Betty Friedan and black women: Is it time for a second look? by Michelle Bernard


Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” turned 50 this week.  At the time of its publication, “Singletons” (circa 1963 defined as an unmarried woman) did not have a legal right to birth control. Married women did not have equal access to credit.  In some states, married women could not get a job without the permission of their husbands.  Occupational segregation was the norm.  The wage gap was more like a wage canyon.  Sexual harassment of women in the workplace was not yet legally actionable.  Abortion was illegal.  Every state in the nation required “fault-based” grounds for divorce.  Spousal rape was not a crime in most states.

All of this changed for all American women in the wake of Friedan’s tome.  Second wave feminism was born.  The National Organization for Women was founded.  The call for equality and women’s rights would resound in every cell of the American body politic.

All American women owe Friedan a debt of gratitude.

Yet, despite all of the above, as an African American woman, I can say that I have never met a black woman who admits to having read “The Feminine Mystique.”  I have never heard a black woman of a certain age recite with the nostalgia what I refer to as “the Friedan anthem” – “The Problem with No Name.”

Continue reading at The Washington Post


12 from 2012

Red-CarpetwebAfter a 9-mth hiatus, 4 colored girls is back! And just in time for “awards season.” Here are 12 “colored girls” who left their imprint in 2012:

  1.  ShondaRLargeImageBoxShonda Rhimes is on her grind. Juggling three multiethnically-cast network dramas at one time–one recently ended–Rhimes is poised to be a game-changer in Hollywood, or maybe we should just rename it Shondaland.
  2. 9 yr old Quvenzhané Wallis made history as the youngest Best Actress Oscar nominee for her brilliant performance as the gender-bending “Hushpuppy” in Bein Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild.
  3. Six years after On Beauty, Zadie Smith’s latest novel NW pushes the boundaries of language, place,  and time. Set in North London, the female-character-driven novel explores the complexities of friendship.
  4. Though we lost sassy siren Etta James last year, her lasting influence on audiences and performers alike are a testament to the power of her voice.
  5. First lady Michelle Obama‘s speech at the DNC last year merited another shout-out from 4coloredgirls. “Affective politics” at its finest.
  6. of black women in the White House, Kerry Washington‘s performance as “Olivia Pope,” professional “fixer” and presidential paramour has over 8 million viewers tuning into Scandal each week. Olivia’s scandalous behavior with “President Grant” sets the twitterverse and blogosphere alight with debates about the show’s sexual, racial, and class politics. As if commanding our undivided attention on Thursdays weren’t enough, during her “downtime,” Washington played the love interest of slave-turned-vigilante in Django Unchained. Though her lines were sparse, she gave plenty of “face.”
  7. Also blowing up the twitterverse is hip hop’s latest bad girl Azealia Banks. Hopefully twitter squabbles and poorly-chosen insults won’t overshadow the talent of this Harlem rapper as we anticipate her first release.
  8. whitneySo many admirers of Whitney Houston mourned her passing last year but the loss seemed even more palpable for the post-civil rights generation of “colored girls” who grew up trying to imitate the trill of her voice, awestruck by her beauty, and praying that she wouldn’t be our generation’s Billie Holiday.
  9. I have been quietly admiring the luscious artwork of “colored girl” Mickalene Thomas for some time. Last year, Thomas’s first solo exhibition, Origin of the Universe, debuted at the Brooklyn Museum."Donna Summer" by Mickalene Thomas (2002)
  10. I’m not at all surprised that Donna Summer is a hero to and inspiration for Mickalene Thomas. The disco diva and cosmopolitan jet-setter packed dance floors with her sultry voice and infectious rhythms. Summer died from cancer last year, but her legacy remains with us.
  11. Pulitzer Prize-winner Natasha Trethewey was named U.S. Poet Laureate last year. The haunting verse of Native Guard speaks to the poet’s tragic history while also testifying to our collective past as Black Americans GE DIGITAL CAMERA
  12. Trethewey’s elegies have touched me in an even deeper place since My Mama joined the ancestors at the end of 2012. Her generous spirit, beauty, and radiant smile impacted everyone who met her. And so I share a piece of her memory with you.