Betty Friedan - The Problem That Has No Name - summary
After describing how post World War 2 American culture send women back home with the nurturing of the "feminine mystique", Betty Friedan's "The Problem That Has No Name" proceeds to show how due to the ideal image of the housewife, so deeply entrenched in their surrounding culture, women were embarrassed to admit their lack of satisfaction in their suburban domestic lives.
For the most part, says Friedan, this problem went untreated and was eventually signed off as "not a problem". Friedan defines this problem as the problem that has no name. The problem that has no name was common to different ages and classes and its symptoms, according to Friedan, were: a sense of emptiness, lack of desire and an unexplained will to cry. Women suffering from this problem that has no name were treated by psychiatrists and given tranquilizers.
At the beginning of the 60's this false bubble of domestic happiness popped. Media in the United States started reporting a new phenomenon: the misery of the American housewife. Psychiatrists indicated that unmarried women were happier than married women and all of the sudden the housewife's unhappiness was the talk of the day in the United States. The problem that has no name was out in the open.
Friedan argues that the American housewife's unhappiness was not the result of material problems but rather originated from a number of unanswered problems which she refers to as the "feminine mystique" according to Friedan, doctors tended to suggest a sexual problem, namely that working husbands could not satisfy their wife's increased sexual appetite. Doctors also suggested that the housewife's lack of satisfaction was the result of being locked up at home waiting for her husband to return and give her a sense of being alive. The 1953 second Kinsey Report which described women's sexuality undermined conservative perceptions of the woman. The report argued that the American housewife is suffering from problems similar to those who suffer sexual oppression. Housewife's children also displayed problems such as the inability the bear pain or accept authority and to focus on one task. They also, suffered for a kind of Friedan's the problem that has no name – boredom, lack of self confidence and dependency.