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Tuesday, February 07, 2006


An octogenarian, name of Betty Friedan passed on last week. Apparently she did a lot of pioneering work at the vanguard of the women’s movement, writing a deeply influential book called the Feminine Mystique, co-founded the US National Organization for Women and inspired women from all walks of life.

Her argument, radical at times, was that women did not have to be defined by or in reference to men. She spoke of women ending up victims of a pervasive system of delusions and false values that urged them to find their fulfillment and identity vicariously, through their husbands and children. She decried contented domesticity as the sole aim of women and exhorted them to find solace in their individualistic ends-artistic, commercial or otherwise.

I think that most of those arguments would still be of equal relevance today in all parts of the world. The West, especially the States, is smug with the archetypal definitions of the gender, and whole generations have grown up hallucinating that that is the Voice of Progress, and the vast majorities elsewhere actually believe this tripe. There is an old-sofa warmth to the veracity of this tenuous premise, so perhaps it makes sense to subscribe to this erroneous view. And as we have already had four American Presidents who have been women, what earthly reason have we to quibble against this established conviction ?

And finally, as Betty first enunciated—after trawling through and interviewing scores of middle-class white women in the States, “The problem that has no name — which is simply the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human capacities — is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease”.

How wonderfully analytical—how profoundly erudite !
The problem is that an order is being challenged, deservedly so, but under the convenient garb of restrictions, a compellingly invidious abdication without any forseeable solution, a thrust without a risk of a riposte.


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