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The Feminine Mystique

by Betty Friedan

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Chapters 12 - 14 Questions and Answers

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 400

Study Questions
1. How do children raised by mothers of the feminine mystique generation turn out compared to children of prior generations?

2. What does Friedan mean by “non-commitment” and “vicarious living”? How does the feminine mystique encourage both?

3. What are the benefits of women developing “dominant” personalities?

4. How do “dominant” women perceive love, versus their peers whose notions of love are informed by the feminine mystique?

5. What can women do to undo the damages inflicted by the feminine mystique, according to Friedan?

1. Children of this generation are passive and unmotivated, in part because their mothers were so young and underdeveloped when they began having babies. Mothers lacking a full identity of their own seek to get one through their children, indulging and spoiling them and considering their children’s pains and successes their own, thus robbing the children of their own identity—and leading to their passivity and lack of character.

2. “Non-commitment” refers to going through the motions of an activity without having any personal feelings or investment in it. “Vicarious living” refers to having no identity of one’s own and seeking excitement through others and what they do.

3. “Dominant” women are happier in their relationships (including marriage), as well as with child rearing, sex, and their careers or interests, if they feel free to assert themselves, express anger, and take leadership roles at least sometimes. “Non-dominant” women are less fulfilled because they try to please others or look to them for approval.

4. Love, for a “dominant” or self-actualized woman, is defined by two independent people choosing to spend time with one another and enjoy one another’s separate personalities, interests, and souls. For a woman raised on the feminine mystique’s principles, love is a merging of egos, a giving up of the self and allowing the male ego to rule and dominate; under this scenario, “togetherness” and two people becoming one is more important than two people retaining and enjoying their separate personalities.

5. Women need to vigorously pursue their education and pay close attention to areas in which they feel most passionate and involved. They need to temper the feminine role and its related activities—marriage, raising children, homemaking—with the equally significant job of self-actualization, of developing the capacity for critical thought, analysis, and creativity. Only then will women be fulfilled and the men and children around them able to benefit from their knowledge and gifts.

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Chapters 9 - 11 Questions and Answers