourselves do a very similar petition in the first issue of Ms Magazine which was 72 in the preview issue I think. And Senator all the state legislatures and songs I mean you know there began to be a very close kind of relationship and a real feeling of
learning and looking to her as an example. Have have you both met her I have heard her lecture when she was here brought I met her just that wide but never really to talk to that was a very brief encounter it was you know a literary like Jeff Glor you have met her. Yes when I was in Paris about. Three years ago I believe I went to her apartment with a friend with several friends in fact and. We did talk for a while and it took me a while to get over the feeling that I was speaking with a legend you know. I remember especially that we talked a good deal about the issue of housework because as both a socialist a Marxist and also a woman who had not herself been a housewife she was just beginning to come to grips with the fact that housework was indeed work even though it was not salaried. And how Housewives as workers could be organized should they be paid should
they not and so on. And she had great misgivings about the prospect of organizing across class lines and was asking me why it had been successful to some degree in the United States and I couldn't get through I kept trying to explain why it was and finally I I quoted an actress who said in the magazine that she had been married to one fascist and one Marxist and neither one took the garbage out. And suddenly we understood each other. You know it's kind of a laughter of recognition is that you know that you said well you know the patriarchy you know underlies all of these things. I want to get to reactions to some of the things she said in the film. And. At one point she was asked what women fear most about feminism and do you recall her answer. Yes I do. She spoke of women of tenderness as being not only fearful but jealous of. Women who work in the life outside who are free I think she said. And.
I think really there's more a lot more to it than not. No doubt you know the using not her own language might have have kept her from saying everything she meant to but it seems to me that there's also an element there in which a woman who has accepted the feminine role the traditional salmon and role in it has been socialized into what is learned very much for being suddenly be reffed of this of being the rest of the protection of men and having to go and learn to do something that she's never been trained to do that can be legitimately frightening you might say. And it answers as is the I suppose what soundness are often attacked for saying that it's a good thing to have a job. Well. There are some terrible jobs are I think that's good but we mean when we say something like that as that it's good to know you can look after yourself but you can if need be stand up be independent and be sure that you were
on you know going to be left alone on a windy street corner some night. How did you feel when she said that she had not been discriminated against. I had a little trouble with that. I could hear myself saying it in years past. No no I'm not discriminated against at the very time when I you know was getting very odd assignments because I was a woman or not hated the way I think we all have had to come to the realization those of us who had been less conscious of being discriminated against that there is in our society a built in discrimination and that if you do reject that traditional salmon and role very often where you said all over and assume that we have to take on the macho role. And go on and be if you can if you don't want to be a woman you have to be a man. And there ought to be much ride a range indeed. Of course there is a much wider range of ways to behave ways to look at the world choices between
those two extremes. I was a little surprised when I heard her say that she was not a philosopher. You know I know she's a novelist but I also think of her as a philosopher. And I was surprised that she didn't think of herself. That in that way you don't want to answer to her or her intellectual training is so rigorous that she falls back to considering yourself to be a full fledged philosopher though certainly she has had more impact on the lives of people and more been the cause of more change than many people she herself might consider intellectually more able and therefore a philosopher. I think it might be related to what I was saying about choice unconsciously of one's image of the other bro. Perhaps if there had been friends in her time a sense in which one could be as serious and right about matters of great moment as a novelist
she would have which I wish she had because I love her fiction been a little more willing to think of herself as a novelist. What you said earlier that you about her heard her involvement with socialism. Do you have the feeling that she's changed her mind about that. Totally. Well she has said that at the end of her book The Second Sex she did not consider herself a feminist and specifically said she was not because she defined feminism as the organizing of women or a belief in the need to organize women separately from the class struggle or in addition to the class struggle which she did not then believe. More recently in 172 she did an interview with the German journalist which we published in the magazine. And she said that she had become a feminist that she had come to the conclusion that at least for an interim period in effect one had to organize separately as women in
order to gain very important rights abortion all the things we know about because she had learned from experience that it simply did not happen automatically even within the groups that were theoretically devoted to equality and I think that's a very big change. It's interesting though that in a way it was always there that view because she was the first in my. Knowledge any way to define women as a caste which by definition is deeper than that is you know it's a physical mark of sex or of race for that matter that one cannot change whereas class for one of its humiliation and you know the prison imprisonment can perhaps change. So it was really a tactical question I think in a way she's come to the realization that from a tactical point of view one needs to organize together as women. And
that realization and her subsequent You know marching with women and you know really identifying with women is what caused me as a person anyway to identify with her emotionally when before I had really it had been more intellectual might my impression from talking with there was that she is really enjoying this. We sent association with other women the young women of the MLF. She's having a terrific time in them. I think so because even if she was not I mean she was a very privileged person. In the sense of education and so on and she does not see herself as having been discriminated against in her profession. But at a minimum she was deprived of the company of other women because she was always the only woman in a group of male we will actually. And now for the first time it seems for anyway for the almost the first time you know that she she has women as a group are intellectual equals from whom she learns and whom she teaches to
