Betty Friedan, George Gilder, and Russ Speck in conversation.
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GUESTS: Betty Friedan, George Gilder, Russ Speck
I’m Richard Heffner, your host on THE OPEN MIND, where we hope that we can in each program share with you the pleasures, the pains, and perhaps too the rewards of free and rational discussions of some of the more seminal issues of our times. Discussions by minds that are not so cluttered with clichés and certainties that they cannot reasonably generate for us light as well as heat, by those who can set matters of momentary drama and conflict into meaningful, helpful perspective, by those who can provoke and sustain that most extraordinary of human qualities, the open mind. When this series began a generation ago, women’s lib seemed nowhere on the horizon. NOW, the National Organization for Women was then not yet in existence. Such names as Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Tigress Atkinson, Germaine Greer, and Kate Millet were not yet well known. The idea of writing a book such as The Feminine Mystique, The Female Eunuch or Sexual Politics might in those years as easily as not have been dismissed by a publisher as a desire that should better be analyzed than realized. And male chauvinist, sexist, women’s liberation were not yet part of our national vocabulary. Now a so-called sexual revolution has taken place in our country, both cause and effect, first of women’s liberation, and then too of gay liberation. And though there seem to be few limits today to what one can talk about on the air, one wonders about sensible talk, about dialogue and intellectual exchange that is sensitive to the true potential for change that is inherent
Definitive categories in the necessary quest for sexual and social fairness seems to some to have become distorted into an attempt at sexual suicide, into the loss of sexual identity and the death of the American family.
Well, let me introduce my guests who are joining me today to discuss our subject, which is sexual identity and the American family. Unfortunately as we begin, Betty Friedan, who is to join us, isn’t here yet. When she arrives, and we hope that she does, we’ll bring her right onto the set and introduce her then. Second guest is Dr. Ross V. Speck, who is a practicing psychoanalyst, social psychologist, and leader in the field of family and social network therapy. Dr. Speck is the author, among others, of The New Families, and Family Networks. And another guest is George Gilder, writer, editor and author of Sexual Suicide, a book that has attracted so much attention recently as it stands in our position to so much that has been said and written about women’s liberation. Gentlemen, if Betty were here right at the moment, then in, with due reference to my former pro-women’s liberation training, I would have asked her the first question. And I think perhaps I can save that until she does come and all that in a sense turn to you, MR. Gilder. You’ve written this recent book, Sexual suicide. And I’d like to ask you precisely what you mean by the term “sexual suicide” and how relate it to sexual identity.
Gilder: Well, I think sexual suicide is an attempt to destroy sexual identity. It seems to me that Betty Friedan’s book, for example, The Feminine Mystique, which really was the first suicide note dispatched from the Women’s Movement to the country, is a statement that women will no longer seek to define themselves in feminine terms, seek to define an alternative realm of values distinguishable from those that govern the marketplace and the realm of male competition for status and mercenary gains. That women instead will say that there is no distinctive female sexuality, there are no distinctive female values which should be transmitted to the society at large. Rather, we will enter the society on male terms and compete in the marketplace for the same kinds of jobs, the same kinds of mercenary rewards, the same kind of artificial status that governs most men. And suicide notes wouldn’t be of too great consequence except in this instance it seems to me Miss Friedan failed to recognize that the woman’s role that she wants abandoned or so changed that it’s unrecognizable is the foundation of our society, is the foundation of every society, is the source of morality, and is indeed the source of all our sexuality. Because male sexuality is very limited. The man’s body doesn’t transmit to him any very elaborate messages. All he recognizes as distinctively male is greater physical strength and aggressiveness and a drive to copulate. Now, you can’t found a social order, you cannot create a moral realm on these impulses, on greater physical strength and an immediate sexual drive of this sort. And it seems to me that morality derives from the submission of the short-term male sexual impulse, this drive to copulate, to the more elaborate and far-reaching female sexuality that extends through childbirth and the nurture of small children. And this is what marriage does. It submits en to the long-term sexuality which is the inevitable endowment of women. And when women say that these values are all dross that it’s all a matter of bondage to the constraints of a dreary and ultimately stultifying home, what they’re doing is destroying sexuality itself and presenting instead an image which is the same as the male experience, that is a short-term goal for, drive for copulation. And I think this is what’s happening to a considerable extent in this society, is male sexuality gets celebrated. That is, this short-term drive, treating women as sexual objects. But if women say they’re sexual objects, that is to say they fail to define any more elaborate sexuality, fail to make any specific demands on men that they submit to the long-term goals which are inherent in maternity, and then bearing and nurturing children, that is fail to submit to love as an indispensable component of sexual fulfillment, then sexuality itself is eclipsed and what you have is a kind of sensuous massage which you find celebrated in 90 percent of the magazines on the newsstands and widely in our public life.
Heffner: Well, a part of the feminine mystique, no doubt, Mr. Gilder, is the ability to appear from nowhere, and fortunately Betty Friedan has joined us in the interim.
Heffner: Betty, if you had been here when we began, I would have said, “Betty Friedan, whose book The Feminine Mystique gave such an impetus to women’s liberation and will enjoy a tenth anniversary edition this year”.
