Friedan defined the feminine mystique as the myth of female fulfillment based on domestic labor and proposed that the myth is based on a vision of woman not as a whole person but only in terms of her sexual role. This limiting view of woman, which further suggested that a woman’s value could only be expressed through her potential as wife and mother, discouraged women from pursuing educations or professions, thus effectively trapping them within the myth. According to Friedan, post-World War II economic and social factors combined to force American women to confine their interests and energies solely to serving their husbands and children through their roles as housewives, a situation that led women to devalue themselves and their contributions to society. She based this assessment in part on extensive interviews with women, many of whom were highly educated and were plagued with feelings of frustration, guilt, and inadequacy because they were not completely satisfied by the rewards of homemaking. These women felt isolated from one another and alienated from society by their failure to conform to the myth. Friedan asserted that women must look outside the narrow role assigned to them by the feminine mystique in order to discover identity and fulfillment.
Behm, Barbara. Betty Friedan: Speaking Out for Women’s Rights. Milwaukee, Wis.: Gareth Stevens, 1992.
Blau, Justine. Betty Friedan. New York: Chelsea House, 1990. Part of the American Women of Achievement series, this book is intended for grades five and up....
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