Tag Archives: The Feminine Mystique

I May Not March In This Year’s Women’s March and That Makes Me Sad

This Saturday is the annual Women’s March. Around the world, millions of men and women will make it clear that times are changing. We will not stand by anymore and be treated as second class citizens.

I have participated in the last few marches, proud to have made my voice heard. This year, I may not march and that makes me sad. The charges of antisemitism and hateful words have poisoned this march, limiting (in my mind at least), the good things that have come about.

Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland, two of the leaders of the Women’s March were guests on The View today.

When asked about the prejudiced remarks by Louis Farrakhan, Ms. Mallory said that she doe not agree with his remarks, but she did state that she could not condemn such remarks. She makes this statement starting at 6:28.

The thing that makes me angry is that Jewish women have been part of the foundation of the American feminist movement since begging. Rose Schneiderman and Clara Lemlich Shavelson were two of the women who got this movement started in the early 20th century. Betty Friedan (author of The Feminine Mystique) and Gloria Steinem were part of a group of women who kept the ball rolling in the 1960’s and 1970’s. All of these women are Jewish.

I am proud to be a feminist. I am proud of how far we have come and how we continue to fight for our rights in spite of the obstacles in front of us.

But I cannot be proud of my sisters-in-arms who would denigrate me as a Jewish woman and deny the place of Jewish women in the history of the American feminist movement.

For that alone, I am sad and I may not march this weekend.

 

 

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Dirty Dancing TV Movie Review

*Warning-This review contains minor spoilers. Read at your own risk if you have not seen it.

Dirty Dancing is one of those movies. It became an instant classic when it hit theaters in 1987. Everything about that movie is iconic. The music, the story, the characters, etc, are instantly recognizable.

It’s therefore no wonder that ABC rebooted the movie last night into a television movie musical with Abigail Breslin and Colt Prattes stepping into the very large shoes of Jennifer Grey and the late Patrick Swayze.

It’s still the summer of 1963. Frances “Baby” Houseman is on vacation with her doctor father, Jake (Bruce Greenwood), homemaker mother, Marjorie (Debra Messing) and elder sister Lisa (Sarah Hyland) at a resort in the Catskills. About to go to college and enter the real world, Baby is full of hopes and dreams, but also sheltered from the world by her parents.

She becomes infatuated with Johnny Castle, one of the resort’s dance teachers and steps up to become his dance partner when his regular dance partner, Penny (Nicole Scherzinger) gets pregnant and goes to a less than reputable doctor to have an abortion. While their relationship starts off as merely dance partners, they soon become more than dance partners, but their differences may tear them apart.

I very much appreciated that certain narratives and characters were expanded from the original movie. In the original movie, Lisa is a stereotype and Mrs. Houseman is a background player. In this version, Lisa is a deeper character (i.e. she is convinced by Baby to read The Feminine Mystique and see her herself as more than a girl who just wants to get married). Like many women of her generation, Mrs. Houseman was told that they should get married and have families. While they have done this, there is an aching need for something more. I also appreciated that Abigail Breslin is not a size 2.

For the most part, the creative team stuck to the story and characters that the audience anticipated. But there was something missing, something that the movie has that the television version does not.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Why I Re-Read A Strange Stirring

In 2017, it’s easy for modern women to appreciate the rights and accomplishments that we can call our own. But, at the same time, we don’t have to travel that far to go back to a time when a woman’s sphere was limited to that of a wife, mother and homemaker.

Today I finished re-reading A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s by Stephanie Coontz. In the book, Ms. Coontz examines now only the impact of Betty Friedan’s world-changing book, The Feminine Mystique, but also the criticism that was lobbied at the book and Ms. Friedan.

I re-read A Strange Stirring for two reasons: 1) how far women have come in a short span of 2-3 generations and 2) I needed reminder of how complex the feminist movement is. It is more than the right to vote or to own property or to receive an education. It is our continued fight to be seen and appreciated as the complex and complicated human beings that we are.

I also recommend it, in case anyone has not read it.

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The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency Book Review

There is an old saying:

Well behaved women seldom make history.

When Hillary Clinton ran for President last year, it was history making. But Hillary was not the first woman to run for the highest office in the land.

In 2016, The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency hit book shelves. Written by Ellen Fitzpatrick, the book examines the lives and careers of three women who paved the way for Hillary Clinton’s nomination: Victoria Woodhull, Margaret Chase Smith and Shirley Chisholm.

