In the Introduction to the tenth anniversary edition of The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan wrote, “It’s frightening when you’re starting on a new road that no one has been on before. You don’t know how far it’s going to take you until you look back and realize how far, how very far you’ve gone.”
Indeed. Forty years after that statement and 50 years after the publication of The Feminine Mystique, the road that Friedan embarked upon has led women to places they have never been before—entering the workforce and academia in ever-higher numbers, yes, but also historically low fertility rates, no-fault divorce, and abortion on demand. The emotional consequences for women have not been rosy. Stevenson and Wolfers report that, in spite of the fact that all objective measures of women’s happiness have risen, both women’s subjective well-being and their well-being relative to men have fallen since the 1970s. For the first time in the last 35 years, men report higher levels of happiness than do women.
In 1963, Betty Friedan named the problem. The opening chapter of her Feminine Mystique is aptly titled, “The Problem That Has No Name.” There Friedan verbalized what countless housewives thought and felt but did not know how to say: the American dream was a disappointment for women. Marriage, children, a house in the suburbs full of modern conveniences—all these trappings of success failed to satisfy the deeply human yearnings of women. The trappings were, she argued, traps; the middle-class home, a “concentration camp” where women were held captive by a culture that expected them to find fulfillment in their families while secluding themselves from the ambitions of the university and the workplace.
With the problem thus named (and the Nazi metaphor apologetically retracted), Friedan volunteered a solution. If the “feminine mystique” reduced a woman’s identity to the categories of wife and mother, then the first step toward liberation would be to envision a woman’s life course as independent from both her husband and her children. Marriage and childbearing would have to…
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Nearly a hundred recommendations have been made by Lord Leveson to put some ethical backbone in Britain’s brash, sometimes corrupt and often sleazy press. The 1,800 page report is an encyclopaedia of the dark arts of yellow journalism: phone hacking, lurid sensationalism, covert surveillance, blagging, door-stepping, harassment, a reckless disregard for accuracy…
But the core of his concerns is privacy. The News of the World, the tabloid which Rupert Murdoch closed down as a response to public outrage over revelations that some of its journalists hacked into the phone of the murdered Millie Dowling, was stupendously, incredibly, horrendously expert at invading the privacy of celebrities.
Exhibit A in these abuses was veteran tabloid journalist Paul McMullan (see video above). He was so proud of his craft and so eager to display it to the Inquiry that he was requested to curb his torrent of stories and pictures. Mr McMullen is an extraordinary raconteur, a rogue so colourful that his testimony cries out to heaven for a film to bring him to the picture theatres. (Hugh Grant looks a bit like him and would do an excellent job.)
In trawling for ideas for regulating Britain’s unruly press, the head of the government inquiry, Lord Leveson, pinched a few ideas from Ireland. Its Press Council offered, he thought, a reasonably sophisticated system for maintaining standards of fairness and balance in its media.
But the Press Council hasn’t stopped the Irish press from being incredibly unfair and slanted in its coverage of the death of Savita Halappananvar. Without a minimum of professional integrity no regulatory system will be fool-proof against this kind of abuse.
The Irish Times headline “Woman 'denied a termination' dies in hospital” on November 14 ignited an international firestorm. The story became the best-read article in the newspaper’s history. Media around the world condemned Ireland’s “backward” no-abortion policy.
Kitty Holland, the journalist who broke the news, has admitted at least twice that her narrative was misleading and that she had papered over the ambiguity and uncertainty about the facts of Savita’s illness and death.
The good Lord Leveson has certainly set the cat among both the press and political pigeons. His elegantly crafted proposal for establishing a self-regulatory regime for the press, backed by statutory under-pinning (which could have satisfied both sides of the statutory/self regulation divide) has come up against the harsh realities of Westminster’s realpolitik.
After eight months of hearings, Lord Leveson and his team have produced a 2,000-page report containing a wide range of recommendations; but the main issue is what form of regulation, if any, is appropriate for the British press for its “take no prisoners” approach to newsgathering.
All sides agree that the practices of some newspapers – phone hacking, harassment and intrusions of privacy – were totally unacceptable and need to be controlled. However, the newspapers, and their allies, claim that these offences are all unlawful and should be dealt with by the police and courts, without the need for any government-imposed regulator. “Leave us to regulate ourselves with the police as back-up” cry the press proprietors.
