Changing Times, Changing Minds

I was at the Strand bookstore when I found a forty-eight-cent copy of The Feminine Mystique. I’ll shamefully admit that the selfsame title heads a list entitled “Mel’s Summer Gotta Read!” if for no other reason than damn, you’ve got to read it. How did I make it this far in my life without having read Betty Friedan’s classic work? I’m not sure, but I’m happy to rectify the situation, and encourage everyone I know to do the same. Because it’s such an honest piece, and the historical picture she paints is so vivid, that I was able to work up a real appreciation for how radical the book must have been in the first place. (My bargain-rate copy is actually a crumbling original, and the cover breathlessly pushes the book as “The year’s most controversial bestseller!”) You can feel Friedan grappling with her imagined reader, repeating herself when necessary, reeling you in with a careful, historical, reportorial narrative until she’s got you. How it must have felt to have that book change your mind—and subsequently, your entire life. If you, like me, have somehow made it this far without this classical revolutionary text—as important as any Foucault or Fanon—get on it.

And so, in honor of my renewed respect for Betty Friedan and the feminists who’ve so radically changed the minds of so much of the world, a brief overview of some important mind-changes from the world of politics this week: (below the jump)

New York State Governor Paterson (not something I ever imagined typing, by the way) changed the state’s standing towards same-sex marriages. No, we won’t actually do them here, but we’ll recognize them done elsewhere. (Legislation allowing gay marriage to be performed in NY would have to pass through the State Legislature, the upper house of which is notoriously conservative.) While the event-planners’ union fumed, gay-issue-oriented folk celebrated briefly before returning to their worry that the recent California decision will be undone.

The White House changed its mind in global warming. Um, well…sort of. I mean, a little. They’re pretty sure it was caused by human activities. Almost. Well, they’re not going to rule it out…

Scott McClellan, the former White House Press Secretary best characterized by Stephen Colbert as the man “who could say nothing like nobody else,” has released a new book this week, and it seems he’s changed his mind some about the Bush administration and his role in any number of projects, from Valerie Plame’s outing fiasco to the ramp-up and continued misrepresentations of the war in Iraq. He’s now saying, among other things, that Karl Rove should have resigned, that he was wrong to pillory Richard Clarke, and that the White House—in his form—misled the American public. I have a knee-jerk reaction to disbelieve anything Scott McClellan says, but I do hope that What Happened is a sincere act of teshuvah. Incidentally, the White House has also changed its mind on Scott McClellan.

The mainstream media decided to stop ripping into Hilary Clinton with their misogyny unsheathed. Just kidding! Check out an agonizing video compilation here.

Speaking of agonizing, the Democratic primary drags on, despite some changed minds regarding the votes of Michigan and Floridian voters—half of them will be counted. This hasn’t changed Clinton’s mind about remaining in the race. (And because people keep asking me—staying in the race regardless of the math is her prerogative, and she should avail herself of it as she sees fit. But can’t we all spend more time yelling and Republicans and not each other?)

And however slim the chances are of Israel and Syria working out all their enmity under the beautiful Turkish sun, aren’t we all so proud that they’ve changed their minds and are going to give diplomatic talks a chance?

On a closing note, I’d like to say that I think “flip-flopper” is one of the most infantile and poisonous terms of our political day. It makes me feel seasick, although I do think there are legitimate uses for it—politicians really can be two-faced, and should have their faces rubbed in their lies when caught. But. There’s such a thing as changing your mind, and I think the difference between them is this: flip-floppers hide their old ideas, deny them, refuse responsibility for them, while those who growthfully change their minds acknowledge those “strange stirrings” that help better fulfill their own nature. As Betty Friedan knew, that matters.

–Mel Weiss