Sunday, February 05, 2006

Good-bye, Betty. We owe you a lot.

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine and a former president of the National Organization for Women, praised Friedan's legacy.

Friedan, she said, "was a giant for women's rights and a leading catalyst of the 20th century whose work led to profound changes improving the status of women and women's lives" worldwide. "The Feminine Mystique" helped to "define the lesser status of women," she said.

"That book changed women's lives," said Kim Gandy, current president of NOW, which Friedan co-founded. "It opened women's minds to the idea that there actually might be something more. And for the women who secretly harbored such unpopular thoughts, it told them that there were other women out there like them who thought there might be something more to life."

In the racial, political and sexual conflicts of the 1960s and '70s, Friedan's was one of the most commanding voices and recognizable presences in the women's movement.

As the first president of NOW in 1966, she staked out positions that seemed extreme at the time on such issues as abortion, sex-neutral help-wanted ads, equal pay, promotion opportunities and maternity leave.

But at the same time, Friedan insisted that the women's movement had to remain in the American mainstream, that men had to be accepted as allies and that the family should not be rejected.

I'm deeply saddened by the death of Betty Friedan because it seems that all she worked for is beginning to be threatened. The religious right has nothing but scorn for feminists and they are gaining more and more power every day. Alito will see to it that our reproductive freedom is destroyed and the right-wingers have gone on record as wanting to destroy Title IX. Still, let us not lose heart and let us continue to fight to protect the rights and freedoms of every human person regardless of race, creed, gender or sexual orientation. It's what Friedan worked for her whole life. Let her work not have been in vain.

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