Each woman’s personal and professional history is written about in great detail. All three women faced discrimination and prejudice in her quest for the Presidency. But despite the obstacles (and none of them actually makes it to the Oval Office), they still paved the way not just for Hillary Clinton, but for future generations of girls to step into the political arena.

Anyone who had read this blog regularly knows that I am a feminist. I truly believe in the ideals of the movement. But that doesn’t mean that every book on the movement’s past, present or possible future is the next Feminine Mystique. My problem with the book is that there are certain areas of the book (namely the entire chapter on Victoria Woodhull) that felt more like a boring college textbook than an inspiring non fiction work that gives its reader the nudge to make a difference in his or her world. I wanted to like it, because I would love to say the words “Madame President” at some point during my lifetime. But I didn’t.

Do I recommend it? I’m leaning toward no.

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Why I Re-Read Bad Feminist

This past weekend, I finally purchased a copy of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist. I’ve been in love with this book for nearly two years, but I was not sure if I wanted to buy it. On Sunday I gave in.

So, in no specific order, here are the reasons I re-read Bad Feminist…

• Bad Feminist is this generation’s The Feminine Mystique. Just like Betty Friedan’s now classic book asked our grandmothers to ask themselves hard questions, this book asks our generation to ask hard questions.
• Ms. Gay makes no apologies for who she is and what she believes in.
• She is not afraid to reveal her imperfections to the readers.
• She does not tolerate b*llsh*t, especially from members of the male sex who think they know more than she does.
• Her twitter feed is awesome and never dull.
• She is not afraid to call out the chinks in the armor of the feminist movement: the limited visibility of women of color, the limited visibility of LGBTQ women and other women who are doubly or triply stigmatized for their race, sex, sexual preference, etc.
• She would rather be a bad feminist than not be a feminist at all.

And those are the reasons why I re-read Bad Feminist.

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Beauty And The Beast 25th Anniversary

This year marks of the 25th anniversary of Beauty And The Beast.

Loosely based on the fairy tale of the same name written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740, Belle is the odd woman out in the small town in rural France that she calls home. She prefers books and spending time with her father instead of loosing her mind over Gaston, the town hunk.

Miles away a prince has spent the last ten years the form of a beast. Cursed by an enchantress for his selfish ways, he has ten years to mend his ways and find a woman who will love him enough to see past the exterior image. The enchantress left him a reminder of the time he has left, a magical rose that wilts. If the last petal falls and the prince has not changed his ways, he will forever remain a beast.

The catalyst to the meet cute of these characters is Belle’s father, Maurice, who is not the brightest bulb in the box. He gets lost in a storm on the way to a fair and finds shelter in the beast’s castle. The rest is movie history.

Among Disney heroines, Belle was and still is unique. I adore Ariel because she is my animated ginger sister from another mister, but Belle I get. She is smart, capable girl who is not looking for prince charming. She may get her prince charming in the end, but there is no version of “someday my prince will come” in Beauty And The Beast. She is also, compared previous Disney heroines, mature and level-headed.

Belle is to Anne Elliot as Ariel is to Marianne Dashwood.

Her other half, Beast, is also a mess of complications. He is deep down, a decent guy, but has allowed his anger and grief to overtake him and let him emotions match his external image. Sometimes, when we let grief, anger and self hatred overtake us, it’s hard to let the better qualities that we know are inside of us shine through.

In Belle, I see a Disney proto-feminist. While she is not reading The Feminine Mystique or Fear Of Flying, she has inspired multiple generations of girls to be strong, courageous and to simply be themselves.

I had the pleasure, many years ago of seeing the Broadway adaptation of Beauty and The Beast. I also adore the relationship on Once Upon A Time known as Rumbelle. I am eagerly looking forward to the new live action adaptation of Beauty And The Beast that will be arriving in movie theaters next March.

Not that we need reminding why we love this movie, but I give you the original trailer and a reunion of most of the cast the filmmakers.

Writing this, I feel old. Happy Sunday and have a good week.

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Throwback Thursday- Thelma and Louise (1991)

Once upon a time, women were taught to settle down and maintain a quiet life. Support their husband, raise their children and take care of the home. Nothing more.

Betty Friedan explored this issue in her 1963 classic feminist text, The Feminine Mystique. She labelled it “the problem that has no name”.

