Sunday, February 05, 2006

NYT shows up today with nothing to report, like a teenager getting home late, you know they're hiding something

Coretta Scott King watch? Fifth day of no editorial or column devoted to her by the New York Times. Lunch top counters may have been integrated but the editorial board of the Times doesn't seem to believe their editorial space should be.

Betty Friedan died. Look for an editorial on that. Will it be the whitewash that bears Margalit Fox's byline in the paper today: "Betty Friedan, Who Ignited Cause In 'Feminist Mystique,' Dies at 85"? Probably so. The Times could always get behind Friedan. (Gloria Steinem's the feminist the paper's always felt uncomfortable about.) Which probably explains why serious issues are reduced to minor points. Such as when Fox (or "Fox") pens "some feminists dismissed Ms. Friedan's work as outmoded" while apparently never understanding what the dismissal was about (or which "work" -- book -- it was aimed at).

Fox flaunts more ignorance when she writes "In the 1970's and afterward, some feminists criticized Ms. Friedan for focusing almost exclusively on the concerns of middle-class married white women and ignoring those of minorities, lesbians and the poor." What's wrong with that sentence? So much. But on the most basic common sense check, where's "single"? Single women. Or is the Times flaunting its sexism once again by declaring that all unmarried women must be lesbians or all poor or all women of color? Friedan was outright hostile to lesbians and her remarks on and to them revealed ignorance and homophobia ("lavender menace" were her words). Fox doesn't want to tell you that. It wasn't merely that she ignored their issues (which would be bad enough), it was that she was so hateful about it.

Fox also can't tell you that the book that caused Friedan the most problems, The Second Stage, was a piece of crap. In other words, it's a case of the pot (the Times) not being able to call the kettle (Friedan) black. In The Second Stage, she did many things including trash the movement for making an issue of rape. A feminist who thinks feminism spent too much time addressing the issue of rape is a curious thing. In the book, she also trashed those who had marched against sexual abuse. And women's rights? The very thing she's famous for, the only damn reason she's on the front page this morning, she wrote that the movement had devoted too much energy to "women's rights."

Fox buys into Friedan's hoary narrative of the "radical feminists" out to get her and never understanding her. Friedan never could share the limelight and the minute new faces emerged on the scene (including Gloria Steinem whom Friedan spread rumors of and trashed repeatedly), they were all "radical feminists." There's nothing wrong with radical feminists. It's a branch of the movement. But for Friedan, a "radical feminist" was any woman that didn't want to follow Friedan's dictates. That she wasn't a nice person isn't the issue. (Though she wasn't nice.) Leaders don't have to be nice, they just have to be leaders. Friedan confused the women's movement with the awareness-of-Betty-Friedan movement and, when others came along with additional insights, she was too threatened to welcome them. This occurred long before she wrote The Second Stage.

No one can take The Feminine Mystique away from her. She wrote one good book. But it's worth noting that Simon de Beauvoir wasn't the only woman who'd made similar points in print long before Friedan's book was published. (It's also worth noting that although the Times credits The Second Sex as being published in 1949, that was in Europe. In this country it was first published in 1952.) But in terms of a good image, Friedan took that away from herself. There are some like Coretta Scott King who contribute until their dying day. There are others who take a well deserved rest. And then there are the Betty Friedans who spend their later lives attacking the movement and attempting to undo all the hard work that was done.

Why? It gets press. It fits with the narrative. The real issue with Friedan wasn't about "leadership" (though she constantly accused other women of trying to "take over"), it was about press. She grew to love not her own image (which is fairly common among anyone that's frequently covered by the press) but to love the attention. As the backlash of the eighties began, Friedan was right there, out of the gate, willing to participate publicly and privately. Attacking the movement and spreading nasty rumors.

NOW will have to note her passing. She helped found the organization. But this is the only entry we'll note her passing in here. Some people die long before they die. Or, if you prefer, think of it as my way of holding a grudge, which, considering Friedan, is probably the best way to "honor" her. (For laughs, check out her snarky intro to the 20th anniversary of The Feminine Mystique which she uses to to trash just about everyone -- some named and some unnamed.)

The Times wrote yet another long piece on Friedan. From the grave she's happy. We won't continue to feed her ego by noting her again.

Al Lewis also died. He hosted a WBAI program and was an actor (most famous as Grandpa Munster). It's an Associated Press article that the Times prints. The front page? Adam Nossiter must be trying out for op-ed page columnist. How else to explain a lengthy intro that appears to channel Thomas Friedman? If Nossiter channels Friedman, Pam Belluck channels . . . who knows. But she's on the front page with "And for Perfect Attendance, Johnny Gets a Car." Why? It's the sort of "reporting" that can be done way ahead of time and help the paper meet the Sunday deadline. It's not front page news. At best it's a human interest story. Which also describes Richard Perez-Pena's "Diabetic Brothers Beat Odds With Grit and Luck." The front page is a like a text version of Dateline. (James Glanz and Robert F. Worth continue to print the stories they are fed by US officials and sources the officials steer them to. And the paper that helped lead the nation into war with Iraq -- helped, many others participated -- is still bound and determined to see some action with Iraq.)

That's the New York Times, with nothing to report. As usual? Like a teenager getting home late, you know they're hiding something.

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