Goldstein/Friedan

by tobybee

At a talk last night on Betty Friedan and The Feminine Mystique (this year is the 50th anniversary of its publication), both of the speakers mentioned Friedan’s anti-lesbian stances, and the problems that it caused. One of the speakers, when he mentioned it, said in an offhand way that it was probably a result of her Jewishness.

Friedan, who was born Bettye Naomi Goldstein, published under the surname of Friedan for the first time with the publication of this book. Prior to that she had been a writer for unions and in the communist presses, had been active in radical Jewish circles, and had published as Betty Goldstein.

In The Feminine Mystique Friedan referred to suburban homes as “comfortable concentration camps” and wrote that “”the women who ‘adjust’ as housewives, who grow up wanting to be ‘just a housewife,’ are in as much danger as the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps” (p. 294).

Both of those are actual, interesting, provocative, points about the impact of Friedan’s Jewishness on her writing in The Feminine Mystique. Tracing her homophobia to her Jewishness is lazy and antisemitic.

(And so I spent the rest of last night kicking myself for not saying anything during question time. If only I’d been quicker, and had more guts.)

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