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The Feminine Mystique closes in on 50

 
 
Reply Wed 26 Jan, 2011 08:54 pm
Betty Friedan's monumental book is nearly a half century old. Today, Terry Gross interviewed Stephanie Coontz, who, at the request of her publisher, wrote a "biography" of the book.

http://www.npr.org/2011/01/26/132931581/stirring-up-the-feminine-mystique-47-years-later



1st paragraph allegedly a landmark.

Coontz spoke to 200 women and men on the book. The women said the first paragraph offered a “shock of recognition.”

She discusses how middle class women recognized their discontent in Friedan’s writing. What I remember from the years before the publication of Mystique were the articles from my mother’s magazines on women as closet drinkers.

Friedan offered that women were not allowed to be human beings.

Gross adds that middle class women had nice homes, etc. She then quotes Friedan on how these women had not faced the problem of poetry.

Coontz offers that these women were a new class and this is the book’s weakness and, simultaneously, its strength. It seems to me – and I have not read the book – that Coontz overlooks two things: That societal change often occurs but is not recognized until long after the change has occurred and, in a completely other vein, that these middle class women were, in some respects, a population like earlier society women of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Both groups were somewhat freed from aspects of child-rearing and homekeeping. However, unlike the earlier, wealthier women, these mid-20th C., middle class women seemed to lack the social connections and obligations that their predecessors had. They also were not encouraged to cultivate “accomplishments” to fill their time and to enrich social events. What I see is that middle class, mid-20th C women filled the same niche that “ladies,” in the old sense of the term, filled in society without any of the benefits women had before. To Coontz, the mid-20th C women were a new population but I wonder whether they simply had stepped into an outdated situation.
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plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Jan, 2011 08:55 pm
While I basically think that there are things missing from Coontz' analysis and will present them for discussion, I thought I would just start the post with my notes.

I am exhausted. Too much snow and too long a commute. Returning later.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Jan, 2011 09:06 pm
I threw the book away, after some stuff about men reacting to women and I was was on the wrong side. I was totally engaged re a woman supposing to obey the man. And, I was a yes on that.

I've moved along on that, but I did toss the book, from what I now see as the imbecilic side.

There's a bunch a fear.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Jan, 2011 09:28 pm
There is a lot to be said for the premiss that technology had removed much of the work in womens work, leaving women bored and prown to Neurosis. The memory of being able to do mans work from ww2 also was important. The main thing though is that this women were easy to blame men for their unhappiness, which was for the most part unfair, and they were also unable to grasp the importance of womens work before technology made it easy and thus less valuable.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Jan, 2011 07:32 pm
@ossobuco,
I admit I was inculcated re the woman obeying the man. I didn't get it re brutality, as that wasn't in my life. I just thought that was right.

This was part of some of my decisions, could I obey this particular guy.

Obviously, I 've changed.

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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Jan, 2011 08:08 pm
I read the book in 1964. I was quite taken with her presentation. When I attempted to discuss it with my fellow sailors, to a man, the ones I spoke with told me how being a home maker is as challenging a job as any a man has. One kept on about "baking bread is an art -" I became irritated and told them to screw off. I no longer recall enough of the book to talk about it these days.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Jan, 2011 10:05 pm
@hawkeye10,
Easy to blame men?

When I wanted to be a doctor and others in my years wanted to become lawyers, there was no room. See any data pre '64.

Oh, wait, we'll blame men for our unhappiness.

Once women made it, we got less valuable in our efforts. I read some article that women docs were the new nurses.

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Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Jan, 2011 06:56 pm
@edgarblythe,
Being a mother to one or more children and running a household is very much a challenging job, often more challenging than many "paid" jobs.

Your fellow sailors were right.

I don't know how much Friedan or her book had to do with it, but the ability of women to pursue careers was an important change for our society.

I'm sure a fair number of women felt trapped in the role of mother and homemaker, but I know a lot of women did not.

For those who want something other than the "traditional" role, it's a very good thing that a broader range of opportunities are available to them, but I have a problem with anyone who feels it necessary to denigrate the traditional role or the women who chose it. Not all "feminists" feel this way but enough do that it bears comment.


edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Jan, 2011 07:04 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
It is my intent to support women whichever choice they freely make. The sailors to a man wanted to keep the women in the homemaker's role, giving no choice or support at all to ones who wish to have a career.
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Jan, 2011 07:29 pm
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:

It is my intent to support women whichever choice they freely make.


Good, we are in agreement.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sat 5 Feb, 2011 11:27 am
Actually, I wanted to focus more on what I see as Coontz' inadequate scholarship. But the idea that the Feminine Mystique, which I read along with The Second Sex in high school is almost half a century old dominated my thoughts.
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