Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Betty Friedan – "The Problem That Has No Name" – summary (part 3)

Betty Friedan - The Problem That Has No Name - summary
part 1 - 2 - 3

After describing "the problem that has no name" and the attempts to work out the "feminine mystique", Betty Friedan asks if the problem that has no name might have something to do with the housewife's daily work routine, and if the repetition of domestic chores, leaving her with no time for herself, is the cause of her depression. Domestic women lost their ability to focus, and by the end of the day were too tired to do anything, a tiredness which eventually led her to seek treatment. Research of the time postulated that women's fatigue was the result of boredom, but Friedan argues that women's attempt to comply with what was expected of them locked them into an invisible trap build on misinterpreted ideas, half-truths and unrealistic choices.

The way out of this trap of the problem that has no name is according to Friedan found in psychology, sociology as well as biology, but was always over looked by academic research. Friedan lists a number of factors which led to the woman's incarceration in the house, and which have led to the phenomenon of feminine depression: the return to early marriage and large families, the call for natural birth and breast feeding, the neighborhood conformities and lack of sexual satisfaction which was rarely discussed in regards to women. Friedan finds a correlation between these depression agents and new physiological phenomena with women of the time who reported menstruation problems, sexual frigidness, adultery, fear of pregnancy, postpartum depression, nervous breakdowns and a high rate of suicides among women in their twenties and thirties.

Betty Friedan's conclusion is that the problem that has no name, that is women's depression and lack of satisfaction, so widely common among American housewives of the 50s was not due to the lack of femininity but rather to an excess of education and awareness. The problem that has no name touches not only on the wife/mother's lack of satisfaction, but also on that of her husband and children. For Friedan, understanding "the feminine mystique" and the roots of the problem that has no name can lead to an understanding of the development of the entire American nation. 

Betty Friedan - The Problem That Has No Name - summary
part 1 - 2 - 3