The Fight Takes Feminism’s Conflicts Seriously

Sunday, 12 November 2017, 12:33:26 AM. Strife within the feminist movement was used to discredit it. But now a new play is taking a harder look at the Second Wave.
Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem didn’t like each other. In many ways, they weren’t allowed to: Beginning in the late 1960s, the media pitted “The Mother of Feminism,” as Friedan was often called, against her younger colleague, casting an important social movement as a catfight. It didn’t help that they looked so different: Steinem was and is thin and tall, while many reporters described Friedan with anti-Semitic and sexist slurs. If their fight was shaped by two different visions about what feminism should be, it was also driven by a culture that spent a good deal of time trying to destroy women who fought for equality. The Fight, a new play by Jonathan Leaf, spotlights the battles that shook Second Wave feminism, both outside the movement and within it. Lezaf’s previous plays are about the moral dilemmas of twentieth century intellectuals, and, according to its creators, The Fight is based on “dozens of interviews” and, “vast amounts of research.” The play aims to bring to light the personal stories of the movement leaders, along with what Leaf calls the “buried scandals” of the Second Wave. Specifically, it dramatizes the eruption at the 1973 National Women’s Political Caucus convention in Houston, when Friedan, who had co-founded the organization two years earlier, was first told that she had been elected to the national steering committee, then that she did not win a seat. When a recount was done, she lost. Both Friedan’s and Steinem’s biographers conclude that the...Read more
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