Heffner: Betty Friedan founded NOW, the National Organization for Women, and was its first president. And I think, Betty, perhaps it’s fair since I had begun before you arrived by asking Mr. Gilder what he meant by sexual suicide, and since I know you’re familiar with his fine new book, I would pick up from what he said and turn to the first question which I had really prepared for you. And that was that you had written an article in The New York Times just this last year in which you were summarizing, as you do in your first chapter in the tenth anniversary edition of The Feminine Mystique, things that had changed. But you said somewhere there, “I now see the women’s movement for equality as simply the necessary first stage of a much larger sex role revolution”. And I think that touches very specifically on what Mr. Gilder has said, and I wonder if you would elaborate. And what do you mean, “sex role revolution”?
Friedan: Well, you see, it had to begin with women because society had evolved so rapidly to the point where women had to really confront the barriers to equality to take their full place in the mainstream of society or they would have been committing human suicide. In other words, if there would have been, and would be no real human function for the energies of women for most of the years of our lives if they did not emerge from the role that had been defined by The Feminine Mystique. That is, it was solely defined by their sexual relation to men or as bearers of children. They had to take their place as full human beings in society without necessarily repudiating motherhood. In fact, my assumption is there is a freer and more joyous choice of motherhood when women are full human beings in society, and certainly without repudiating sexuality or need to love, be loved by men. But to assume their full person and full human beings in their own right by defining themselves existentially by their own attitudes in society. But that was really, I now see and all of us see, I think, many of us see, the first step. We had to break through the barriers that kept us from full personhood in society. We had to break through the feminine mystique and the definition, the mask of false femininity we were wearing. Equality, full personhood for women meant we now see a radical restructuring of the institutions of society that are based on it. But this was not, and it was meant to be…
Gilder: But this hasn’t happened yet, has it?
Friedan: …a class sort of warfare of women against men. In fact, the other half of this is men. That men must at the same time break through and be liberated from the rigid impositions, the burdens on them, of the masculine mystique. As women break through the feminine mystique these false roles have locked us in mutual torment in the family. There can only be real liberation of our own full personhood, both of us, our ability to know and affirm and love each other, and really only full sexual liberation when women and men can each be fully themselves and fully know themselves and know each other. The biblical word for sexual love was “to know”. If I am playing a false mask of passive, helpless, inferior femininity to make him feel strong and superior in a way that he doesn’t really feel himself, this false mask that each of us plays is going to keep us both from knowing and loving each other, is going to impair, subvert our sexuality, is finally going to make us hate ourselves and each other, and that is in sum what’s been happening to women and men in America today. And that is the crisis, that is the sexual suicide, those symptoms, Mr. Gilder, many of the symptoms I would agree with are pathological symptoms, but they are not caused by the women’s movement for the equality. Women’s movement for equality and the sex role revolution are the next stages of human liberation which will permit sexual suicide, I agree with him that it’s a danger now. But it’s a danger now for the very reasons that made the women’s movement come into being.
Heffner: I think it’s only fair – I know that MR. Gilder wants to reply – but I want to ask Dr. Speck a question. And then the three of you will have been heard from, and then I’ll basically stop because don’t think I have very much of a role. Dr. Speck, I wonder if I can ask you as a psychiatrist who defines sexual identity. Where is it written that the male is so and the female is so? I think, MR. Gilder, if I understand Sexual Suicide correctly, maintains that it is written in our biology. And I think basically Ms. Friedan maintains that it is written in our male-dominated culture. What’s your response? And I don’t want to put words in either of their mouths. But what’s your response to that?
Speck: You’ve just done it a little bit. I noticed some signs of disagreement from both. It’s written in the old books, the first books about religious laws and things like that, but it was written in the caves before that, you know, where the women stayed home in the caves and were looking after the young and the men were the hunters. And it’s written in the biological code. And all of these in different levels and different ways. But I think the way it’s been translated and the way that people have made romantic ideals, I think that the Loud family which was on television recently represents very typically the stresses that are on the American family. But we can’t blame that on anybody. We can blame it on the person that invented the jet airplane or the person that speeded things up. At one point, thousands of years, the fastest speed was the camel, camel caravan. And there are many other things that could be said about it really. It’s the new age where all the inventions that have occurred, every invention changes the way you live. Invention implodes on you as a person. And I think we need restructuring of human values and human morals.
Friedan: And you think it’s two sheets.
Heffner: Mr. Gilder, how do you respond to that?
