"For surely thou art plagued on account of friends…"
“Feminists of the Sixties and Seventies,” wrote Nicci Gerrard in The Guardian, “have had to pay a terrible price for their dedication – most of them are forgotten, reviled, poor, and alone.” To that I’ll add there are even some from the Eighties and Nineties who are in the same condition.
How did they end up like this? Didn’t the late Betty Friedan and the still-alive-and-babbling Gloria Steinem promise them otherwise? Paradise on Earth? Of course, there is often a difference between what one promises and what one does in one’s personal life – that is the definition of hypocrisy. And what Friedan and Steinem promised to others, and what they did in their personal lives, made them the most deplorable of hypocrites.
Both of these women insisted women follow their teachings, when they, in their personal lives, didn’t follow them at all. In reality, they lived their lives in exact opposition to what they told women to do. They expected other women to make the sacrifices, but never them.
Friedan’s most famous book is The Feminine Mystique. A Marxist tract written by a life-long Stalinist, it was about “patriarchy” and “capitalism” and “female oppression.” A best-seller and a very influential book, it was, in many ways, the start of Sixties feminism.
Yet, when Friedan wrote it, she was married to a very wealthy man and living in a mansion on the Hudson River in New York. She was not employed, and in fact only one job in her life (a journalist when young). She spent the rest of her life instructing others how to live theirs. The housework in the mansion – I’m shocked! Shocked! -- was done by a maid.
All of this is of course rank hypocrisy. A woman writing leftist fantasies about downtrodden and oppressed women while living a life of luxury so opulent that the housework was something done by domestic servants? How could she possibly know anything about any woman’s life other than her own?
I’ve tried to imaginatively place myself in Friedan’s place to understand her puzzling behavior. She was an unattractive woman. Was she hurt by being ostracized in high school, not invited to parties or on dates, and envious of better-looking women? Like many envious people, did she cover it up with a spurious desire for “social justice,” which is no more than a desire for revenge?
She apparently wanted revenge on men – to drag them down because of what they did to her when she was younger. But why did she not attempt to drag women down too? Perhaps it was because the Zeitgeist allowed fame and fortune by attacking men but not women?
Gloria Steinem, in her own way, was worse than Friedan: a former Playboy Bunny, she was very attractive, oftentimes appearing in boots and mini-skirts, but she misused her appeal. She was the glamorous poster-girl of feminism, making it seem a wonderfully easy and sexy thing to do.
In her books, her articles and her many well-paid public appearances, she insisted that marriage and romance were a trap and a delusion for women, and that they could never fulfill themselves unless they learned to be emotionally and financially self-sufficient.
So how did Steinem lead her life?
Starting in college, she saw the same wealthy man -- television writer, producer and musician Blair Chotzinoff -- for close to 30 years. They were going to get married, but she called it off in college. Still, she saw him for three decades.
She called her relationship with him “a long-term romance.” People told of seeing both of them walking arm and arm in the park, and dining and drinking wine in cozy restaurants. She said this romance was about “passion and curiosity.”
For three years she was involved with Mort Zuckerman, a wealthy faux-conservative who bought her expensive presents. Now why would a flaming liberal feminist be involved with a “capitalist” and a “conservative”? Does love and money trump ideology? It does appear so in Steinem’s case.
Her friends remember her visiting fertility clinics in order to determine if she could have children with Zuckerman. (By the way, the most well-known liberals don’t raise their kids permissively – Hilary Clinton, for example, refused to let her 11-year-old daughter get her ears pierced).
Steinem never said a good thing about marriage in her life -- until she one day suddenly did a complete flip-flop. For decades she called marriage “an ownership contract” and that married women were “part-time prostitutes.” She also said repeatedly she would never get married because it would vacuum the brains out of her head, and that women needed men, to use a cliché that is thank God long out of style, the way “a fish needs a bicycle.”
Then one day she met a wealthy South African, David Bale. Her fuzzy liberal brain did a complete somersault on her life-long opposition to marriage, and not long after she dressed in white, he held her hand, and they got married in a park. She claimed things had changed and marriage was now acceptable. She never explained how things had changed so rapidly, when in fact she had still viciously attacked marriage less than two years before she tied the knot.
Peter Schweizer in his eye-opening book, Do As I Say (Not As I Do) referred to Steinem as a “hopeless romantic, dependent female [and] serial monogamist.” In her mind these things were good for her but bad for other women – if they acted like her they were traitors to Steinem’s leftist cause. Again, rank hypocrisy on her part.
Other feminists have shown the same hypocrisy. Susan Brownmiller wrote a famous book, Against our Will, in which she claimed men were rapists who historically used rape to dominate women. Yet she admitted she always wanted men and marriage and romance -- she just wouldn’t lower her standards. Which ones? Finding some spaghetti-spined liberal male to eagerly agree with her assessment that all men were rapists? Like Germaine Greer (author of The Female Eunuch), another lost leftist-feminist soul, Brownmiller never got what she so badly wanted.
