Illustration of a woman in an apron in a kitchen

The Feminine Mystique

by Betty Friedan

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Chapters 1 - 4 Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. What is “the problem that has no name” of which Friedan writes?

2. When did the media begin paying attention to the issue of women’s identities as housewives and the pitfalls of that role?

3. What were women told to do about their dissatisfaction?

4. How did the media portray the role of women in the 1930s and 1940s, versus during the 1950s?

5. What does Betty Friedan mean by the terms “Occupation: Housewife” and “the feminine mystique”?

1. Women are dissatisfied with what they are told should make them happy, which is an identity formed and shaped by marriage, parenting, and housekeeping. They are discouraged from using their minds or asserting their independence, and the media both promotes this lifestyle and assumes that women don’t have any interests beyond their roles as spouses and mothers.

2. Friedan writes that in 1960 the media began reporting on the perceived problem of women’s identity as limited to that of mother, spouse, and domestic.

3. Women were told to be grateful for their protected status and that they didn’t have to go out in the world and compete, like men. Some argued that women wouldn’t have the attitude they do if they’d had less education—and that women don’t need education.

4. During the 1930s and very early 1940s, women were portrayed as “New Women”—career girls who struggled with forging their own futures. But by 1949, they saw their occupation as that of the housewife. During the 1950s and early 1960s, women were portrayed as the “Happy Housewife Heroine”—a woman who no longer questioned the fact that she was just a housewife, and, in fact, relished domestic adventures.

5. By the late 1940s, women’s magazines had begun to cover the ambivalence some women felt about lives led as housewives. The magazines usually published articles claiming that the job of housewife is noble and fulfilling, and that there was nothing wrong or intellectually understimulating about housework. The magazines, Friedan implies, taught women that being a housewife was their job and tried to placate them into submission.

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Chapters 5 - 8 Questions and Answers