support her and it does seem to have brought her to life in the way. Yes it does. Just saying no that doesn't come up in this but she had worked very hard of glass for freedom for Algiers and sadness in France now there is a great feeling for women of the world because so many of the Algerian women. Women who come to France when their husbands are brought in as migrant workers for instance are living in these terrible be don't be around. The cities these chatty towns at the time of this in France are very aware of this and of talk of the international conferences. There a sense of rot of a sisterhood where
their women. And this of course is. She herself was so Simone de Beauvoir was so aware of the need for general liberation of all I'll Geria that it somehow seems to to match the needs and then the women. Of Algeria too who were. Because feminism was not an integral part of the overall struggle. It was necessary is that overall nationalistic struggle was it has been very difficult for women in Algeria since the revolution apparently because the efforts to re Arabized the country so to speak have to you know not emphasize at least European culture of some times and that in a lessened you know status for women so I think that causes women who worked for that revolution very great. Name one of the other things that interested me in my own reaction to the
film and to what she was saying was how much we've all changed how much she's changed and how much how far we have come I think. Did you get that feeling. Yes. And something else too I I don't know how to express it except to say that she is a whole person. Someone said to me that when women are together as a group we as even as feminists feel something is missing. Sometimes you know that that is somehow a devalued group because a man in a prison. The world we are really missing is the rest of ourselves. Now all of the qualities that we have and you don't have that fear and you don't have that feeling at all she knows you're a her person. June has. You can see almost thought when she was asked about Sarah's death and she said no this world is enough for me. Something you know something like that you can see that she was I think all that comes out of enjoyment of life which depends
on the ability really to experience just deeply too. Have everything come in on you so something going to be there. And this I think is the most passive That's a group it was a great key to it because you're faced with the question of why women are frequently against feminism and myself I often say well it's because it's really not understood I mean it's seen as its public image and if it were really understood it had none of that she just went right to the heart of the conflict and said well even when it is understood of course there is still resistance and fear was much more inability to face conflict which I think is is hard for a lot of women. What was your reaction to her saying that the fact that there was hidden housework as she put it I think was surprising to her this was a shock to her she hadn't known about that before she had read childe with Firestone. Well I think it was. It is a function of personal experience
and she has not herself been a housewife and also a function of of homes left to the Marxist philosophy by the notion that housewives are not salaried and therefore there are no workers that you know profit is not made from their labors and so it's a you know a separate question you can't organize women were housewives or alternatively that housewives are considered to be for functional purposes the same class as their husbands in terms of organizing when for the most part they are not they do not have the same kind of power that the man they are married to has you know and actual difference too I think it is I think a ransom here. Perhaps in some ways I take. More seriously your not being a manager of a household. All the careful shopping and so on that's done. She spoke of the all of women still having pleasure out of doing things around the house and men having their lives you know off what they should be content to do
little things to help how. How did you react to that. I really don't think I mean I I think that's true also and in America that retirements and then is much harder than it is. Old age for women who have not worked but of course here in America how many women do work. Half of the married women have jobs right now. And are all women who are alone are in very unfortunate stringent financial conditions. Half of the widows are single women over 65 have less than $2000 a year. No Social Security entitlement on their own on their own eggs except your husband's. Can you talk we have only about a minute and can you talk a little bit about the differences between our feminist movement and the French women's feminist movement I think that. In the beginning I made many that there are more sameness is the differences
but it is true that in the beginning the movement Liberacion they from the MLF of which she speaks was a very much more a small intellectual group that had grown out of the left and therefore you know and had not a mass movement not a populist movement a very small intellectual group and it was abortion as an issue which reached out beyond those small groups and turned the movement into a more populist group. She was here of which De Beauvoir is the president is the you know the most important group in that struggle. And she really lent herself to that. That a successful effort to make a more populist movement and to to to not be content with being restricted to Billy you know particular intellectual circles. And I you know that is such an important role that she played because I wonder if that would have happened with the same kind of speed if she had not been willing to lend her
prestige to the issue of abortion to take on this organization to get out in the street in March. She really put herself and her reputation on the line. It's my feeling that it would not have happened without her support of course in the second sex she did shocked people by moving on you know from talking about nice middle class women to talking about prostitutes. Right she did. Women and unfortunate conditions and I'm sorry she didn't say more on the film about that because I know she feels very strongly about that someone's a French feminist said to me that you could tell who was a feminist and who wasn't but the reaction to the prostitute strike. Remember when they occupied the churches and went out you know because of their their bad conditions and an exploitation by the government and so on. And the feminists supported them. But the but other women who were civil libertarians if you will or whatever didn't you know because this was too much. But Deborah Voigt did. We're out of time. I thank you both for sharing your thoughts with us. And thank you for watching and good night.
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Woman is a talk show featuring in-depth conversations exploring issues affecting the lives of women.
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Talk Show
Social Issues
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Identifier: WNED 09467 (WNED-TV)
Format: U-matic
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:30:00?
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Chicago: “Woman,” WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
MLA: “Woman.” WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 16, 2024. <>.
APA: Woman. Boston, MA: WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from