Friedan Remembered
posted by Amy

"Feminism After Friedan" by Joan Walsh (yes, you have to click through the ad on Salon to read it; I'm sorry.) is a wonderful reflection on Friedan's effect on the author:

When I'm asked to give advice, it's this: If you have the choice, keep a job with flexible hours when your kids are small, but don't make dramatic decisions in those early years, based on either mother love or exhaustion, that will permanently limit your career.

But Friedan had another insight that's relevant to Hirshman's work, and all of ours, as we muddle through. In diagnosing the "feminine mystique," she reserved a share of blame for educated, affluent, stay-at-home mothers themselves. "Even after most ... barriers are down, it is still easier for a woman to seek the sanctuary of the home. It is easier to live through her husband and children than to make a road of her own ... It is frightening to grow up finally and be free of passive dependence." When I read those words in 1993 I found them bracing, I felt that her message was also to me. I had to "grow up" and stop thinking feminism and motherhood and combining work and family would somehow be easy. I had to stop whining, and find my own way. I did, but it was lonely. I don't think it's so lonely anymore. The silence of the '80s and early '90s on these issues has been replaced with loud debate, and women are far better off for it.