Gilder: Well, first of all I want to clarify one point. I don’t believe that feminism created any of these problems at all, and that I think it’s a reflection of them. And quite an understandable response to them. I just think it’s erroneous in its prescriptions and in its programs most particularly. I addressed the problem initially in Washington in a senator’s office when it became writing about urban problems. And it became increasingly clear to me as I proceeded that not a single one of the major problems that afflict our society – crime, alcoholism, drugs, welfare – any of the issues that were rising most saliently before us, none of them could be solved outside the context of stable families. In other words, all the institutions that have been created to address these problems, including poverty itself, have failed. You know, the schools have not…Christopher Jenks did an enormous study of inequality in which he examined every possible explanation for it. And in the end he had to conclude that there is nothing so important as family. You know, that was the crucial variable. And I think most studies have come to that conclusion. And my contention is that families have come to that conclusion. And my contention is that families, to a great extent, in order to form have to give the man a role that he can play that he feels is masculine. Now, this has to happen early in his life. He has to feel as he approaches the point of decision with regard to whether he gets married and with regard to whether he makes long-term commitments in life, with regard to how he’s motivated to do his job and to compete for advancement, he has to, this has to come early. And one of the ways he is induced to start a family and one of the ways he feels sufficiently confident so that he can address the formidable dimensions of female sexuality which so exceed in their possibilities the immediate experience of male sexuality, that is to say that procreative powers of women, regardless of whether they’re always exercised or exercised in every point, at every point, nonetheless are of immense psychological impact. In other words, through the whole evolution of the human species they were absolutely decisive in the psychological development of men and women.
Heffner: The biological difference?
Gilder: The procreative powers of women. The extended, a lot more elaborate sexuality of women. Man has one sex act; it’s copulation. And that’s the beginning and end of male sexual experience. The woman has a whole elaborate series of sexual acts of vital importance to the society. And of most critical importance to the family. I mean, it’s my contention that the most important role of families is to provide a loving environment for children. And in order for men to join families they have to feel they have a role in them which is in some way commensurate to the role which the woman will inevitably perform. He has to have some sense that his masculinity, as rudimentary as it is in its immediate experience, can lead to efforts and contributions that are vital and masculine, that affirm him as a man and thus make him feel equal to women. And I think this is why the women’s program tends to be destructive across the whole broad range of the society, because what it does is make the male role of provider as dispensable as is the male role as inseminator or the male role of protector in current, in the face of new technology. What the women’s movement in fact is doing every time it speaks of establishing autonomy and independence is to make the man irrelevant.
Speck: God is a man unless she’s black. You know, essentially I think that you are speaking for what very many men fear. You know, I don’t think men ever felt that any of us could get upset. But I think what’s getting upset are things that we can’t use in a modern age, in this particular age.
Gilder: What can’t we use?
Speck: Well, war for instance, you know, and joining the Marines and because of the technology and where it’s brought us we can’t have these male macho types who run the world because they’re going to get into war games, and they’ve got to be taught to be a little more gentler, and got to be taught that they’re part of the human race too. I’m not putting down men. I’m a man. I’m very happy I’m a man. But I’m closer to Betty’s position than I am to yours, except that I think yours is important and that you’re a spokesman I think for a large majority of American men today yet…
Heffner: Betty, go ahead.
Friedan: I do know that he’s a spokesman for a large majority of American men.
Speck: I said, “I think…”
Friedan: Well, the reason that I think not is that what I notice both from reading the polls and from my personal experience – I don’t mean, you know, only intimate context – but when is peak at universities or as I speak, as I increasingly do, at all-male groups or mixed groups – I got a standing ovation at the Air Force Academy – obviously the message of equality for personhood for women, the message that liberation for women will also bring liberation for men and liberation from some of the very uptight macho anxieties of Mr. Gilder, this strikes a chord not only to great numbers of young women but increasingly to older women who have, older men who have seen the torments, have experienced the torments for instance of life with a woman, a mother, a wife, who has from frustration of her own energies had to live too much through husband and children and therefore has finally mired down in a wheelchair of frustrated impotent rage and had it taken out inadvertently on husband and children, or alternatively relief from the burdens, the tensions of guilt of a man who still feels he must prove his masculinity by somehow dominating everybody, winning a rat race that was stacked against him and somehow proving himself always superior, dominant to a woman who is another human being and isn’t that inferior. And you know…
Gilder: Nobody believes he is.
Friedan: …this sexual inadequacy that he expresses, some men may feel that, and some men therefore may feel threatened, you know, by the women’s movement because they are still trying to live up to this impossible definition of masculinity which must make most men feel inadequate…
Gilder: What’s impossible?
Friedan: …before they begin with it, makes him feel inadequate.
Heffner: Mr. Gilder has a question.
Gilder: Tell me what’s impossible.
Friedan: Oh I think it’s impossible in this age where we are not living in caves, where our way of life is not dependent on big muscles that kill the bear, but our whole human possibilities of living, of surviving, of feeling, experiencing, knowing, dealing with each other, of dealing with impossibly complex and advanced modes of change that we somehow have t master, of our ability to love each other in more and more complex ways, impossible to try to live up to a definition of masculinity that depends on this.
Gilder: right. Well, that’s just what I’m saying. I’m saying just because it’s no longer possible to or so easy to fulfill masculinity in these crude, rudimentary terms that come naturally to the male body as he experiences it, men need more than ever before the role of provider. They need some connection to the family that’s dependable and which they can perform. And contrary to wide assumption, men who are performing the role of provider are not the men who are most upset and under such intense strain, it’s…
Friedan: Well, if they’re only, if they’re performing a role of sole provider in the rat race today, and if they also accept your definition of masculinity which says the dominant man must be superior, they are also dying at 38 or having heart attacks at 38 or dying at 50 or having strokes at…
Heffner: Is that what Mr. Gilder was saying?
Gilder: That’s just what I’m saying is wrong. Single men have a mortality rate far higher than any other group in the society. Married men are about the happiest group in the society according to…
Friedan: And married women the worst.
