It has been a long time since I read The Feminine Mystique. I don’t always connect well with feminism in general with its emphasis on sexual “freedom” and its occasional anti-religious tone in the cases of some feminists. In those dreams I have had of love, I have never wanted more than one man–and I wanted him to be my husband or fiancé. I had a friend in California who said that to feel pain when you break up when you had sex with them it was Nature, “but you have to fight Nature on it.” I admit part of my chastity belt is that I do not date a lot, and I don’t know that premarital sex is always wrong. Yet I always wished whoever my first sexual partner would be my last. It is not wholly accidental that I have never had a lover and sometimes fear I shall never have one.
Yet I was moved by something Freidan said: she thought women needed more than romantic fulfillment to be happy. That was part of why she said the myth of the happy housewife was just that: a myth. Having never been married I can’t say I had the opportunity to be a housewife–happy or others.
Despite this I like Freidan’s emphasis on their being a “Me” which is part of my reason-for-being. I do not want my life to revolve around another human being’s, no matter how wonderful he is. And I think that a woman’s desire to work for herself is how Betty Freidan defined that “Me.”
I find my “Me” which is my reason for being in my writing… True, my writing is often about social, cultural, moral, religious and even political issues. To find self-actualization in things as diverse as Judaism and politics is an odd thing. Yet I believe there is something at once personal and transcendent about writing that is the antithesis of slogans like “the Personal is Political.” I believe, by contrast, in that quiet, private space where “I” can exist freely and spontaneously.
This space is like the Self is when a Jew prays or when the non-Self is when a Buddhist meditates. It is the reaching after spiritual and existential truths. When a person is in this space, other people cease to exist, so overcome with love does the Self feel. God breathes a second soul into the person.
Of course, not all writers are religious nor all writing so either. There have–obviously–even been atheist writers. Yet for me writing is a religious vocation, and the true author’s profoundest Truths are written in her books. I don’t know if I shall ever find romantic love. Yet I know I have God’s love. And I know in my vocation as writer, I finally can say I have a career.
I believe that Betty Freidan wanted–whether or not she was personally religious or spiritual–each woman to live for herself. It wasn’t just a husband or a family that would make her happy, but the sense she lived her life for herself. I believe Betty Freidan was right or almost right about this. I also believe that in this sense even a nun could be convincing as a feminist, as a woman who loves without romantic or filial attachments–by which I mean she has no husband or children at all… and yet is happy.