The feminine mystique

January 28, 2011

Dear Rodney,

Many readers of my letters may not be old enough to remember Betty Friedan's 1963 
bombshell book, "The Feminine Mystique." In those days, 78% of college faculty were 
men, as were 95% of physicians and 97% of lawyers. Only 30% of college graduates 
were women. Now, women outnumber men in higher education and are apparently nearing 
par in job placement and life achievement. 
One of Friedan's main points was that post-war, middle class women had to figure 
out what they were going to do after their little ones had flown the coop. With 
longer life expectancies, smaller families, relative economic freedom and a shopping 
cart full of labour-saving devices, millions of women apparently grabbed the brass 
ring of creativity. They found they were well suited to it. Based on this subscriber 
list, workshop attendance and popular statistics, 78% percent of living painters are 
women. And to the disgruntlement of some of the boys, we know that women in general 
tend to have better art-brains. Long-time readers may remember I've frequently 
identified women artists as the next big thing.  

Going by my inbox, it's possible to get the idea that women are in a bit of a bad 
patch. Many tell me they are "not motivated," "lack passion," and are "too distracted 
to be anything other than mediocre." Perhaps an indication of our anxious times, in 
my darker moments I also wonder if these concerns are mainly from those who are 
reading too much self-help stuff. Like the sort of thing I put out.

But in my vast and virtual part-time mentoring practice, which I generally do for 
free, I also see highly optimistic, ambitious women who value education and are 
willing to put in time and treasure (when they have it) to achieve their goals. 
These women cut to the chase and, in my experience, get good. Here's what they 
bring to their easels:

*The capability and the desire to work alone.
*A degree of independence from outside opinion.
*Steady, well-regulated, workmanlike habits.
*The understanding that passion comes from process.
*The curiosity to explore sets and series.
*An intuitive sense of quality and reasonable taste.
*A philosophical but nevertheless combative attitude to the miserably dying vestiges 
of the boy's club.

Betty Friedan would have been particularly enthused by these ladies.

Best regards,


PS: "Who knows what women can become when they are finally free to become 
themselves." (Betty Friedan)

Esoterica: Possibly, like the tail-ends of the Roman and other Empires, the West is 
in danger of losing faith in itself. Nations are now burdened with fear, anxiety, 
hubris, xenophobia and popular ignorance. This time around, the women are joining 
in. Could it be that everything nowadays is just too easy and too available? For 
many of us, both men and women, there is enough to be done just watching the world 
go by--and being entertained. Spectator sports are at the apex of popularity, and 
the gladiators are the top earners.