Sunday, February 17, 2013

On the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique"

1971 Betty Friedan leads the march for gender equality.
I was in my early 30s and the mother of two children in elementary school when I first read Betty Friedan's book, the Feminine Mystique. Friedan's insights motivated me to take advantage of the GI bill - I'm an Air Force veteran - and pursue a long deferred dream by enrolling in college. Family responsibilities slowed me down a little, but I graduated five years later with a BA in English, concentration in writing.

In her article in the NY Times on gender equality, Stephanie Coontz notes:

THIS week is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s international best seller, “The Feminine Mystique,” which has been widely credited with igniting the women’s movement of the 1960s. Readers who return to this feminist classic today are often puzzled by the absence of concrete political proposals to change the status of women. But “The Feminine Mystique” had the impact it did because it focused on transforming women’s personal consciousness. 

In 1963, most Americans did not yet believe that gender equality was possible or even desirable. Conventional wisdom held that a woman could not pursue a career and still be a fulfilled wife or successful mother. Normal women, psychiatrists proclaimed, renounced all aspirations outside the home to meet their feminine need for dependence. In 1962, more than two-thirds of the women surveyed by University of Michigan researchers agreed that most important family decisions “should be made by the man of the house.” 

It was in this context that Friedan set out to transform the attitudes of women. Arguing that “the personal is political,” feminists urged women to challenge the assumption, at work and at home, that women should always be the ones who make the coffee, watch over the children, pick up after men and serve the meals.

Read more:


No comments:

Post a Comment