anniversaries

When you go back and you look at the actual documents, many people have said since then that it was about states’ rights, but really the only significant state right that people were arguing about in 1860 was the right to own what was known as slave property — property and slaves unimpeded — and to be able to travel with that property anywhere that you wanted to. So it’s clear that this was really about slavery in almost every significant way, but we’ve sort of pushed that to the side because of course we want to believe that our country is a country that’s always stood for freedom. And … certainly it’s difficult for some Southern Americans to accept that their ancestors fought a war on behalf of slavery. And I think that Northerners really, for the cause of national reconciliation, decided to push that aside — decided to accept Southerners’ denials or demurrals.
—  Adam Goodheart on why people still argue over the cause of the Civil War. The war began 152 years ago today, on April 12, 1861.

Happy Tenth Birthday, ‘Mean Girls.’ You Taught Me So Much

Maybe it’s exactly the wrong time to admit this, given that today’s the film’s tenth anniversary, but the 14-year-old me totally did not “get" Mean Girls. It was less stylized than Clueless, less sophisticated than Heathers, and 100 times less cool than Cruel IntentionsMean Girls showed up late to the party with its monogrammed tote bag, and expected everybody to quote it to death. And quite a lot of the time, they did. In hindsight—or more importantly, after watching it with a full-blown, adult-sized hangover—it’s a different story. But at the time it felt like something relatively unremarkable, with the bonus addition of Lindsay Lohan and huge budget.

Before Mean Girls, everyone I knew was happy buying into and lusting after the impossibleCruel Intentions idea that you needed a crucifix full of cocaine to be cool. Then along came the Plastics, who merely required you to not be wearing track pants. I don’t know about you, but my teen self felt let down. Buffy in a school uniform seducing her step-brother was a whole lot more exciting than a bunch of girls wearing Tiffany’s necklaces and Maybelline products. We knew these people already; we went to school with them. Their moms had Mini Coopers with personalized number plates, and they were shitty people. Add that to the fact that Thirteen had come out the previous year—the film made me want to skip out on all the boring high school stuff to take hallucinogens and have my best friend punch me repeatedly in the face—and you can start to see why Mean Girls failed to capture my imagination.

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Images via WBUR and Getty

Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking The Feminist Mystique was published on this day in 1963. Our own Lynn Neary took a look back at the book’s significance a few years ago, when it turned 50:

Since its first publication in 1963, millions of people have read The Feminine Mystique. These days, many people read it in college — often in women’s studies classes. Even so, when we talked with some young women in downtown Washington, D.C., many knew little or nothing about it.

But today’s young woman can be forgiven for not feeling the urgency to read The Feminine Mystique that their mothers might have felt. It’s probably hard for them to understand the way things were when Friedan decided she had enough.

“There’s very seldom that you get a book that is so of the moment,” says New York Times columnist Gail Collins, who was a teenager when the book first came out.

The Feminist Mystique is not without issues; many people have criticized Friedan’s work as myopic, ignoring the lives and experiences of poor women and women of color – here’s bell hooks, in the introduction to her 1984 book From Margin to Center:

From her early writing, it appears that Friedan never wondered whether or not the plight of college-educated white housewives was an adequate reference point by which to gauge the impact of sexism or sexist oppression on the lives of women in American society. Nor did she move beyond her own life experience to acquire an expanded perspective on the lives of women in the United States.

For more hooks – and a thoughtful criticism of other issues with The Feminist Mystique, check out this excellent article by Ashley Fetters at The Atlantic.

Still, feminist author and writer Jessica Valenti says the book has an important legacy:

Valenti says one of Friedan’s most powerful legacies is her anger. She says young women shy away from that emotion because they don’t want to be labeled “angry feminists.”

“But we forget that that anger is justified and that it’s OK to be angry and that anger can be useful and energizing,” Valenti says. “I think anger around sexism, around income inequality, around domestic inequality is really righteous and really relatable.”

You can see the entire piece here – and find our remembrance of Friedan (who died in 2006) here.

– Petra