Gilder: No, no. married women, according to these criteria, are well above single men.
Friedan: Yeah, single men are the worst of them, I agree with you.
Gilder: They even make more money than single men, believe it or not. This is a fact that is really unsettling. I don’t really know what…
Friedan: I don’t think it’s unsettling.
Gilder: …what’s the women’s movement going to make of it?
Friedan: I think it shows. No. I think it shows…
Gilder: Why don’t we have a movement to secure civil rights for single men? I mean, single men by all the very criteria…
Friedan: You know…
Gilder: …used to show discrimination against women do just as badly as women do.
Friedan: I think that what you would really want if you want to end the misery of the lonely lives of single men is to join the sex role revolution so that men and women can more easily be themselves and love each other and break out of the bonds of torment and loneliness they’re in now. I do not deny at all, you know, the need of human beings, women and men, for intimacy, for love, for communality, for support, for long-term commitment, all of the things that we have sought to find in our families and in marriage. And I for one happen to think – although am an optimist and I know that everyone doesn’t agree with me – I happen to think that the temporary enormous crisis that the family is in today and that marriage is in today and the fantastic 1000 percent increase in the divorce rate for instance in my own state, in New York State, that all of this is a temporary phenomenon due to the way, the very obsolete roles that we’ve been living which, you know, that that technology and the whole culture of society has moved so fast that we’ve got to restructure marriages based on those roles. And yet I see more Americans marrying than ever before. I see the young making their monogamous commitments even if they don’t celebrate it by the state. I see people who are divorced remarrying or seeking and often finding love and intimacy and communality, not playing the old games en masse, and doing this not only at 20 and 30 and 40 and 50, but even at 60, do you know, and more. And I think there is great hope for our human capacity to find ways of making lives worth living for all of us together, because none of us can live healthily or happily alone.
Heffner: But Betty, let’s let me ask this question if I may. In those terms, we started off by talking about sexual identification, and I then have to ask the question whether a strong sexual identification, the definition of sexual roles and identifications in a very, very positive way, strongly defined roles, whether this is considered in your estimation, this is a group, terribly important? Is it more important to have strong definitions of men and of women; or is it more important to have a definition of humane, what it is to be human rather than it is to be male or female? And I wonder in terms of Dr. Speck’s psychoanalytic training and experience what his answer to that is.
Speck: I don’t think you have to worry about most people finding their own sexual role without too much difficulty. Sure, it’s one of the hassles of life and there are plenty of others. But change has to go on in all levels of society. And it’s happening. It’s painful. I always remember Eric Hoffer telling how difficult it was to change from picking beans to picking tomatoes. That ordeal of change for him was very painful. Now we’ve got it coming in every direction. And I agree with Betty Friedan that I think this is temporary. I’m an optimist too. I’m an optimist if we can stop wars and a few things like that. And I think the only way is to get rid of some of these macho images. And I mean macho on both sides, on all sides.
Gilder: Precisely the problem is, that precisely the problem is that men have undefined sexual identities. Analysis of prison populations, for example, indicates that overwhelmingly the violent criminal is a man who has an inadequate sense of himself as masculine. And beyond that I think that masculinity does impose certain requirements that are not, that don’t confront women. And among the…
Speck: The old family is in the good for the new world. And the old family as we know it is 200 years old. The industrial revolution brought about the nuclear family as we know it today. It’s the people in the cave. I think even you said that, some, one of the two.
Friedan: We don’t live in caves anymore.
Speck: We live in our ticky-tacky houses and these are the same.
Friedan: Well, maybe we have to move out of those ticky-tacky houses…
Speck: You’re darn right.
Friedan: …or at least open doors out…
Gilder: Well fine. But still we’re going to have the problem of male aggression. And the women’s movement really denies that this exists as a problem. While I see that 90 percent of all violent crime is committed by single men. I see that single men lead every indices of social disruption, of psychopath or addiction or violence. And I see that young teenage boys when they, as they approach maturity suddenly have the amount of testosterone in their body increased by a factor of some 30. They enter maturity and all new demands it imposes with this great surfeit of aggression. Their bodies are raging with hormones of aggression. And the society has to channel it. The society has to find ways to use male aggression. And affirmative ways to use male aggression. And one of the ways which every society, not merely our society, has found is the role of provider. And when this role is damaged or removed, the man feels it’s very hard for him to feel confident in making long-term commitments to women. In other words, a man without money is a social impotent. He cannot make long-term commitments because he doesn’t feel he has any long-term value for women. And I don’t say all men feel this way, but I say most men feel this way. And so a woman without money on the other hand is not in this predicament. Her sexual attractiveness, her sexual identity is not in any way impeached. And this is why when you get a society where it’s very difficult for men to distinguish themselves in a specific role you get a society where this aggressiveness which all men inherit with their, as they grow up, becomes directed against the society.
Heffner: It’s at the point where I’d like to turn back to Dr. Speck and repeat something you said before, I took it from your book too, “In one way or another the man must be made equally by society”. Now, Dr. Speck, you talk about changing patterns, changing roles of family. It seems to me Mr. Gilder is saying – I used the word “biologically” before and I think you took exception to that – but in terms of what he is, what his sexual equipment is, and I think this is most important to Mr. Gilder, he needs to be made equal by society, and the family has been the institution that has done that if I understand correctly.
