Betty Friedan, RIP
Another left-wing icon is revealed to be something other than what she claimed to be.
David Horowitz, citing the work of Daniel Horowitz [no relation], Smith College professor, in "Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminist Mystique" writes:
Betty Friedan presented herself in The Feminine Mystique—the 1963 book that launched modern feminism—as a suburban housewife who had never given a thought to "the woman question," until she attended a Smith College reunion which revealed the dissatisfaction of her well-educated female classmates, unable to balance traditional roles with modern careers....Indeed!
[But] from her college days and until her mid-thirties, [Friedan] was a Stalinist marxist (or a camp follower thereof), the political intimate of leaders of America's Cold War fifth column, and for a time even the lover of a young communist physicist working on atomic bomb projects with J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Not at all a neophyte when it came to the "woman question" (the phrase itself is a marxist construction), she was certainly familiar with the writings of Engels, Lenin, and Stalin on the subject and had written about it herself as a journalist for the official publication of the communist-controlled United Electrical Workers union.
Friedan's secret was shared by hundreds of her comrades on the Left – though not, of course, by the unsuspecting American public – who went along with her charade presumably as a way to support her political agenda.
The actual facts of Friedan's life—that she was a professional marxist ideologue, that her husband supported her full-time writing and research, that she had a maid and lived in a Hudson river mansion, attending very little to household duties—were inconvenient to the persona and the theory she was determined to promote.
I often have disagreed with David Horowitz' positions, but this time he is right on. Very few of the icons of the left can stand up to close scrutiny. I'm not suggesting that such duplicity is confined solely to the left, but it certainly is a prominent aspect of the culture of the left which systematically subordinates truth to a political agenda.
Friedan represented a variation on what Arnold Kling calls, "folk Marxism."
Folk Marxism looks at political economy as a struggle pitting the oppressors against the oppressed. Of course, for Marx, the oppressors were the owners of capital and the oppressed were the workers. But folk Marxism is not limited by this economic classification scheme. All sorts of other issues are viewed through the lens of oppressors and oppressed. Folk Marxists see Israelis as oppressors and Palestinians as oppressed. They see white males as oppressors and minorities and females as oppressed. They see corporations as oppressors and individuals as oppressed. They see America as on oppressor and other countries as oppressed....Read his essay here.
Kling notes the pervasiveness of this "folk" variety of Marxism in the academy where is often substitutes for systematic and critical thought. The challenge for left-wing academic ideologues has always been to sell their perspectives within an atmosphere in which bright people were encouraged to undertake critical inquiry. Their solution has been to suppress crucial information and to channel inquiry into paths that would support left-wing conclusions.
I well remember from my days as a graduate student that some lines of inquiry were deemed "not interesting" or, more pertinently, "not useful" while comfortable left-wing fables such as those articulated by Betty Friedan were eagerly and uncritically embraced. "The Feminine Mystique" became required reading in courses all across the land.
These stories, and those who told them, became important vehicles for spreading the folk Marxism that represented the first stage of the indoctrination of young, developing intellects into hard core leftist patterns of thought. Even when the process of indoctrination was only partial, as it usually was on the undergraduate level, the spread of these folk Marxist fables within the semi-educated "classes" predisposed people to accept without question the hard-left agendas promoted by activists.
I applaud, even as I am somewhat frightened by his zeal, the efforts of people like David Horowitz, to expose these "useful" fables and the agendas of those who promote them. It is unfortunate, though, that it has taken so long for a full range of critical debate to emerge.