Masterplots II: Nonfiction Series The Feminine Mystique Analysis
The Feminine Mystique is one of the unusual books which is both a serious work of cultural criticism and a runaway best-seller. Despite its sometimes turgid style, The Feminine Mystique clearly hit a nerve at the time of its publication. By the 1940’s, Freud was a national guru whose sophisticated ideas had, in a simplified and sometimes erroneous form, become the staple of psychological thinking in the United States. Friedan was one of the first commentators to object vigorously to Freud’s insistence on the innate passivity of women and to put his peculiar notions of “penis envy” and “masculinity complex” to the test of commonsense observation. She concluded, rather convincingly: “Much of what Freud described as characteristic of universal human nature was merely characteristic of certain middle-class European men and women at the end of the nineteenth century.” Why, she asked, should Americans be so anxious to fit modern women into Freud’s outdated and probably eccentric psychological mold?
It was not only the psychological community, Friedan maintained, that had misunderstood American women. It was also the sociological establishment, as exemplified by Margaret Mead and the functionalists. The functionalists gave the highest possible value to the status quo and therefore expected women to adjust to the present needs of society, regardless of personal cost. After the war, the functionalists observed that society could...
(The entire section is 859 words.)
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