Gilder: Right. It’s connected to children and being connected to children.
Heffner: Now you say things are changing, and I think Mr. Gilder is asking the question, is it just enough to shrug one’s shoulders and say, “Well, things change”?
Speck: Oh no. not at all. I think we’ve all got to work awfully hard, and that’s why I don’t like the idea of not having half the population or larger than that in there helping. The family’s changing. There are more alternatives today. Betty Friedan has discussed that some so I won’t go into that aspect. But communes are coming…
Gilder: I don’t think anybody’s explained what these alternatives are. Everybody speaks in these vague, nebulous terms about alternatives to that.
Heffner: Well, let’s let Dr. Speck continue.
Speck: Well, for instance, urban communes are spreading. Young single men or young single women, no one today has to live in a room by themselves if they don’t want to. There are plenty of ways of plugging into networks, of meeting people who live together, many young professionals, there are at least 5,000 urban communes in Philadelphia. The same is true all across the country. My major experiences I with urban communes. There are alternatives in terms of before if you were miserable divorce was difficult, abortion was difficult. These are changes that are happening, and eventually…I say…
Gilder: I think they’re all negative. I don’t see that they’re positive changes. I don’t see that, the main problem with most of these communes is that the men split and leave the women with the children just as they do in other…
Speck: No, sir. Not the communes that i…
Heffner: Well, isn’t the basic question though, Dr. Speck, in terms of the communes and the rise of different formulas of living, do they meet the needs that Mr. Gilder sketches?
Speck: They’re beginning to. We’re not there.
Gilder: I want you to tell me how long these communes are lasting. Tell me about how long a typical urban commune survives.
Speck: I’ll you that. In 1964 when I started to look at the communes just starting out of the drug scene, they were composed of young persons in the 16 to 19 year old range who were runaways and dropouts and felt totally unloved by the society and unable to plug into it or accept its values, morays, ethics or anything. Those communes lasted one or two months. But the thing that I noticed was that although they kept folding up and they didn’t pay the rent and there was hepatitis and filth and everything else, that some of those people kept going to another commune and another commune and out of that we now have quite respectable communes where any of us wouldn’t mind being and where the vibes are good and where people are working on rules of living. There are books that are coming out by the members of the commune. McGraw Hill’s coming out with one in March by Mike Weiss. There are, I see some very good things. I may be too optimistic.
Heffner: If you call these…
Gilder: …communes as the answer to this problem?
Heffner: …I’m sorry.
Friedan: I see pluralistic lifestyles. I see that, well, already it’s happening. It’s not just looking to the future. But you get that little nuclear family that has seemed to be the only kind of family; Mama, the housewife, Papa, the breadwinner, and Junior and Janey. Even now that only exists for a few years even if there’s been no divorce. Junior and Janey aren’t home that long, so, and then Junior and Janey live with other kids in some way, Mama and Papa if their marriage remains intact they get awful lonesome just off only by themselves. If they ultimately end up in a senior citizen place, they form in fact communes that aren’t called communes because the people are too square. But what we are going to see in the future is people seeking for more and more ways, sure some will continue or remain in that conventional nuclear family for at least part of their lives, as…
Gilder: With other relatives.
Friedan: …all of us around this table, we grew up in that kind of family. But what others are going to do more and more consciously and for more and more part of their lives, seek equivalents of the old extended family…
Friedan: Seek equivalents. You might not like the word “commune” because it perhaps implies too much of a complete sharing of money or of sex or something like that. But seek what I call extended families of choice, or what he calls…
Speck: What I call social networks.
Friedan: …his excellent word, “social networks”, or friendship networks.
Speck: Or tribes.
Gilder: These are all supposed novelties that we don’t know about yet.
Friedan: No, they’re not novelties. They are deeply based in the civilization.
Gilder: Do we have to restructure our whole society in order to have friendships and in order to reproduce…
Friedan: No, we have to restructure certain things and we’re doing it. We’re doing it.
Gilder: My contention is that in the future we will have more extended families indeed, and that this image of a period in the past when extended families were in fact maintained is illusory. There was no such golden age except for relatively few families, the kids left at age 15 and went in apprenticeship somewhere at 14, the people left home and were never seen again. Alvin Shore did a study of old families and new families and in fact discovered that relatives were more likely to be living with the modern family than they were in previous families, supposedly the age of extended families, and in fact there was more contact with grandparents and uncles and aunts than has been in the past. This is because of better transport and communications. And that as a matter of fact the old ideal of the extended family is more practicable today and will become more practicable in the future.
Friedan: Good, good.
Heffner: You mean we’re all in agreement?
Gilder: No, I mean, I agree with that, and I write about it in my book. But I don’t think that this process will be helped by some image of independence and autonomy and…
Friedan: All right, can we talk about that?
Friedan: Because that is the part of his book that really has to be answered the most strongly and the most unequivocally. That there is anything at all undesirable about independence and autonomy for women has to be answered.
