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Labour Theory

The Feminine Mystique

The Feminine MystiqueBetty FriedanWW Norton & Company1963

From Wikipedia: The Feminine Mystique is a book by Betty Friedan that is widely credited with sparking the beginning of second-wave feminism in the United States.

In 1957, Friedan was asked to conduct a survey of her former Smith College classmates for their 15th anniversary reunion; the results, in which she found that many of them were unhappy with their lives as housewives, prompted her to begin research for The Feminine Mystique, conducting interviews with other suburban housewives, as well as researching psychology, media, and advertising. She originally intended to publish an article on the topic, not a book, but no magazine would publish her article.

During 1964, The Feminine Mystique became the bestselling nonfiction book with over one million copies sold. In the book, Friedan challenged the widely shared belief in the 1950s that “fulfillment as a woman had only one definition for American women after 1949—the housewife-mother.”

The phrase “feminine mystique” was created by Friedan to show the assumptions that women would be fulfilled from their housework, marriage, sexual lives, and children. It was said that women, who were actually feminine, should not have wanted to work, get an education, or have political opinions. Friedan wanted to prove that women were unsatisfied but could not voice their feelings.

Friedan has been criticized for focusing solely on the plight of middle-class white women, and not giving enough attention to the differing situations encountered by women in less stable economic situations, or women of other races. According to Kirsten Fermaglich and Lisa Fine:

Women of color — African American, Latina, Asian American and Native American women — were completely absent from Friedan’s vision, as were white working-class and poor women.

Friedan, Betty; Fermaglich, Kirsten; Fine, Lisa (2013). The Feminine Mystique: The Contexts, The Scholarship on the Feminine Mystique (1st ed.). New York: W. W. Norton. pp. xvii.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Problem That Has No Name
Chapter 2: The Happy Housewife Heroine
Chapter 3: The Crisis in Woman’s Identity
Chapter 4: The Passionate Journey
Chapter 5: The Sexual Solipsism of Sigmund Freud
Chapter 6: The Functional Freeze, The Feminine Protest, and Margaret Mead
Chapter 7: The Sex-Directed Educators
Chapter 8: The Mistaken Choice
Chapter 9: The Sexual Sell
Chapter 10: Housewifery Expands To Fill The Time Available
Chapter 11: The Sex-Seekers
Chapter 12: Progressive Dehumanization: The Comfortable Concentration Camp
Chapter 13: The Forfeited Self
Chapter 14: A New Life Plan For Women