While researching for The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan conducted hundreds of interviews with women around the country, but her interest in their plight was undeniably personal. Throughout the book, Friedan frequently draws on her own experience as a housewife suffering from “the problem that has no name.” Indeed, she says that she recognized the quiet desperation of her fellow housewives “first as a woman” long before she understood its social and psychological implications. As a young woman, Friedan attended college with the intention of getting a degree in psychology. She was a successful student, winning multiple fellowships to continue on in her studies. However, she ultimately succumbed to the pressure of what she would later name the “feminine mystique” and turned down a fellowship that would have allowed her to get her doctorate. She went on to work as a writer, where she saw firsthand how the feminine mystique dictated the content of women’s magazines. She later married, had children, and lived the life of a suburban housewife. After realizing that many other housewives shared her feelings of unhappiness, Friedan started to write articles about “the problem that had no name” and eventually developed these ideas into The Feminine Mystique. After the publication of her book, Friedan became a prominent leader in the second-wave feminist movement. She was one of the co-founders of the National Organization for Women (NOW) as well as its first president. The Feminine Mystique went on to become a bestseller and is often credited with inciting the second wave of American feminism.
Sigmund Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis. Friedan believes that, while his work on repressive moral codes was beneficial to the feminist cause, Freud’s work on femininity was poorly interpreted by the popular media in the 1950s and lent dangerous credibility to the feminine mystique. While much of Freud’s other work...
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