Monday, September 22, 2008

Summers, Christina Hoff. "Reconsiderations: Betty Friedan's THE FEMINIST MYSTIQUE." NEW YORK SUN September 17, 2008.

"Groundbreaking." "A landmark." "A classic." Those are the words now commonly used to describe Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, first published in 1963. Friedan "pulled the trigger on history," wrote futurist Alvin Toffler; feminist admirers refer to it as "The Book." The Feminine Mystique sold more than 2 million copies when it came out, and remains a staple in women's studies classes today. But after nearly half a century, does it live up to its reputation? Rereading it, I find it to be both better and much worse than I remembered. Striking, certainly, is the famed opening passage, where Friedan introduces the "problem that has no name": The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night — she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — Is this all? For the next 450 pages, Friedan, who died in 2006, answered that question: No, it is not all. "What happened to [women's] dreams?" she asked. What happened to their "share in the whole of human destiny?" What happened, according to Friedan, is that women's magazines, advertisers, and an army of Freudian social scientists conspired to persuade American women that the fulfillment of their femininity was their truest and highest calling. . . . Read the rest here:

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