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Ghost Of Betty Friedan Miraculously Appears On LA Street (Maybe)

Filed by KOSU News in Science.
June 7, 2011

I’d like to do a little poll here, if I could.

The other day I was watching a video, shot by my friend Dan Mercandante (a Radiolab regular) who was standing on a street in Los Angeles when two people happened by, the two you see here, one of them in black jogging clothes, that’s a guy, the other in a polka-dot jacket, that’s a woman.

Dan, on impulse, just turned and followed them.

What happens next, struck me as fascinating. The man, as you can see, is walking ahead of the woman, who I decided is probably his wife. As they walked along, I got this feeling that he wanted her to keep a respectful distance behind him, kind of like guys you find on the “Husband of the Year Awards” site that features men who matter-of-factly become the center of their universe while their women become circling planets of servitude, like for example, this gentleman from Greece …

Or this bicycle lover from Britain (who only got a “Honorable Mention”) …

But going back to our video, our Los Angeles woman picks up speed a little and falls in directly behind her husband, closing the distance. He then turns, stops, gives her a look I can’t interpret, not pleased, not inviting, just a look and she pulls up by his side.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

I don’t know why, but for some reason I felt I was watching, while not exactly a bra-burning, something like a feminist moment, like she was thinking Don’t Tread On Me, Buster!

My wife, however, (who is very Betty Friedan in her way) looked at this same video and saw nothing but a lady window shopping and then joining her husband. No big whoop, nothing remotely political going on.

I wonder about this. We humans have a tendency to see patterns in the things going on around us, and there’s a term for what my wife thinks I’ve done. It’s called “Apophenia,” finding personal, meaningful patterns in random, or meaningless data.

In other words, seeing what isn’t there.

If that’s what I did.

Which is why I’d like you to watch this video, and tell me if any of you out there see what I saw. Is this a woman fascinated by window displays of office furniture or is this a woman who’s venting her inner Betty Friedan? I’d be curious to know what you think.

So, ahead of time, thanks. (And come on … is she really THAT interested in desk displays?)

Dan Mercandante is part of a team of video artist/reporters who call themselves Everynone. Their work, often featured on NPR & WNYC’s Radiolab can be found here.

[Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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