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The Feminine Mystiquea landmark book by feminist Betty Friedan published in that described the pervasive dissatisfaction among women in mainstream American society in the post- World War II period. She coined the term feminine mystique to describe the societal assumption that women could find fulfillment through housework, marriage, sexual passivity, and child rearing alone.
Friedan, however, noted that many housewives were unsatisfied with their lives but had difficulty articulating their feelings. Friedan also argued that the feminine mystique hurt women both personally and professionally, and she held that, for women as well as for men, identity was largely cultivated through a sense of personal achievement, primarily through a career.
That expectation inspired the feminine mystique. Men returning from war looked to their wives for nurturing. Furthermore, largely because of the escalating Cold War during the s, the cultivation of the American nuclear family and the idealized domestic space was part of an ideological battle against Soviet Russia.
Middle-class white women in particular were considered warriors in that battle, because, in representing idealized femininity, they showed the superiority of the American capitalist consumer society.
For instance, by the end of the s, 14 million girls were becoming engaged by age 17, and the average age of marriage had dropped to The of women in college dropped from 47 percent in to 35 percent in The American housewife who properly performed her domestic duties was deemed by the American media to be the envy of women throughout the world. When Friedan interviewed housewives, however, she found that behaviours suggested in magazines and home economics textbooks—such as having dinner on the table when her husband returned from work and making him comfortable by taking off his shoes and offering him a drink—did not always prove fulfilling for women and that most women could not live up to that idealized feminine behaviour.
By the early s the media had recognized that suburban women were often unhappy Housewives looking sex Mid America their roles. Some attributed that unhappiness to education; they contended that the more educated a woman was, the more likely she was to be unfulfilled as a housewife. Magazine articles further suggested better ways to find fulfillment through sex. Friedan further contended that a woman could have a successful career as well as a family.
Education, in her estimation, had less to do with reinforcing the feminine mystique than with the outright emancipation of women. The Feminine Mystique was one of many catalysts for the second-wave feminist movement s—80s. By the end of the s, however, its flaws had been clearly identified. Its arguments, broadly speaking, were less relevant, because twice as many women were in the workforce as had been during the s.
Social historian Daniel Horowitz, in Betty Friedan and the Making of The Feminine Mystiquerevealed that Friedan had been dishonest about her vantage point, which she claimed was that of a suburban mother and housewife. She had been a leftist radical activist from the time she was at Smith College.
It was, he concluded, a necessary fiction if both she and her feminist ideas were to be given a chance to take root.
Still other critics noted that she based some of her theories on studies that have since proved inaccurate. Despite the ensuing criticismthe book undeniably galvanized many women to think about their roles and identities in society. Since its first publication, it has been reissued numerous times with additions—by Friedan and other feminist writers and scholars—that provide further context. The Feminine Mystique. Additional Info.
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The Feminine Mystique