Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Feminine Mystique / Betty Friedan - short summary

The Feminine Mystique is a book by Betty Friedan , which was first published in 1963 in the United States . By the year 2000 the English edition of the book had sold more than three million copies and had been translated into many languages. "The Feminine Mystique" analyzes the lives of middle-class white women in the United States in the 1950s and describes dissatisfaction and frustration at the lack of opportunities. Among other things, Friedan wrote: "A woman today may feel strange, feel guilty and experience loneliness, if she just wants to be more than her husband's partner."

"The Feminine Mystique" is the result of a study conducted by Betty Friedan among the graduates of the 1942 Smith College class (Northampton, Massachusetts, USA) in which she studied. Most of the women in her study indicated general dissatisfaction with their lives as housewives . These findings led Friedan to conduct more comprehensive research on the subject. The study included interviews with other housewives, analysis of psychological studies, media messages and advertisements. Friedan did not intend to publish a book but there was no magazine that agreed to publish the study. According to her findings, Friedan argued that most women are victims of misconceptions that require women to find their identity and meaning in their lives through their husbands and through their children.

At the beginning of a book, Friedan defines women's difficulties as "the problem that has no name," and later in the book reveals the causes of the problem and proves its existence. According to Friedan, watching women is to settle for the roles of housewife and mother and abandon aspirations for education and career and adapt themselves to female idealization. Friedan tries to prove that the feminine mystique prevents women from developing their own identities, beyond identities associated with domestic roles. The mystery appears in incessant representations in the media. These representations glorify the woman as mother and wife and the “masculine” critics of women who want to do other things in combination or instead of traditional roles.

Friedan argues that female mysticism is one of the consequences of World War II and the Cold War that also include the development of the suburbs and the baby boom .

Friedan found these perceptions, especially among communities in suburban from the class class after World War II . She speculated that men returning from war were looking for a mother figure in their wives. At the same time, economic prosperity in the post-war United States led to the development of new technologies aimed at making housework less difficult, but in practice these technologies made women's work less significant and valued. Betty Friedan's critics argued that her surgery did not successfully represent women from other classes.

The Feminine Mystique created a language in which women could define themselves and a platform for social change for women. The book is considered one of the most influential reference books of the 20th century, and is considered one of the factors that triggered the beginning of the second wave of feminism in the United States. Friedan received hundreds of letters from women who identified with the book. And she herself became one of the founders of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and took part in drafting the declaration of the founders who called for equality for all women and the removal of barriers that monitor equality and economic independence.

For an interesting critique of Friedan see: Bell Hooks / Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center