February 4, 2006

Two great faces, gone.

Goodbye to Betty Friedan and Al Lewis:

They kind of look alike, don't they? I remember the first time we saw Officer Leo Schnauzer on "Car 54, Where Are You?" Al Lewis looked and sounded hilarious from that first second. He didn't have a big role on the show, and we always whooped with glee when he showed up in a scene. Later, he played Grandpa on "The Munsters." But that was so long ago. He was an old man back in the 60s, it seemed, but he was only 83 when he died, so he was only in his 40s then. Thanks for all the laughs, Al.

Betty Friedan, I must say, I didn't follow. I never read "The Feminine Mystique." It was a little before my time. I could have read it as a classic, of course, but it always seemed to me to be addressed to the women of the 1950s, and I was a child in the 1950s. The women my age all read Kate Millett's "Sexual Politics" and Germaine Greer's "The Female Eunuch." (Those were the first two books I bought in hardback.) For a feminist classic, it was "The Second Sex," by Simone de Beauvoir. And then women avoided Friedan's book, for reasons described in the obit that I won't belabor. I'll just call attention to this paragraph:
"That great head, the hooded eyes, the broad features of a woman the French might describe as une jolie-laide , which refers to a magnificent kind of ugliness that can be attractive, even beautiful," wrote Washington Post reporter Megan Rosenfeld in 1995. "The head, looking sometimes like a snapping turtle and at others like a lion with a white mane, sits atop a surprisingly short body, out of which comes the voice of a foghorn in heat. She is always carefully dressed in a New Yorky, nouveau-Bohemian style, with lots of interesting jewelry and spunky little shoes."
Yes, a truly "magnificent kind of ugliness." The world needs more grand faces like that.


Paul said...

But with that black hat and that hair and eyes she looks like, sorry, I know you are paying tribute so I'll be quiet. I didn't like her, mostly because I perceived her as a liberal not because of her advocacy of womens equality, I hope.
He, was a walking case of exasperation and was worth a lot of laughs. If that was what was desired, he did such a fine job. I really liked him.

Mark Daniels said...

They kind of look alike? Only in the sense that two homo sapiens generally resemble each other. Friedan's most prominent features were her amply-lidded eyes, which Al Lewis clearly didn't share. I can't see anything about their faces that even remotely resemble each other.

By the way, I read that Lewis was actually in his nineties at the time of his death, not 83.

One thing that the two apparently did have in common: They were both trained as psychologists, with Lewis holding a doctorate in Child Psychology, as I understand it.


Icepick said...

Mark, the stories now have Lewis's son saying that Lewis was born in 1923, not 1910 as reported earlier.

dave said...
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Jacques Cuze said...

Offtopic, but only slightly so.

Another great face in the 60s was NASA.

NASA too was discovered dead this week, this time of unnatural causes.

A 24 year old journalism major and Bush-Cheney war room intern became a Bush appointee within the NASA press room and then had demanded that every reference to the Big Bang be rewritten as "the Big Bang Theory" in order not to discount intelligent design.

Ann, read TBogg on NASA and Science and Sock Puppets You'll laugh, you'll cry. I am hopeful at least that you will cry.

reader_iam said...



reader_iam said...

First now out of the way with regard to others, I can respond to what Ann said.

I'm a little surprised--though no bleedin' judgment attached to it (ahem), just a touch of surprise--to hear that you never read F.M.

My mom gave that to me as, of all things, a Valentine's present in 1973. It was one of three books--all three examples of feminist lit and/or philosophy of one flavor or another--that she gave to me on that holiday in that year.

I don't know whether she has ever read the books you reference (well, except for the de Beauvoir, maybe, at least in part)--but I certainly did, of my own accord, within just a few years thereafter. My mom certainly sparked the interest!

Somewhere in my collection I have a couple of books that address, in detail, some of the controversy (within the movement) over Friedan for various reasons.

Man, this post makes me want to hunt those down, leaf through them, and try to remember exactly what I was thinking when I read all of these things as a teen and young adult women.

Elizabeth said...

Dave, I took from this post that Ann was paying tribute to Betty Friedan.

Paul, gee, you don't like people you perceive as a liberal? Wow.

I'll be expecting deep commentary from both of you guys down the road.

Quxxo, start your own blog and trash the NASA taliban. I'll happily come chime in. But shame on you for highjacking this topic with a stupid non sequitur. Both of these folks deserve a moment of respect. Is your prescription overdue, perhaps?

lindsey said...

"If it weren't for pioneers like Betty Friedan, you'd be on her hands and knees scrubbing kitchen floors day in and day out, going out of your fucking mind like so many intelligent women were forced to do before the advent of feminism."

It didn't occur to Dave that mops have been around for awhile. And that despite not being married and having jobs us single women (and marrieds) still have to mop floors. I don't know anyone who does it day in and day out though. No amount of feminism would help someone like that. Maybe a trip to the looney bin instead. I'm astounded that Dave is so concerned about Ms. Friedan, bless her soul.

