Sunday, February 05, 2006

Betty Friedman and Al Lewis Both Pass Away


By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Two famous New Yorkers, Betty Friedman and Al "Gandpa Munster" Lewis died yesterday. I was always a "feminist" since I could remember, when I used to fight against the school policy of banning any sensible clothes for girls, forcing them to wear skirts but that was put into context and became an informed struggle for my own civil rights only after reading "The Feminist Mystique." Al Lewis was a radical leftist and Village ficture. He was funny, accessible, a die-hard hippie who revelled in his life and enjoyed everything to the hilt.

From the NYT:
Betty Friedan, whose manifesto ''The Feminine Mystique'' became a best seller in the 1960s and laid the groundwork for the modern feminist movement, died Saturday, her birthday. She was 85.

Friedan died at her home of congestive heart failure, according to a cousin, Emily Bazelon.

Friedan's assertion in her 1963 best seller that having a husband and babies was not everything and that women should aspire to separate identities as individuals, was highly unusual, if not revolutionary, just after the baby and suburban booms of the Eisenhower era.
It wasn't a mere book about herself or her opinions, this book was a scientific study, she wrote clearly, concisely and stuck to facts and connected them with each other in her growing framework of not only women's liberation but the rights of workers and how to everything interacted with each other in a capitalist society.

In other words, she was a radical leftist of the best sort. Accessible, sensible and hard working, she never backed down and she always was a shining star in my mental universe and I will miss this great lady. She had to endure tremendous villification, nasty personal attacks, howls of rage. Like the Statue of Liberty, she held her flame high and clutched her books to her chest, never backing down.

A pillar of strength, ever more relevant as time passes, her achievements made my life better, my very first lawsuit against the schools, demanding the right to take "boys" classes coincided with the publication of her famous book. My ACLU lawyer gave it to me as a gift and I devoured it. I thought I was all alone until I read her and it turned on many lights in my own heads.

Thank you, Mother of the Movement, dear Betty, I really did appreciate everything you did for us.

Al Lewis was an actor who played a goofy character on TV and I am certain, any of my readers who are over 40 years old remember "the Munsters" which was a comedy show running alongside the Vietnam war and like nearly all of TV, totally ignored that war and was designed to rock America to sleep---very much like today. But Al wasn't content to make money and "to hell with the earth," he actually was an increasingly outrageous hippie, namely, he refused to endorse the status quo and work for da Man but instead, used his fame and money to promote alternative lifestyles, the environment, socialist programs for the poor.

He was a fixture in Greenwich Village and I remember him fondly from the days when I used to hang out there, back when I lived in NYC. When he ran for Govenor, he forced both candidates to take increasingly strong positions on environmental issues. Third party candidates are ignored, ask Ralph Nader, but they are important in politics because they force the bigger people to talk about important issues they would rather ignore when running.

Cuomo was pro-environment but had to cut his sails to please donors and Pataki, too, was for cleaning up the Hudson, for example, but again, both didn't want to talk about, say, diesel pollution in Manhattan, just for example (cough*hack) because business would have been pissed about it, as it was, GE was very pissed about the cleaning the Hudson stuff since they polluted it and they were cornered by all this "clean the Hudson" rhetoric, they are still fighting this, trying to weasel out of paying for part of the clean-up.

Anyway, I always am pro-third party candidate and hate the present poltiical system that has gotten stuck with just two parties yanking us around. Seems neither one wants us leftists, don't they?

I will miss Grandpa Munster. We will all regret the death of Betty Friedman.
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