Beyoncé: being photographed in your underwear doesn't help feminism
Next month marks the 50th anniversary of The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan's hugely influential study that helped to spark that pervasive second wave of feminism that – for all its faults and stuttering incompleteness – shaped the western world as most of us know it today.
As a book it was – as Friedan was herself – a flawed advocate of women's rights: Friedan had little apparent interest in women who were anything other than white and upper middle-class. Her homophobia became an embarrassment to the women's movement. Her egotistical paranoia about being ousted as the face of the women's movement was captured with wince-inducing brilliance by Nora Ephron in her 1972 essay, Miami.
The feminist movement never did and never will run smoothly. But Friedan's book, as Stephanie Coontz writes in her recent book, A Strange Stirring, rescued "a generation of intelligent women, sidelined from the world". Whatever its flaws, the publication of The Feminine Mystique remains as much of a landmark in the history of feminism as Emily Davison's death 50 years earlier at the 1913 Epsom Derby.
And so, 50 years on from Friedan, it pleases me to announce that we have a new face to the modern-day feminist movement. That face belongs to none other than Beyoncé Knowles.
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