People, unfortunately, are flawed creatures, and can be exceptionally deluded.
While Friedan and Steinem were cavorting in the limelight and living lives of ease and privilege with very wealthy men, many of the women who believed their falsehoods ended up as Nicci Gerrard described them.
Friedan and Steinem got what all of us want – importance and meaning and community in their lives. Yet they were engaging in one of the worst things people can do – they were lying to themselves. And before you can lie to others (even if you don’t know you are lying to them) you first have to lie to yourself…even if you don’t know you’re lying to yourself.
I understand in some ways the blindness, unwitting cruelty, and cupidity of people like Friedan and Steinem, except to blame it on their self-deception (which also leads to them rationalizing their behavior, no matter how outrageous). This self-deception appears to a mental illness, a cognitive dissonance that allowed them to do one thing and say the exact opposite with no sense of anything being wrong. To use an old saying, the right hand did not know what the left hand was doing.
How could Friedan attack men and capitalism when it was men and capitalism that gave her nearly everything good she got out of life? How could she not see the glaring contradictions of how she led her life and how she told other women to lead theirs?
How could Steinem so brutally and uncompromisingly denigrate men and romance and marriage for other women when they were what she wanted more than anything else – and got? Did it ever occur to her that some women would idealize her and her beliefs, and years later find that by following Steinem’s pronouncements their lives had become self-defeating, self-destructive and unworkable?
Yet I’m sure in her mind, with her self-deception and rationalization, there is no guilt and no responsibility for what she did to her loyal followers. Even today, she sails on, never looking back.
Perhaps Friedan did not, and Steinem does not, want women to succeed to the extent they did. Perhaps they idealize their own sex as a defense against their envy of other women – and in envy you always want to drag others down. Friedan’s envy I understand. Steinem’s I do not, but one thing is clear about her – she has no personal relationships with the average women, except to instruct her how to live. She clearly has no respect for them, although she deludes herself she does.
There is no such thing as “independence.” It doesn’t exist. All of us are involved in an immense web of dependencies, and need others to survive, starting not only when we’re born, but before we’re born. Everyone and everything is connected to everyone and everything else, and nothing exists solely on its own.
So when Friedan and Steinem lectured about “independence” and “autonomy” as being desirable feminist goals, they were speaking of things that don’t exist.
Leftists wish to destroy the existing order and replace it with laws enforcing their opinions, which they consider not opinions but facts. Yet the existing order gave Friedan and Steinem fame, fortune, men, and romance. Did it ever occur to them that if it had been replaced when they were young, neither of them would have had what they got? Of course not.
One of the main platforms of Marxism (and Friedan was, and Steinem still is, a Marxist) is to destroy the family, and have children raised in common (in reality this means by poorly-paid strangers) while mothers are forced into the workplace whether they want to or not. The fact the many women want marriage and home and a family – these are right-wing delusions, a Frankfurt School “false consciousness.” For them, that is, but not for leftist-feminist leaders.
This hypocrisy is, in fact, the essence of leftism – its tenets apply to you, not me. One need look no farther than Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Al Gore, the Clintons, Cornel West, Norman Lear, Barbra Streisand, Nancy Pelosi, the Kennedys, the Obamas…all of whom are multimillionaires leading lives of luxury while calling for the under-people public to make crushing sacrifices.
When leftists don’t follow their own teachings, their lives get better. Why? Because leftism doesn’t work. That’s why leftists don’t follow their own beliefs in private. They just make a lot of money with their public faces.
Unfortunately, as Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn wrote in Leftism Revisited, the Children of Darkness are cleverer than the Children of Light. Cleverer in the sense the average person falls for their promises of an almost god-like freedom and happiness – promises that can never materialize through the politics the left so fervently worships.
Instead, people are herd animals, social, imitative and hierarchical, and they seek a confident leader to give them guidance. That can be used against them by the cynical…or the hopelessly deluded and idealistic. Whether cynical or idealistic, I consider both kinds to be wolves in sheep’s clothing.
The Greeks, thousands of years ago, understood what was wrong with these people. Hubris, which they considered a kind of insanity (the Old Testament calls it Pride). Thinking that you're mentally and morally superior to "common people," that only you know the truth, that they should be forced to listen to you.
Thomas Sowell called these people "the Anointed," the ones who congratulated them on how their ideas made them feel, no matter what carnage they wreaked in real life. Their philosophies not of adults but children. As Thomas Hobbes wrote, "The evil man is the child grown strong."
In the long run, none of this damaging leftist feminism will last, because it goes against human nature — and human nature, contrary to left-wing delusions, is neither a blank slate nor infinitely malleable.
There will, unfortunately, be a lot of heartbreak and wrecked lives until better days arrive. And those better days, I dread to say, are going to be a long time coming.