Monday, February 06, 2006

Musing About Betty Friedan

Goodbye, Betty Friedan. Your voice made more of a difference than you knew.

This is a picture of me in high school, Dallas, Texas, class of 1969. I was co-editor of the school paper and sang in the choir. In my junior year I tried to form a girls' track team. Several times a week, about six or seven of us started going out on the field after school in our ugly white gym all-in-one baggy bloomers.

I played on a girls' basketball team for 3 years before public high school when I was in Catholic schools and didn't see why we girls couldn't have a team of our own. It didn't occur to me to ask permission even though it was on school grounds, because it was after school and I mistakenly assumed that the outside schoolgrounds belonged to the community.

Our school had no sports teams for women, it was considered unladylike. Only boys could do active things, we were suppposed to be passive and cute. We were supposed to be cheerleaders to their efforts or prom queen contenders.

After a few weeks of running and jumping hurdles, one of the women gym teachers spotted us out on the school grounds and reported us to the principal. My mom got a call from him. The text of the conversation went something like this:

Principal: Mrs. N, we I am calling to let you know that your daughter has been trying to start a girls' track team. This is not sanctioned by the Dallas Public School system and we are going to suspend her if she continues to run around flaunting herself in front of the male track members in those skimpy bloomers. No self-respecting young woman should be doing that. I'm sure you'll agree with me.

Mrs. N: Well, I didn't know she was doing that, but I believe I pay taxes for both my sons and my daughters and you are not suspending her. So why don't you have a girls' track team?

We also were required to wear dresses to school, no slacks allowed. And panty hose were required. They didn't care how short our skirts were because the male teachers enjoyed it when the girls crossed their legs in class, revealing a bit of ass.

Betty Friedan wrote about what I was thinking and feeling back then, but was unable to articulate until later. And somehow I ended up working as a therapist at a rape crisis center and then, as the first staff person on our statewide sexual assault coalition.
And I no longer have to wear the damned panty hose.


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