There is much media attention on the 50 year Anniversary of Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique published in 1963. Friedan’s book is touted as the beginning of the “Feminist Movement.” However in the 1960s when second wave feminism was born there were two branches of Feminism. One, has been repressed. The other celebrated. One was Friedan’s and later Gloria Steinem’s. It was a gender only movement fighting for gender equality within the United States as it was, with its racial and class hierarchy. It was dominated by privileged educated women. The other branch of the women’s movement was the class conscious “Women’s Liberation Movement” which emerged from the radical Anti- War and Civil Rights movements.
The original Women’s Liberation Movement was a movement of both race and class integration, a vision of justice for all. It saw female liberation as the basis for social revolution. In fact, an article called “Female Liberation as the Basis for Social Revolution” appeared in one of the earliest publications of The Women’s Liberation Movement, “Notes From the Second Year,” issued by its founding group “Red Stockings” in 1970. Other statements of that period stressing the unity of race, class and gender oppression were issued by The Third World Women’s Alliance in 1969, and The Third World Gay Revolution (1969). These original documents are reprinted in Dear Sisters: Dispatches From The Women’s Liberation Movement (Baxandall & Gordon, Eds. 2000).Friedan was the president and a founder of NOW, the National Organization of Women which works for legislative reform. She also helped to found NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League. Both groups demand legislation, lobby legislatures and endorse candidates. They stress particular projects to integrate women into an America which is increasingly stratified into a privileged 1% minority and a suffering 99% majority, in which the poorest people are single women of color with children. Women’s Liberation was a movement rather than a list of projects. It captured the lives of millions of women who mobilized in direct actions for child care, the end to sexism in and outside of the home. The original movement embraced race, class and gender.
One thing that happened was the enormous funding that the CIA allocated to its operative, Gloria Steinem. Although it is not discussed on US television, the net is replete with information about Steinem’s CIA employment from her days as a student informing on US students attending world youth festivals, to her gender only subversion of the Women’s Liberation Movement:
As a founding mother of the Women’s Liberation Movement which was as enthusiastic as it was naive, none of us imagined the influence of the CIA on our movement. Through CIA subversion led by Steinem, and our naivete, the movement became a largely gender essentialist, set of projects within the capitalist system. It became an attempt to create equality for women with a system of ever greater economic and social inequality. These days people would be far more astute than we were.