The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

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Are the ideas promoted in the book The Feminine Mystique popular today?

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Friedan, perhaps more than any other writer in Second Wave Feminism, is responsible for pushing opens doors that had most decidedly been nailed shut by the revitalized patriarchal society that roared back to life when men came home from World War II and found their many of their jobs had been taken over by women. There was a real and concerted effort to push women back into the home.  Rosie the Riveter traded in her drill and slipped on her plastic cleaning gloves.

Take a look at just a few samplings of advertisements from the 1950s here. You will see that the overwhelming emphasis was to get women to accept their "roles" as housekeepers and mothers.

Friedan fought vehemently against this push, and women responded in droves. The title of her work comes from her central argument: "The feminine mystique has succeeded in burying millions of American women alive." The mystique, of course, is that women belong and are happy in the home and raising children, and that these are things men are completely incapable, both genetically and mentally, of doing. (This tenent harkens back to the Victorian belief in "The Angel in the House.") This ability, the male argument goes, is shrouded in mystery and ultimately unknowable.

Friedan argues that this is nonsense, and that nothing in a woman's genetic make up makes her any less capable than a man. Some of her more effective themes include:

It is ridiculous to tell girls to be quiet when they enter a new field, or an old one, so the men will not notice they are there. A girl should not expect special privileges, because of her sex, but neither should she "adjust" to prejudice and discrimination.

Men weren't really the enemy -- they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.

As you can see, Friedan did not lay the blame for the predicament that women found themselves in during the 50s and 60s, but rather called...

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