Chapters 1 - 4 Questions and Answers

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”?

Answers
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...

(The entire section is 345 words.)

Chapters 5 - 8 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What is Freud’s idea of “penis envy” and how was this concept promoted during the era of the feminine mystique?

2. What is functionalism and how were Margaret Mead’s theories used to reinforce the ideas of functionalism?

3. What does Friedan mean when she says education in the mid-twentieth century became “sex-directed”?

4. Friedan writes that research shows women who graduated from “sex-directed” education were initially happy but later showed “anomie.” What is “anomie”?

5. With the cultural focus on mothering recommended by the feminine mystique, did women learn to become better mothers than their predecessors?

Answers
1. Freud’s theories in essence said that women’s fate was to always envy what she lacks and man has—a penis. His theories suggest that men are the sexually and intellectually superior gender, and that any woman wishing to break out of traditional female roles of mother, wife, or housekeeper won’t succeed, for she is only displaying a “penis envy”—as if her urge to think or work is an impossible wish to become male.

2. Functionalism promoted the idea that women should fulfill their current and past “function” in society and marry, then raise and rear children and protect the home front. Margaret Mead’s initial anthropological research suggested that “functions” in...

(The entire section is 441 words.)

Chapters 9 - 11 Questions and Answers

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...

(The entire section is 425 words.)

Chapters 12 - 14 Questions and Answers

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?

Answers
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...

(The entire section is 400 words.)