Headlines everywhere the day after the 2012 election claimed that the single issue motivating voters was the economy. But if that were the case, Barack Obama would not have won.
The past four years have been an economic disaster, with unprecedented government spending on stimulus efforts that failed miserably, chronic unemployment bedeviled by more people dropping off the rolls when they gave up looking for work, higher numbers of people without homes and relying on food stamps, small businesses unable to grow or hire because banks wouldn’t lend and government wouldn’t get off their backs with regulations, gas prices doubling and food prices rising.
Those headlines were wrong. President Obama won re-election because of an astounding, slick, savvy and highly successful ground game and campaign geniuses who ran that machine like General Patton and his divisions ran a military campaign. Credit is due where it is earned, and the Obama team blew away even the top pundits who never saw it coming, through Election Day itself. It was Obama’s shock and awe.
One positive lesson from Tuesday night is that assisted suicide should be struck from the progressive agenda. While voters re-elected Barack Obama, added two Democrat senators, elected an openly-lesbian senator in Wisconsin, supported or legalised same-sex marriage in four states, and legalised recreational cannabis in Colorado and Washington, in the playground of progressive politics, Massachusetts, they rejected physician-assisted suicide.
Question 2 on the ballot asked whether a doctor should be allowed to prescribe a lethal drug to end the life of a terminally ill person. This is already legal in Oregon and Washington on the West Coast. If assisted suicide had gained a beachhead on the East Coast, it would have been taken up quickly throughout New England.
But voters rejected it by 51 percent to 49 percent.
The narrow margin does not convey the success of the No campaign. As late as mid-September, a Suffolk University poll found that 64 percent of voters favoured legalising assisted suicide. The cause seemed lost.
What turned voters around? Four factors seem to have been at work.
As the destructive roar of Hurricane Sandy dwindled and died last week, leaving Americans along the Atlantic coast facing colossal damage, the climate change alarm bells could be heard in all their urgency. Warming oceans and melting ice caps could have played a decisive role in creating the “Frankenstorm” that claimed 100 lives, left hundreds homeless and will cost $60 billion to repair. “Now will they listen?” the global warming pundits demanded of the sceptics.
This week the alarms are sounding again for many Americans, but it’s nothing to do with continuing stormy weather. The cause does, however, have a lot to do with ecology: human ecology -- the integrity of the human being who is both matter and spirit and the conditions under which he or she may thrive and contribute to genuine social progress.
On Tuesday just over half of US voters put Barack Obama back in the White House. This is a president who supports abortion and free contraception as women’s rights, who has declared support for same-sex “marriage”; whose last campaign ad propositioned the youth vote with the sultry line, “If…
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In the lead up to the US presidential election most Chinese didn’t see a substantial difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. In both rhetoric and substance they were seen as much of a muchness. Sure, Mitt Romney had spooked Chinese punters when he promised to label China a “currency manipulator” on his first day in office. And Obama trumped that when he stopped a Chinese wind turbine manufacturer from establishing a wind farm in Oregon because of national security concerns over its proximity to a naval base.
But few Chinese paid too much attention to this anti-Chinese posturing. A common refrain here was “China is just a scapegoat of the US election. To win the election the candidates need an enemy to blame and attack for all that’s wrong in America; but once the election is over it will be back to business as usual.”
In a business sense Romney, despite his currency manipulator charge, was seen as more positively disposed to China. Obama’s claim that the Republican contender had exported American jobs to China was seen as a commitment to globalization and open markets.
The United States held elections last night, and nothing changed. Barack Obama remains president. The Democrats remain in control of the Senate with a non-filibuster-proof majority. The Republicans remain in control of the House of Representatives.
The national political dynamic has resulted in an extended immobilization of the government. With the House -- a body where party discipline is the norm -- under Republican control, passing legislation will be difficult and require compromise. Since the Senate is in Democratic hands, the probability of it overriding any unilateral administrative actions is small. Nevertheless, Obama does not have enough congressional support for dramatic new initiatives, and getting appointments through the Senate that Republicans oppose will be difficult.
There is a quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson: "That government is best which governs the least because its people discipline themselves." I am not sure that the current political climate is what was meant by the people disciplining themselves, but it is clear that the people have imposed profound limits on this government. Its ability to continue what is already being done has not been curbed, but its ability to do much that is new has been…
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