Feminine Mystique And Black Boy Comparison Essay

, Research Paper

Fighting for survival and status within the world

has been in affect since the Stone Age. It starts

with man against beast battling for survival. As

time goes on, so does the type of battle, from beast

to man against man. When conquerors from Europe

come over to North America they push the Indians

west because they, the Indians, do not fit into the

society the white man creates and there are

differences that are noticeable. Later on there

becomes discrimination against blacks with the Jim

Crow Laws and the silencing of women. Throughout

history there are more examples where people do not

fit into the “norm” of society. Betty Friedan and

Richard Wright in their novels The Feminine Mystique

and Black Boy both experience different forms of

oppression. As Betty Friedan discusses a problem

that has no name, but mainly how a woman is enslaved

in a man’s society, while Richard Wright tries to

overcome the Jim Crow south by attacking racial


“But forbidden to join man in the world, can

women be people” (Friedan 50)? Friedan illustrates

this point throughout her book. The fore-sisters of

Friedan fought for the passage of the nineteenth

amendment which was passed in August of 1920. The

passage of this amendment was largely due to the

women’s contribution to the war effort, the goal was

declared about seventy-two years before, during the

Seneca Falls convention in 1848. Throughout this

time, women became immersed in their education and

their own self-worth. Searching for jobs and not

husbands is the focus. During this period the

national birth rate declines since the women are not

home at the man’s beck and call.

As the times change so does the written word

about the female place in the world. According to

Friedan, experts are telling the women that the only

way to seek fulfillment in their lives is as a wife

and mother. Which in one word is femininity. Now,

the dream is of an American woman behind the stove,

not behind a desk. The women stuck at home “all

shared the same problem, the problem that has no

name” (Friedan 19). Friedan gives these women a

vocabulary for their dissatisfaction, the feminine

mystique. There is no other way for a woman to be a

woman of admirable exploits unless she is a

housewife. Friedan paints the feminine woman of

this time as having feelings of emptiness,

non-existence and nothingness. She illustrates

these problems that women face by telling the reader

that the experts blame their feelings on the higher

education they have received before becoming a

housewife. All women are searching for is a human

identity, a place where they belong without feeling

empty. But the women before this generation fought

for all the rights they have in the present, but

they are not using them. But how can one change

this dehumanizing aspect of the culture?

Friedan portrays the idea of helping women

with the feminine mystique that has gone on for more

than twenty years. This is not a small problem, but

a national one that has effected the majority of the

women in the United States. Friedan’s ideas range

from helping women get back into college and

re-educate themselves, getting out into the

workforce. Therefore freeing themselves from the

feminine mystique. But this can only be

accomplished if the rest of the nation is also

allowing of this change to happen. As the women

want to alter their lifestyles, universities do not

allow women to enter their university by not

admitting anyone who wants to further their

education (graduate study) and part-time students.

These rules bar women from entering to gain


But the time is at hand when the voices

of the feminine mystique can no longer

drown out the inner voice that is

driving women on to become complete

(Friedan 378).

The women now are taking their life into their own

hands and not listening to the experts, their

husbands, or the culture.

Just as Friedan discusses the feminine

mystique holding women back, Richard Wright attacks

racial identity and the oppression he himself faces

as an African American man living in the United

States. Friedan points out the myths that arise

from society are similar to Wright’s dialogue in his

novel that:

The image of the feminists as inhuman,

fiery man-eaters, whether expressed as an

offense against God or in the modern

terms of sexual perversion, is not unlike

the stereotype of the Negro as a

primitive animal (Friedan 87).

This illustrates that the views people hold toward

others are stereotypical because the outcasts are

not the “white man” that dominates the world.

Being different makes the world interesting, if

everyone looked and dressed the same the world

would be boring. Yet no one can get beyond the

color difference or the gender difference.

Like the women feeling a void in their lives

by being a housewife, African American men, like

Wright feel an emptiness. This emptiness, like the

women Friedan describes, is the lack of self-worth

in the world. African Americans lack education,

but Richard Wright who had a man delivering coal to

teach him the numbers and later on the alphabet

then Wright begins to fill “ a new hunger,” the

hunger for reading and gaining knowledge.

Since education is power, white men do not

want the African Americans to gain that power to

have them achieve something in the “real world.”


whites were as miserable as their

black victims… [i]f this country

can’t find its way to a human

path…then all of us, black as well

as white, are going down the same

drain (Wright 383).

Wright brings forth a good point that by holding

one race back it may be holding back the whole

world. For once, an African American male or

female may have been put on this world to make a

purpose in our lives, and by not fulfilling their

minds with knowledge to help them achieve that goal

we are set behind. Just as Friedan points out that

“America’s greatest source of unused brainpower was

women” (Friedan 17).

But it was not the culture of the society that

holds people back, it is also yourself if you as a

person can not fight back and educate yourself

against what society thinks is right, you fail

yourself. Knowledge is power and those who do not

have the spirit to gain that knowledge will fall

deep within the cracks and will not be able to

survive. But Richard Wright fights to fulfill his

hunger of education that is denied to him. The

roles of the African Americans are mapped out for

them, making them follow to the set aspirations

society has for them. Just as society does for the

women in Friedan’s novel were to aspire to be a


Overall, Friedan and Wright though coming from two

different times and places both focus on oppression of the

mind. The oppression that brings this world against one

another is destroying each person. With education being

told as being for the “white man” only and our roles

outlined by society, we try not to go against them. But we

should not let our culture hold us back if we feel a void by

not achieving what we as a person and equal in this world



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