How did The Feminine Mystique affect the American culture?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One way in which Friedan's work ends up affecting the culture of America is in making a clear case that many American women were not as happy as originally thought.  Friedan made the argument that there was a socialization embedded in American culture that helped to make women fundamentally unhappy as it "guided" women to believe that their identities only existed within the domestic realm:  ‘‘the status quo can be maintained only if the wife and mother is exclusively a homemaker or, at most, has a ‘job’ rather than a ‘career.’’’  This impacted American culture because it was a stark statement that millions of American women were unhappy and they didn't even know it.  Whether it was true or not, Friedan's revelations about women's identities impacts the culture because it opens up a dialogue that would be intrinsic to the feminist movement in 1960s America.

At the same time, Friedan's work impacts American culture because it makes clear that there is a difference in its construction of gender roles.  Friedan's work affects American culture because it raises questions as to equality of opportunity for men and women.  This was seen in the culture of education.  For Friedan, the educational opportunities available to women and the options for women were fundamentally limited as opposed to men.  In Friedan's mind, this helps to establish another layer of socialization that sought to oppress women:  ‘‘[Women were] not encouraged, or expected, to use their full capacities. In the name of femininity, they are encouraged to evade human growth."  In such a statement, one can see how Friedan's work affected culture in calling attention to gender relations in post- World War II America.

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The Feminine Mystique

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