Lewis and Friedan look alike in that they both have large ugly noses.

Mark Daniels said...

I note that later obits of Lewis shaved thirteen years off of his life.

I recall Friedan, as I suppose most do, as a kind of media gadfly, always pushing her cause. While she may have been deemed passe by some of her successors in the Feminist movement, she really was a pioneer, re-energizing a movement that had gone largely dormant and she did it at a time when the feminine ideal seemed to be the virginal Doris Day or the hypersexual innocent Marily Monroe. They were the icons of a sexuality that was ultimately subservient. Friedan called women to reject such notions and to embrace their humanity. That makes her a very big deal, I think.


Ann Althouse said...
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Ann Althouse said...

I was going to respond to that idiotic, abusive comment, but I changed my mind.

Ann Althouse said...

Reader IAm: Young women were not reading "The Feminine Mystique" in the late 60s. The book was seen as not speaking to the boomer generation but to their mothers. The central concern was how bad it was to be a suburban housewife, which we took for granted. We were looking for stronger critiques. And Friedan was being rejected by other feminists at that time and was regarded as retrograde for several reasons, including her opposition to lesbians in the women's movement.

Jacques Cuze said...

Hi Elizabeth, given that both Friedan and Lewis were educators and scientists and Jewish and liberals, (Lewis ran at the age of 90 as the Green Party Candidate for Governor of New York) I suspect they would not mind having, in their tributes, someone stepping up to fight for truth and honesty in science. YMMV.

amba said...

There will be fewer and fewer great faces like that, because if you look like that now you get plastic surgery.

I'm just enough older than Ann that I did read The Feminist Mystique and was impressed by it. My mother was a '50s housewife (and frustrated by it, and bad-tempered), and until after college, when the feminist wave hit, I thought I was going to be one -- to be defined by the man I married, the children I had and the house I kept. That role then was simultaneously romanticized and demeaned. You got the message that being a housewife was your destiny, that it was inferior and boring and so were you.

It was very striking today to read in the Times Book Review, in Anthony Lewis' review of Taylor Branch's At Canaan's Edge, "What a different country it was. . . . Southerners had added a ban on sex discrimination to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a way to mock the bill, and at first it was widely treated as a joke. A Page 1 article in The New York Times in 1965 raised the question whether executives must let a 'ditzy blonde' drive a tugboat or pitch for the Mets." I remember those days vividly. I was already in college, unlearning my housewifely expectations and aspiring to the privileges of culture that Harvard valued so highly (and considered women ill-equipped for). Friedan's book made perfect sense to me, though I later lost interest in her.

Ann Althouse said...

Amba, Interesting. A big reason Friedan had no resonance for me was that she wasn't part of the 60s culture. Rock and roll music, mod clothes, hippies, drugs, and anti-war politics drew a powerful line between the 60s people and the 50s people. Friedan reflected on the 50s, which were already made irrelevant in my view. There is no way I would even consider getting myself into the jam she complained about (being a suburban housewife). I really didn't even want to hear what she had to say. My life was already saved by rock and roll. I thought the early women's movement was too much about conventional middle class women -- whom I scoffed at. I believed in tune in, turn on, drop out -- not in getting a well-paying professional job and demanding more respect from professional men (who were people I had no respect at all for).

JohnF said...

I confess I didn't recall Friedan's appearance. She looks like a clone of Helen Thomas.

Bodie said...

The book was also before my time and I read it as a 20-year old in about 1978. It resonated with me deeply, and helped me understand my own mother who, in 1950, felt she must choose between becoming a professor and having a family. She chose family, but went back to her studies in the 60s, when the 4 kids were in school. Any resentment I had about her time devoted to studying and to her doctoral thesis when I was in high school evaporated when I read this book, and it lead to some great conversations with her that have affected my family and career choices ever since.

In 1978, I was struggling with a feminist ethic on campus that was telling me that to be heterosexual was to be complicit in my own rape - I kid you not. I cancelled my subscription to Ms. magazine that year, out of frustration about the relentless stream of articles in which it seemed women could do no wrong and men could do no right. For me, Friedan cut through that crap and focused on what I considered the important goal - to give women the right and the wherewithall to to pursue both career and family.

In the 50s, it seems it was no leap at all to look at the fact that women didn't (by and large) pursue work in the outside world and to deduce that they were intellectually or temperamentally incapable of it. Specious logic, but widely believed, apparently. If you consider the recently discussed trends of Ivy-educated women opting to stay home, what they are doing is a logical answer to this chain of thought, for someone who wants to stay at home with kids. The diploma in hand to prove intellectual capability is the defense against that assumption of the '50s. That must make it easier to withstand the inevitable ego-bruising assumptions of others that come with identifying oneself as a stay-at-home mother or, as they used to say, "just a housewife."

reader_iam said...

Ann, I've been thinking of this post of yours A LOT since I first read it overnight.