The 1991 movie, Thelma and Louise completely destroyed the idea that a woman had to be meek, amiable and subservient. Louise (Susan Sarandon) works as a waitress and lives with her musician boyfriend who is always on the road.  Thelma (Geena Davis) stays in the kitchen so her husband can watch football.  Needing a break from their hum-drum lives, Thelma and Louise decide to go on a road trip. Their road trip takes a sudden turn when Louise kills the man who tries to rape Thelma and they are now hunted by the police.

This is nothing but a classic. The journey of the characters represents so many women who made the choice to cut the apron strings that kept them tied to hearth and home and take the road less traveled. And of course,  no mention of Thelma and Louise is complete without Brad Pitt’s boy toy character and that six pack of his.

Dam good movie.

 

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Vindication Of The Rights Of Women Book Review

There are a lot of books about feminism. The Second Sex, The Feminine Mystique, etc, have become classics and must reads for women of all ages.

But there is only one that is great grandmother of them all. Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792 manifesto, A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women.

What she asks for is so simple and so timeless. She is asking for education, the ability to earn a reasonable income. She is asking for respect, to not be looked down upon and talked about because she chooses to not be like every other woman.

One of her points, which sticks out to me is that if a woman’s only goal in life is marriage and children, how is she supposed to educate her children if she is uneducated?

That question was true in her time and ours.  There are many women in parts of the world where the ability to go to school and earn a living is denied to them. Even in many first world countries, where women have unparalleled access to education and have reached the pinnacle of their careers, there is still pressure to walk down the aisle and have a kid or two.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely.

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Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection Book Review

My mother’s generation was the first to have it all. They were the first generation to go to college with the intent of earning real college degrees and not just the MRS degrees that their mothers earned. They were the first generation to have real longevity in their careers and not just work until they married. They had it all, the job, the husband, the kids and everything that goes with that life.

That’s the life I knew growing up. I had two working parents. It’s life I hope to lead one day if I should ever marry and have children.

According to author and Barnard College President Debora Spar, in her book Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, we cannot have it all. Something has to give along the way.  Referencing classic second wave feminists texts such as Fear Of Flying, Sex and The Single Girl and The Feminine Mystique while interviewing a variety of women, Ms. Spar comes to an interesting conclusion.

This is one of the best new feminist books that I have read in a very long time. While giving deference and respect where both are naturally due, Ms. Spar examines the life of the modern woman and how it has changed from the life that her grandmother might have lived fifty or sixty years ago. We have come incredibly far in only two generations, but we still have a long ways to go.

I highly recommend this book.

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Fear Of Flying, 41 years Later

Warning: This post contain spoilers. If you have not read Fear Of Flying or you are planning to read in the future,  and do not want to be spoiled, do not read this post. I will understand.

Fear Of Flying, the classic (and sometimes controversial, depending on your point of view) novel by Erica Jong is 41 this year.

The central character is Isadora Wing, a 27 year old woman traveling with her second husband to a work conference. She dreams of the zipless f*ck, the ultimate sexual fantasy. That dream comes in the form of Adrian Goodlove, a man who will fulfill the fantasy and forces her to ask the tough questions she has been avoiding.

Fear Of Flying was published at the height of the second wave of the Feminist movement, when the old rules and the barriers that kept women confined were being torn down.  Jong and Isadora, her literary doppelganger are part of the generation who were born during World War II and came of age in the rigid 1950’s and early 1960’s.  We can look back now and see that the rules of that era were very straightforward and simple, but to the girls growing up in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, it was confusing time made even more confusing by the double standard. Fear Of Flying was a shock to the reading public, just as Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and The Single Girl and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was during the early 1960’s.

Jong, borrowing from Charlotte Bronte, uses her main character to guide us through the story. We see the world through Isadora’s eyes.  Her life is complicated. She is on her second marriage to a man who was one of her many psychoanalysts, her first husband is confined in a mental institution. Her relationship with her family is awkward and full of drama. She has big goals, but the fear keeps her from working towards those goals.

I read this book when I was 27, the same age as Isadora.  I understood who she was within the first few pages. Isadora represents and speaks for many of us when we are in our late 20’s. We are adults, but we may still be mired in our pasts or our fears keep us from reaching for our dreams, whatever they maybe.

When it comes to books, I usually take it as a good sign that within the first chapter, I can dive in emotionally early to the story and connect with the characters. I understood Isadora within the first few pages, I was hooked by the time I completed the first chapter. Jong is a master storyteller, her years of writing, introspection and using that introspection to emotionally connect to the reader and bring them into the world of her characters.

I highly recommend this book.

 

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