Betty Friedan: The Feminine Mystique Introduction Betty Friedan was born in on 4 February 1921 in Peoria, Illinois. Her parents were Jew immigrants and her mother worked as a full time homemaker after quitting from her job. At an early age, she developed an interest in Marxist and drastic Jewish circles…
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Her yearning to fight for women rights heightened when UE News sacked her in 1952 just because she was pregnant. Having been a homemaker and a mother, she understood the troubles women went through and sought to address them through her writings. She authored “The Feminine Mystique” which was published in 1963 which urged women to begin searching for fulfilment outside their conventional roles as homemakers. She also wrote several books prior to her death in 2006. This paper focuses on the life and achievements of Betty Friedan and seeks to address her views on feminism as demonstrated in “The Feminine Mystique” “The feminine mystique” is an endeavour to expound on dissatisfactions felt by women particularly middle class American women and expounds on evolution of opinion on the duties and place of women in society. For many years, the American woman submissively performed what was regarded as her duties but inside each woman was a feeling of discontentment. The place of the woman in mid twentieth century was at home, bearing and taking care of children as well as her husband and performing household tasks. They were only supposed to be feminine, which implied wives and mothers. Anything beyond that was considered a breach of societal norms and regulations. Those who dared to assume obligations such as physicist were regard as unfeminine. The young women only dreamt of career life while the old lamented of dreams sacrificed. In the 1940s, women who had the guts of attending college encountered opposition and most had to quit and marry. The education system focused on educating women to be excellent mothers and wives and not career women. In the chaos of whether to allow women to get into career life or not, Betty Friedan instigated the journey to free women from this entire jumble. She felt there was the need for women liberation (O’Connell 63-67; Kuersten 42; Young Web). “The Feminine Mystique was first published in 1963 at a period when Friedan was living in New York with her husband and three children. Her aspiration to write this book emanated from a survey of college graduates, which showed how unhappy the married graduates were in playing the role of homemaker. After compiling her findings, she tried to have the article published by magazines but was turned down and thus began a wider research on issues affecting women which she assembled in her book “The Feminine Mystique.” The book revolves around the unhappiness of American women a phenomenon she refers to as “The problem that has no name” (Freidan 8). She describes this problem at the beginning of the book when she says, “The problem lay buried, unspoken” (Friedan 2), which had trapped many women. She investigates causes of the women despondency and blames the root on misconceived feminism, which she refers to “feminine mystique” (Friedan 111). She posits that the spurious feminine is the tendency to brand homemakers as happy and career women as neurotic and miserable. In her book, Friedan analyses the trend of female education and ascertains that the low enrolment of women in learning was due to the dejection faced by women professionals. She further conceives that the Cold War and the Second World War had played a vital role in delimiting the emancipation of women. She argues that all that media had done was to make women believe that housewifely was a career , and they needed not involve themselves in
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