I won't get into a lot, but for some reason, Ti-Grace Atkinson and Flo Kennedy kept coming to mind a lot.

So a bit ago, I was googling Atkinson and I came across this Sara Davidson piece from 1969. Davidson, by the way, was somewhat of an inspiration to me as an older teen, so it was fun to see this.

I think you might enjoy the pictures, perhaps.

reader_iam said...

Sheesh, how many times can I use the words "a lot" in a single comment??? Clearly, "a lot" too many.

reader_iam said...

The other thing I'm finding fascinating is that you (symbolically, in this case, not necessarily personally) are exactly--or close to it--between the age of my mother and myself (1939, 1950[?] and 1961).

It's interesting to look at the development of feminism during those prisms--close enough to have interacted and even overlapped--ahem, A LOT--yet due to the nature of the times casting different shards of experience and perception on the picture.


amba said...

Ann --

I hate myself for this, but I can't resist:

You've come a long way, baby.

amba said...

I never wanted to be a professional, but I did want to be an artist and a thinker. I had also grown up thinking that biologically, at least, it was pretty mighty to be female. Prefeminism Harvard was like "sliding down the razor blade of life," because it was damned if you do and damned if you don't. If you were smart and spoke up in class you were considered an intimidating ballbreaker or a hairy-legged bluestocking, on the one hand congenitally inferior to the men you aspired to compete with, and in either case sexually undesirable compared to more tractable girls from Lesley College who had "appropriate" career aspirations like teacher, nurse, or secretary till marriage. My first lover told me exasperatedly, "I like airline stewardesses because they don't think," and he used to shut me up by kissing me in midsentence. (Admittedly I may have been a pain in the ass because, as noted here, the intellect was my defense.)

A girl who grew up postfeminism can't even begin to imagine what this was like. It branded me. It was the opposite of having it all -- I was ashamed of it all. Early feminism, before it got all militant and regimented, was like an elevator out of the basement into the light and air. I did not then devote my life to helping run the elevator. I got out, walked away, and never looked back, but I am still grateful.

Ann Althouse said...

Reader Iam: Great link. "If someday we have to choose between sex and freedom, there's no question I'd take freedom." That's a very intense statement. Not as intense as "Give me liberty or give me death," but more realistic in its intensity. If she were really radical, she would have stricken the first two words.

Amba: Love the elevator image.

Palladian said...

I have to say that I would give anything to be a 50's suburban housewife.

I remember Friedan mostly because she coined the phrase "lavender menace":

"In 1970 ... Betty Friedan, the President of the National Organization of Women (NOW), characterized advocates for the inclusion of lesbian issues in NOW's platform as a "lavender menace."

Lavender menace, indeed. Does anyone even associate "lavender" with lesbians? Did they ever? "Lavender" is a gay male color, Betty! And anyway, we prefer violet, darling.

She was just upset because someone dropped a house on her sister.

Sorry to hear that someone as wacky and cool as Al Lewis was mixed up with the Green party. I suppose it fit his personality.

Tom T. said...

"If someday we have to choose between sex and freedom, there's no question I'd take freedom."

The difference between men and women, neatly expressed.

Ann Althouse said...

Tom: You should check out prison!

Menlo Bob said...

I sort of warmed to Friedan upon reading her obit. It seems she held out for feminism to be accepted by mainsteam American. Ultimately she lost the battle and later became the lesbian special interest group Freidan fought. Of course it was ultimately doomed by chosing to front the likes of herself and the equally off-putting Bella Abzug.

amba said...

Hey reader! Sara Davidson is still very much with us. I'm doing some editing work for her.

katiebakes said...

I just think it's so cool that the French have a word to describe beautiful ugliness!

RogerA said...

A personal Betty Friedan story: In the mid 1970s the US Military Academy was preparing to admit women. I was teaching a course there in Political Philosophy and invited Ms. Friedan to address the cadets in my section. I suspect they were expecting to meet some kind of ogre; in fact, what they met was a quite conservative Jewish Grandmother.

This was the era, as one of your posters noted, where NOW was being run by Karen DeCrow; and NOW was in throes of radical feminism; to wit,"if you hadnt had a lesbian exerience, you couldnt claim to be a feminisit." Betty Friedan's old testament background emerged, along with her sense of political reality, and opposed this--as a result she was marginalized by NOW for some time.

Whatever, from the 4 short hours I had the opportunity to know her, she was a very very elegant lady--RIP.

MrBidden said...

yes...and Karen DeCrow also touted that women that make an independent choice that a man, could not and cannot participate in, should not oblige him for support of said independent decision.
In the 70s women's issues were sold as "equality" issues. Turns out to be complete falsehood. It was all about sex without consequences....something men still do not have today.

I know. Men should get vasectomies. Just like women should get hysterectomies.

Paul said...

Elizabeth, I can't. This is about a person who I perceived as a liberal and therefore didn't like, not about disliking liberals. There was definitely a need for her and could she have had the influence she had as a conservative? I wish.