Gilder: Or men. I think, I don’t think…
Heffner: Let’s let Betty…
Friedan: Independence and autonomy – and independence means an essential independence which always implies interdependence – but independence and autonomy…
Friedan: …is essential to the human being. It is essential to the adult human being, to adult sense of identity, woman or man. If women are not able to earn, if women are not able to feel that what they are doing is productive, they are both economically and psychologically in a very bad way, and they will take that out on their own bodies in self-hatred. That’s where women take their aggression out up to now. They have taken it out on their own bodies in self-hatred, in malaises, and inadvertently, not because they’re evil, but because there’s been no other way to do it, they have taken it out on their children and on their husbands. And they have helped create the pathology that has led to macho and wars and the rest. And when women and men are able to be both independent and confident and productive and autonomous and love each other, then there will be much less of that reservoir of impotent rage in either men or women to create social pathology and…
Gilder: Then why are married men more healthy than single men under those circumstances?
Friedan: Because with whatever its pathologies, married men are at least in some human contact with women, with children, where single men may be in no human contact.
Heffner: It’s interesting that Betty Friedan talks about the necessity for focusing on the individual mental health and well-being of women and men, and you focus on the notion that married men are happier or better off, live longer, than single men.
Gilder: And both single and married women are in relatively good condition.
Heffner; Okay, that’s your emphasis upon…
Friedan: Not according to the statistics I’ve read.
Gilder: You choose your statistic.
Heffner: That’s your emphasis upon the individual. What about society? Where are we, are we going to focus only upon that happy unit, that individual, that woman or that man, or do we have to be concerned with that larger family, society, and in which way it can survive? And I’m interested that both of you seem to approach this in a sense form polar opposite positions, relating – Betty, I understand what you said before – but coming together on this notion of individual happiness, individual survival. Because you said before…
Friedan: Well, survival, but you see, I also feel, in my definition of individual I don’t think that the human individual, woman or man, can ever be studied in isolation and looked at in isolation. And I have been saying this very strongly to my sisters in the women’s movement, that we have gotten to the point where we really can’t get much further talking about women alone, that it has to be, you know, women in the relationship to man and the family, to all the institutions in society and children that we have to restructure the institutions because there is no other place for us to be in or to be individual except in human society. That, I mean, our humanness emerges in human society. And the essence of the women’s movement, the essence of the women’s movement is to make it possible for women to participate as full human beings in the mainstream of women’s, of human society, in the mainstream of human society. And our assumption is, and mine is, that women cannot be full persons unless they participate in the mainstream of human society, and that is part of it, that is not all of it. No, it isn’t.
Gilder: I didn’t think it was all of that. I never said it was all of it. But it’s the crucial part of it.
Friedan: It is a crucial part of it, but in the home as it is in America today, there’s no one in it from nine to five. So if that is the society in which women must be human, if women be human in that society, they will be human at the other end of a television set from nine to five, as every other machine, not in interaction with other human beings, they can’t be human.
Note: There is a lot of lively exchange between Ms. Friedan and Mr. Gilder during this show, and some of the dialogue may be lost because it is impossible to transcribe.
Gilder: Now, this is this bizarre image of suburban life which the women’s movement is propagating in the face of all the evidence of sociological examination of the real condition of women in the suburbs where one discovers they have more interaction with other people, more participation in the community than either working women do or than their husbands do. And they’re happier. And there’s a book called…
Speck: You see less women than I see.
Gilder: And you’re in the middle of New York City…
Friedan: He’s in Philadelphia.
Gilder: …which is a bizarre community.
Heffner: Well, we extend it to Philadelphia I guess.
Gilder: And that one of the characteristics of such a bizarre community is there are very few children around.
Heffner: Well, it’s one thing, Mr. Gilder…
Gilder: But in this book, Helen Lopata has done a book called Occupation Housewife, with which you’re probably familiar, which indicates that to her considerable surprise that housewives live more varied, interesting, and challenging lives than do their husbands, and are more likely to use their education in their lives than their husbands. This is one of the great illusions that the average job is at all challenging or interesting or broadens people. Jobs are bondage. And the reason most people perform their jobs, and if you ask the average man why he performs his job he will take out his wallet and show you a picture of the wife and kids. That’s why he works.. And that he works in order to perform the role of provider and connect himself to the really meaningful human activities which happen in the home and in the community in which the woman is more likely to live than the man. Now, if as, if the affluent society, as imperiled as it may seem at the moment, does continue to expand, and I think it will be, and the work week shortens, the evidence of people who already have shorter work weeks indicates that they return to the home and family. And this is where, for example, airplane pilots who have supremely masculine work, teenage boys say to be an airplane pilot is the most masculine, attractive job, they have short work weeks and spend, are very attentive fathers, they’re very involved in the community, they return in their free time to the home. And I think increasingly one will find people returning to the home.
Friedan: Good. It will be a better home where men and women are both able to share hours in the home and share them together as women and men will be able to be using their abilities to some degree of autonomy and reward out in society then women nor men will be frustrated or use each other as scapegoats in their hours at home, and men to be able to enjoy nurturing children more, women to be able to enjoy nurturing children more because they have an identity outside the home…
Heffner: Excuse me just one second, I’m sorry…
Gilder: This identity outside the home, what is it? Tell me about this identity outside the home?
