Particular Passions

Particular Passions: Talks with Women who Shaped our Times

Betty Friedan — Beyond the Feminine Mystique

Betty FriedanLynn GilbertComment

"The goal of the next stage has got to be to make equality livable and workable. That means that there has to be a restructuring of institutions. Not the abolition of the home and the family. That is not what this means. But there’s got to be a restructuring of the home and the family because it’s not any longer based on the woman as the subservient, unequal housewife. Both in the couple are earning, both should have options to take leaves, or go to part-time schedules, when children are little so the woman is no longer the automatic, unpaid server in the home. But the home is still there and needs to be taken care of. Now that means not only a whole new approach to parenting, but new kinds of designs of houses, apartments, communities, new services, new appliances, a restructuring of work; because work in all the professions, all the hours of internships and residencies, is structured in terms of men and men’s lives at a time when they had wives to take care of all the concrete details of life.

What we need are a whole set of options in child care, not just government funding, but preschool, after-school, in the home, funded or sponsored by unions, by industries, for profit, not for profit. Combinations of public funding, private funding, tax incentives for business to have child-care programs, tax credit for each child, whatever plans would enable one parent to stay home for a few years to concentrate on the child and be compensated for that financially, or having it to spend on child care, or take tax credit for it, plus a sliding scale with ability to pay.

We’re not going to get the restructuring, the flexitime and all the rest, in terms of women alone. We don’t have the power to get it. You’ll have men with new demands for it, too. Men in their young years are going to be expected increasingly to share the parenting and the family responsibility. You’re beginning to see men rebel, the quieter value revolution. They’ll say, “I’m not going to live in terms of the rat race alone. I’m not going to live in terms of a definition of masculinity that makes me suppress my feelings and defines me as just an instrument, as a breadwinner, and makes me have strokes and heart attacks at age forty-five.” You’re seeing evidence of this all over the place. So you find that young men, and older men, too, have some interest in flextime where they won’t be defined solely by the linear job career. This change coincides with changes in technology and those brought about by the energy crisis.

The changes that men are going to make are less simple because they won’t come from anger. They don’t have the same simple reason for anger that the women did. But if we don’t move on to the second stage, we could get aborted just like the first wave of feminism. I don’t think that the women’s movement as such is going to be the main vehicle for the next stage of change. It may be, of necessity, still too much locked into the first agenda which isn’t complete yet. We have to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed. But there are also too many women who’ve taken leadership in the women’s movement who are still in a phase of reaction. It makes them uneasy when I talk about the family." Betty Friedan - Particular Passions: Talks with Women Who Shaped Our Times.

The oral biography of Betty Friedan, who fueled the women’s liberation movement that continues to work toward equal rights for women around the globe. Available for .99 at Apple and Amazon.