Synopsis: Betty Friedan analyzes what it means to be a housewife in the 60s, with only a husband, a house, and her own children to define her personality. How has Freud impacted the psyche of the common housewife? Margaret Mead? And what causes women to feel so helpless that they must take tranquilizers? It is the unnamed problem, which Friedan names: The Feminine Mystique.
Review: Yet again, this is another one of those books that I didn’t know I needed. This explains so much about American women (namely, white suburban ones), and it explains so much about not only my heritage but how this society functions as a whole, too. It reminded me of my grandmother’s struggles, of television shows that I realized were more accurate than not, of books, of what’s happening right at this very moment.
By going through various topics such as defining what this unnamed problem is, how Freud affected our understanding of women’s psyches, and the nuclear family structure and how it affected the suburban housewife, Friedan successfully does just what she sets out to do: to enlighten readers about the horrors of what it’s like to have an identity and personality dependent solely upon one’s relationships to others.
This book left me wondering about my own status in life–not that I’m a housewife by any means–and has left me contemplating about my future. This book was originally written in the 60s, in the middle of what we call the second wave of feminism. Now that we’re in the third, post-third, or fourth wave (depending on who you’re talking to), this means that we are able to see women break out of the problem Friedan names. Now, women aren’t confined nearly as much to the house anymore, but have entered the public sphere. But what happens when women are still expected to choose between her job and her family? What happens with the glass ceiling and the second shift? If women nowadays write ‘businesswoman’ or ‘teacher’ or manager’ instead of ‘housewife’ on a census form, how are they faring nowadays in comparison to their mothers? Or are they still losing themselves in their relationships to others, just those outside of the home? And what happens when women are constantly picking up the slack for others in the work force but not getting any of the credit? Are we having the same problem but in a different context?
Sadly, this is a book review as opposed to an essay or article, and anyways, each of those questions could have a million different answers and require a good deal of research. Alas, if only Betty Friedan were still alive to write a sequel to her famous book…
Anyways, as you could all tell, this book is hugely thought provoking and interesting, so it’s no wonder that it’s a staple in feminist studies. I highly recommend this for its research, ideological questions, and positionality as a second-wave feminist text. You will not be disappointed.