Illustration of a woman in an apron in a kitchen

The Feminine Mystique

by Betty Friedan

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Chapters 9 - 11 Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. In what way is consumerism a key ingredient in the feminine mystique?

2. Advertising asserts that women should buy timesaving products for the home. How is this fact a dilemma for both advertisers and women?

3. How does the work of a housewife expand to fill the time available? What did Friedan learn about the time housework takes for women with jobs or serious outside interests?

4. How do “open plan” architecture and the rise of the suburbs reflect the role of the housewife in American society during the 1940s and 1950s?

5. Why does the feminine mystique turn women into “sex seekers”?

Answers
1. Advertisers realize women can be persuaded and manipulated to buy items for the home. Mothers, the advertisers realize, can be guilt-tripped into buying products they think will make them better parents, and women who are young brides believe owning the right products will help them keep up with other families.

2. Advertisers need to continue selling products to women since housework is endless. However, timesaving products are complicated to market. Women want to be “modern,” but they also feel pride at doing the work themselves. Advertisers, and even the women, wonder what women will do with their newfound free time—and advertisers hope they don’t get enough free time to take on careers. Advertisers recommend that they use their free time for community duties, yet remain dutiful housekeepers with the latest products.

3. Friedan writes that women make housework take a long time because they either want to justify their “jobs” as housewives or because they are bored and unmotivated by the work and the fact that, when they are done, they face more of the same. Women with jobs or serious outside interests finish housework quickly, presumably so they can return to more meaningful activities.

4. “Open plan” homes have no doors, so children come and go and make messes which the mother must continually clean—reinforcing her role. Adults also have little privacy in these homes. Suburbs are artificial communities, located far from thriving and diverse city centers, but for the women who “settled” them they became retreats from reality rather than venues for meaningful community involvement.

5. Lacking the opportunity to pursue education or a career, and bored with looking for fulfillment from housework, women turn to sex for a sense of identity and excitement. They become more aggressive in their demands for sexual activity and hope for more “results” and pleasure from it, but their neediness is so great it turns off and repulses the men from whom they are seeking gratification.

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Chapters 5 - 8 Questions and Answers

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Chapters 12 - 14 Questions and Answers