Study Guide

The Feminine Mystique

by Betty Friedan

The Feminine Mystique Characters

Characters

Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud was an Austrian psychologist who tried to define life in completely sexual terms. Friedan says that the basic ideas expressed in Freudian psychology—which emphasized freedom from a repressive morality—support women's attempts at emancipation. However, Friedan says that Freud's specific theories about women, which were equal parts chivalry and condescension, and which were largely a product of his observations of the repressed Victorian era in which he lived, helped to reinforce the repression of modern women. Freud called women's yearning for equality penis envy, a term that was seized upon by promoters of the feminine mystique. Friedan notes that the type of concrete scientific thinking that provided the basis for Freud's theories has since been replaced by a more complex system of scientific thought. Nevertheless, while many of Freud's theories were reinterpreted in this new light, Friedan says that the promoters of the feminine mystique did not reinterpret Freud's Victorian theory of femininity. Friedan believes that Freudian psychology was embraced so completely that it became almost like a religion.

A. C. Kinsey
Kinsey, a noted researcher, conducted many sex surveys. The early results from one of his major reports indicate that educated women have less-fulfilling sex lives. Various societal forces use these partial results as justification for encouraging women to become full-time housewives. When Kinsey's complete results were released nearly a decade later, they contradicted the early results, and now indicated that...

(The entire section is 660 words.)