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The Contrarian
Condoleezza Rice, Call Your Office
Betty Friedan’s unfortunate legacy…

[Sally C. Pipes] 3/11/06

Betty Friedan, who died at 85 on February 4, issued plenty of misinformation during her long life. The author of The Feminine Mystique, however, would be hard pressed to match the nonsense being written about her. Consider, for example, Marie Cocco of the Washington Post Writer's Group.

"There's no way to thank the mother you've never acknowledged," wrote Cocco, who evoked Friedan's "deep cultural legacy." Because of Friedan, the writer argues, millions of women opted out of the "psychic suffering" of suburban housewives during the 1950s and 1960s. More specifically: "Hers was a generation of educated women forced by the oppressive power of post-World War II culture to stash their college diplomas in the closet and engage in the consuming pursuit of perfect domesticity."

Sally C. Pipes
[Courtesty of Pacific Research Institute]

Sally C. Pipes is President and CEO, Pacific Research Institute [go to Pipes index]

Actually, compared to conditions in much of the world, those were very liberating times, when educated women could do pretty much anything they wanted. If they wanted to stay home and raise children, a difficult and demanding job, that was really not the business of Betty Friedan. Her task was to make an entire generation feel miserable about themselves. Even so, some women think they owe everything to her.

"The work of my life would hardly have been possible without Betty Friedan," writes Cocco. That might be true because the journalist appears to be an orthodox follower of Friedan-style feminism. Unfortunately, Cocco is not just speaking for herself.

"In truth, without Friedan there would be no Condoleezza Rice," she opined. That calls for some contrarian comment.

Condoleezza Rice, America's Secretary of State, suffered actual oppression, not the "psychic" kind, because of racial prejudice. She overcame that prejudice, and many more obstacles than the affluent Betty Friedan ever faced, to become a woman of tremendous accomplishment. National Security Advisor and Secretary of State are two of the most difficult jobs anyone can undertake.

Rice enrolled at the University of Denver at age 15 and graduated at 19. She speaks Russian, French, German, and Spanish, and by all accounts can hold her own as a concert pianist. She has never attributed any of this, nor her career in politics, to Betty Friedan, and she shouldn't. Indeed, she names as "one of the most central figures in my life" Josef Korbel, father of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who taught a course on international politics and kindled Condoleezza's interest in the Soviet Union. As we have pointed out (see "The Fraud Mystique," December 4, 2002) Betty Friedan was also interested in the Soviet Union, but in a different way.

Friedan claimed to have found feminism when, at a Smith College reunion she met classmates who found traditional roles at odds with their careers. That's not quite how it happened. Friedan lived an affluent life, supported by her husband, Carl, with a maid, in a house overlooking the Hudson River. Her antipathy to the American household, what she called a "comfortable concentration camp," ruled by an oppressive race of men, was inspired by left-wing ideology.

Those who want the real story on Betty Friedan should read Daniel Horowitz, Smith College professor and author of Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminine Mystique: The American Left, the Cold War, and Modern Feminism. From her student days well into her 30s, Friedan served as a professional propagandist for the Stalinist left. Friedan-style feminism has always been the women's auxiliary of socialism. In this world, Big Brother is always right.

That is how Betty Friedan should be remembered. Condoleezza Rice, and an entire generation of successful women, got along just fine without her. -one-

copyright 2006 Pacific Research Institute




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