Friedan: Where do you find your identity sir?
Gilder: What? I find my identity chiefly in my relations with women?
Friedan: You do?
Gilder: Yes. I think that that’s where I find my sexual identity, with women, and that’s where my…
Friedan: Well, right, do you spend 24 hours a day in your sexual identity?
Gilder: No. I think that my external achievements are chiefly validated in relations with women.
Friedan: Why are you bothering with this?
Gilder: Because I feel strongly about these subjects and this menace to this whole pattern of life which I think is most crucial to human happiness.
Heffner: Mr. Gilder…
Speck: I’m picking up something from you that the male hormone, particularly at certain epochs of life, really turns you on and in a very heavy way and in a very intense way. And it’s been handled over the years. Sure, we’ve got troubles in our society, but I wouldn’t blame them all on the male hormone or the female hormone. I think…
Gilder: I don’t.
Speck: I think you put a little strong emphasis…
Gilder: I say that’s one problem.
Heffner: That’s what Dr. Speck…that’s why earlier I made the point that I thought we were talking on the one hand about someone who was talking about biologically necessary patterns and someone else was talking about culturally set patterns. And I think that is the difference, whether it doesn’t sound right or not. But Betty Friedan, I wanted to ask you ten years ago when The Feminine Mystique first came out, would I be wrong in saying, looking back and saying there was much more of a separatist tinge to that book at that time and to the whole movement?
Friedan: There was no movement then ten years ago.
Heffner: But as you began…
Friedan: And you know, at that time what one was doing was confronting one’s situation as women, which wasn’t even supposed to be human at that time. In other words, to say we were, women were supposed to be so mysteriously different, so completely defined in sexual terms that we weren’t even supposed to want to operate in society, and we weren’t even supposed to need the same pay or rewards, other things. So that to confront our situation, to see how we had gotten there, to try to define what the malaise was that many women were suffering which was not really a sexual one but had to do with our human condition, and at the same time to confront the barriers and the problems that kept us from really moving in society which we couldn’t confront as long as we were blinded by the feminine mystique, that was a thing that we had to do ourselves. That was a thing that women had to do. But once we did that, then we could, as we are now doing, begin to really see ourselves in relation to men not just with a lot of hostility and anger that had, you know, left over from that condition, but really looking at the thing and how it’s got to change for us both. And I and many others have been saying with increasing respect for the reality and the mysteriousness and the complexity and the glory of our sexuality and of the mystery of the real possibilities of love between men and women and of the real glory that we cast into the future with children, that these can be enjoyed with much more gusto than any of us ever really thought because…
Heffner: I want to follow up on that because I want to ask Dr. Speck whether his experiences as a therapist will validate what Betty Friedan has just said.
Speck: Very much so. I think that we have got to take off labels and a patient’s got to become an agent. And the whole concept of patienthood has got to go. And a person is an agent of his own destiny, of change. And it’s happening. I think that with patients, one thing a lot of them like to do is help others. And they’ve certainly had training in it. So many of them are now going out there as changed agents of society by being shrinks, or not necessarily paid shrinks, but they’ve had a little training at it and they have some confidence. We tend to label things much, much too much in our society.
Heffner: and you don’t see the other side?
Speck: No, I don’t.
Friedan: But I would say that if Mr. Gilder could say masculinity is being myself as a man in all that I am as a man, how I am as a man, and enjoying that, then there would be less burden on the whole thing.
Gilder: Okay, I say that that’s an inadequate definition, because it doesn’t distinguish men from women, it doesn’t correspond in any particular way to the special problems of male sexuality. But i want to return to this other sexuality…
Friedan: If there weren’t so many burdens that you’re trying to mess up with the sexuality, then you could be whatever you are and enjoy it.
Heffner: Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. The question still does have to be asked. Do you deny the thrust of the point that Mr. Gilder makes that there is that difference dictated by the sexual drives?
Friedan: Sure. There is the difference.
Heffner: And how are you going to recognize it in society? That’s what Mr. Gilder has been asking.
Friedan: What’s so difficult about recognizing it? You’re man and I’m a woman. I have no problem recognizing it.
Heffner: That’s not quite the recognition that he’s been talking about.
Gilder: Well, okay, I’m a man. All right. I want to go beyond that…
Friedan: …where people are human and real, as long as they aren’t messed up. Wouldn’t you say so?
Heffner: Mr. Guider?
Gilder: Okay. I’m a man, therefore I have, I don’t have any interior way to fulfill my sexuality. I cannot produce a child. Thus I am oriented toward the external world to fulfill my identity. In other words, my masculine identity cannot be fulfilled through my own body alone; it has to be fulfilled in one way through the body of a woman and in another way through external activity in the society at large. So men are more dependent on external achievement for the very identities as men, for their sexual potency, for their ability to love women. Now, if women are performing as providers in an equal basis with men, that is to say not that every, that no women in the society pursue careers or that most women don’t, but merely that across the whole society men are not more effective in the marketplace, don’t’ have some advantage in the role of provider, then my, the way I’m going to have to demonstrate my sexuality as a man and maintain my potency is through the exercise of my one residual advantage which is physical strength and aggressiveness. And this is what you find in parts of our society where men cannot perform the role of provider. Then you find them engaged in all these macho displays that you’ve found so…
Heffner: Mr. Gilder…
Friedan: You would be very, very unisexual if you had, you know, if you thought that you could only be attractive to a woman as a provider, there is something that seems terribly inadequate about your feeling. I think it makes…
Gilder: Short term.
