The Feminine Mystique
- Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 04 March 2010
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Thank goodness I read this book just as I transitioned from student to independent woman. I lacked a strong woman as role model in my life, but was able to conceive and create (still an on-going process) the woman I wished to be, thanks to Betty Friedan's groundbreaking work.
As a third wave feminist, I think it is important that we understand our history- both as individual women and as the feminist movement. This is the book that launched a movement, and although many things have changed, many remain the same. Overall, it is well written and very easy to understand. I find the number of examples provided a bit much, even redundant, but I understand why it was important to cite so many. Concepts introduced in this text continue to resonate in contemporary feminist theory. There is gender based discrimination, for both men and women, which Friedan touches on in this early text. However, to understand that this is not the be-all of feminism is also important. Feminism is all classes, all races, all sexual orientations, and yes, all genders. Friedan's polemic is NOT an introduction to feminism. For that, see Feminism is for Everybody by Bell Hooks.
When I first heard about this book I was immediately intrigued. I couldn't wait to read it and see how far women have come. Imagine my surprise when the author seemed to be describing the present day instead of a distant past. I couldn't believe how relevant a book from the 1960's is today. Betty Friedan describes a generation of women who were manipulated into thinking that motherhood and housewifery is the be all and end all for women. She explained that in the 50's and 60's women defined themselves solely through their children and husbands instead of developing an identity of their own. Women were seen as childlike with limited capabilities and, thus, education for females was dismissed as unnecessary. However, many women were unsatisfied with their only career choice as wife and mother. They were desperate for a sense of meaning and true identity. Some attempted to fill this void by using sexual promiscuity, focusing on their appearance, and/ or buying an endless amount of material things for their homes. This is still true for a lot of women today. Friedan thinks that women tried to elevate the status of housework and child rearing by obsessing over natural child birth, breast feeding, and homemade bread and clothes. Mothers became so over involved in the lives of their offspring that the kids could hardly develop into independent human beings. Researchers later found that children are actually happier, and develop better, when the mother has a career, or other purpose besides her children. Unfortunately, women seem to be falling into the same trap again. The media seems to be telling them, once again, that unless they give up everything and turn into helicopter-parents, their children are doomed for failure. It almost seems as if there is a second wave of this back- to-the- home trend. I see many women that are so preoccupied with their children that it appears as if they are trying to live their lives through them. Just think about shows like Toddlers& Tiaras- is it really the dream of those little girls to be presented like a show pony for the adults? I have to admit, there have been times when I, too, have thought about how idyllic it would be to have a big family, prepare all their organic food at home, and even (gasp!) home school the children. But after reading this book, there is no way that I will ever give up my education and career. Defining yourself through your children and husband is simply not the way to live a fulfilling life. This book may have been a bit dated and repetitive at times, but obviously our generation hasn't gotten the message yet, and it can't hurt to hear it more than once. In my opinion, they should really make this work required reading in high school. It's very powerful.
Incredibly this book has not aged at all; a must read for every women who has trouble achieving work-life balance
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