The Feminine Mystique Essay, Research Paper
Women make up a fair portion of the most wonderful people on earth. They are compassionate, intelligent, patient, careful, independent and focused, They are business executives, actors, artists, poets, scientists, wives and mothers. They are, perhaps, the most subtly oppressed and disillusioned group in society. THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE, by Betty Friedan, champions the cuase of the maladjusted, unsatisifed and all too common victim of “the problem that has no name”–the American housewife.
She is told that she has all a girl could want: a loving husband, beautiful children, a comfortable home. She is a business manager, cook, nurse, chauffeur, dressmaker, interior decorator, accountant, caterer, teacher and private secretary. She is a psrt of the glorified “Occupation: housewife” movement. Yet she searches for something more. An undefined yearning grips her soul. She struggles to live up to the societal standard of feminine normality, adjustment and maturity. The goal of her life is feminine fulfillment, be it in products, magazxines, children or sex. She is the victim of “the feminine mystique”–the elusive mirage of contentedness and appreciation in the desert of family life and marriage. Friedan’s book examines this problem openly and objectively, observing several key issues. Women, she argues, are conditioned to think that ultimate success lies in the glorification of their femininity to its utmost potential. Education and equal rights are simply the consequences of neurotic women wishing to be men. Those things offer no feminine affirmation; hence, they are unable to satisfy the modern woman who revels in the glory of her sex. In the same way, independence and hard-nosed perseverance leave women loveless and alone. True women, those who win romance and eduring love, are gentle, graceful and intoxiacatingly (or sickeningly, for that matter) sweet. Childbearing is seen as the pinnacle of human achievement (as evidenced in studies of South Sea societies conducted by Margaret Mead). Education and a career-oriented mentality lead to sexual disorders. The task of “finding one’s self” proves too difficult, especially when the alternative of societal definiton through terms like “wife” and “mother” appears so alluring. Women must be “young and frivolous, almost childlike; fluffy and feminine; passive; gaily content in a world of bedroom and kitchen, babies and home.” All of this comprises the feminine mystique–each issue creates the domestic heroine to which all pay homage but for which none are truly suited. Women become trapped in the drudgery of menial household labor, entirely reliant on advertisng and appliances to reaffirm the “sanctity” of their role, or sex to awaken the deadness in their souls. Friedan, through meticulous, reliable research and the careful interviewing of countless subjects, paints a picture of the American concept of femininity that is grim and deplorable at best.
While Friedan tended to be staunchly feminist and highly critical (not necessarily bad traits), she had a convincing, detailed and accurate writing style that makes her points at least mildly palatable to non-feminists. She provided an endless ream of exceedingly persuasive statistics, colored by pleasingly astute observations, woven together flawlessly by a surprisingly conversational tone. She included numerous quotes from magazines, all of which contained eerily similar, disgustingly cute, and “freckle-faced” brunettes with names of “kitty” and the like. It was brought to my attention that American women, since 1939, have become three and four sizes smaller. I was also made awaree of the single most nauseating advertisement I have ever had the displeasure of reading. Apparently, in the 1960 NEW YORK TIMES, an ad was printed which pictured size 3 to 6x dresses bearing the slogan: “She Too Can Join the Man-Trap Set.” Oh, joy. Where do I sign up?
In conclusion, I believe this book to be extremely well-written and exceedingly accurate, easily recommended to any friend, male or female. It provides a rare, if frightening, glimpse into the nature of what it means to be feminine. Hopefully, through efforts similar to this, we will one day cure the myriad of symptoms of “the problem that has no name.”