Friedan: …men much less instrumental if women aren’t that dependent on men economically, if they feel that they are liked for themselves. And you know, I am over 45, I have three children, I am no longer about to express my sexuality in that procreative way, and I am not dependent on am an economically, and I enjoy my sexuality enormously.
Gilder: Well, that’s great. I think that’s marvelous…
Heffner: Yeah, but Mr. Gilder isn’t worried about your…he seems to be worried about compensatory activity on the part of society for the eons and eons in which men have been at the bottom of the heap.
Gilder: I want to say one thing I’m worried about. I’ll tell you something else I’m worried about. I’m worried about these millions and millions of women across the country who are being told by Betty Friedan that out there in the marketplace there’s some great human fulfillment that transcends anything that could be found in the home.
Friedan: You worry about the millions and millions of women in the country who are on welfare…
Gilder: I do.
Friedan: …who are earning half of what men get paid at the jobs they have to hold because the family today whether it’s headed by a woman or whether it’s jointly dependent on a woman and man’s joint income, it needs the wage of a woman and she’s still facing a lot of barriers in employment, and the energy crisis is going to be an excuse to try to get her out of jobs that she doesn’t have. Then worry about her and the realities of her life, not about the rhetoric.
Gilder: I certainly do. I certainly do worry about the realities.
Friedan: Well, you don’t seem to know anything about it.
Gilder: Five or six chapters of my book are devoted to precisely that problem. And I don’t think these women who are working away at drudgery, dead-end jobs will be helped very much by the introduction of large numbers of educated women in the workforce…
Heffner: Excuse me, we can really only be heard one at a time.
Note: Friedan and Gilder continue to talk at the same time throughout this transcript.
Gilder: I devote a chapter to my book to a proposal for family allowances which I think most countries in the world have and which I think would be of great advantage today.
Heffner: You’re very much against daycare, if I understand correctly.
Gilder: I’m against universal free daycare subsidized by the federal government because I believe that such daycare programs represent a subsidy from families in which the mother stays home and takes care of her children, for families where the mother goes out and works, despite the fact that a great many of these families where the mother works, as a matter of fact the majority of them, are well educated families where both are capable of being satisfactory breadwinners. In other words, it’s a subsidy from one-breadwinner families to two-breadwinner families and who have an ideology of liberation. And I think that’s a mistake.
Speck: Your questions frequently are, in my opinion, theological and existential in another sense. But it would seem to me that you’re asking some intangibles. I think we all are. About like, why was I born, for the single, where did I come from? These are very good questions, and I think more and more people are asking these kinds of questions. But I think the kind of answer that most people are apt to get if they read something is to look in something like the Presbyterian catechism and to glorify god or something. You’re asking the kind of question that there are many unhappy people in this world and they’ve got to have it now and they’ve got to have everything. But maybe they’ve got to start some change. And when they start some change they’ll go through some pain, and I think they’ll come out on the other side, at least most of them will. I think anybody that begins to examine these theological questions is off to a good start. And in a way I’ve been sitting here thinking, “Is he or isn’t he a theologian?” And it’s not a putdown.
Gilder: …a theologian, but I think that we are, that across a whole society the most important experiences are biological and sexual, and that if you don’t address these problems first, if you deny that they exist, if you deny that men and women have different problems as they grow up…
Speck: I’m not denying it.
Gilder: …and that the formation of families, dependence…
Friedan: Nobody denies it. Nobody denies it.
Gilder: Okay. However, your society offers an image of men and women performing almost identical roles through it…
Gilder: …and identical patterns right on up into…
Friedan: The identical possibility for equally various roles, each according to his or her own abilities and potentialities and in relationship to each other and alone. Relationship to other men, relation to other women. But…
Gilder: That’s fine with me but…
Friedan: I think sexuality is one of the great human experiences. Human sexuality, not dehumanized.
Gilder: I understand, but it goes into family…
Friedan: Not fully sexuality…
Gilder: This is family sexuality…
Friedan: I think generation, whether it’s generation of children or generation of ideas or any part we play in the ongoing human story is one of the great human experiences. And I want all possibilities of that for women and for men.
Heffner: Look, this is just exactly the point where we’re all in agreement, and I’m sure there’s no disagreement…
Gilder: I’m not.
Heffner: I think that we just about have to end our program. But I want to thank you very much for joining me today. You came in late, Betty, but you more than made up for it. Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique; Dr. Ross V. Speck, practicing psychoanalyst, social psychologist, Dr. Speck is the author of The New Families and Family Networks; and Mr. George Gilder, writer, editor and author of the newly published Sexual Suicide. And thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for joining me, those of you in the audience, joining me once again on The Open Mind. I hope that you’ll be back for our next program. This is Richard Heffner, good night. And as an old friend used to say, “Good night, and good luck”.