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The Feminine Mystique (1963)

de Betty Friedan

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After WWII ended, the numbers of middle-class women in America who took higher education plummeted and the average age at which women married dropped. They believed that being a dedicated housewife is their life goal. Some of them went to university just to find a good husband and to learn homemaking. Friedan addresses with her researches that these women fell into depression and profound misery because of "the problem that has no name."

Friedan's findings provided many factors encouraged The Feminine Mystique to women's mind, to name a few: the university's curriculum that being changed to homemaking courses, short stories and articles written on women's magazines; women-targeted advertisements that exploit the purchasing power of homemakers; structural-functionalism theories; and Freud's concept of Penis Envy.

Friedan argues that women should develop themselves intellectually by going back to college and fulfill their potential by making a life plan outside the homemaking. The cultural image of femininity also needs reshaping by the agencies (educators, parents, magazine editors, advertisers) to support women reaching their potential.

I first stumbled upon this book when my lecturer recommended this and Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex to my media theory class while we were discussing gender representation in the media. Although things have progressed a lot since the 60s, some points in this book still hold relevancy in the current era. The idea of a good woman is the one staying at home caring for her family still rings true in my country and often being associated with being a religious person. And the exploitative advertisement with a housewife image for selling household products is still here preserving the mystique.

It is still a fascinating read, while some of the ideas here seem outdated, but this book was a radical read back in the 60s. This book ignited the second-wave feminist movement because it could speak to many American women who were being silenced and dwelled at home, encouraging them to join or lead the women's liberation movement. ( )
  bellacrl | Jan 19, 2021 |
This book was pretty long-winded & dated & repetitive. It was written in the 60s so I guess it wasn’t as interesting to me as more 3rd, 4th wave feminist reading, but it is still enlightening, especially if you want to better understand the historical trajectory of feminism in the states. Honestly, it also made me really sad because Friedan was drawing from real experiences, testimonies and research throughout the book which makes you never forget that real women went through this suffering.

Friedan reveals how women were pushed by schools, the media & even corporations to fall into the role of housewife-mother, not so much out of choice but because that’s what they’ve been told they should do. Of course, today, feminism is very big on choice, and that if the woman chooses to be a housewife she should not be shamed for it and that it should not be considered a lesser vocation. But now I can understand why older feminists who lived through the 50s and 60s feel so strongly against it. The problem is that at that time, despite the progress made after the suffrage movement where women were encouraged to work & build themselves, there was an ideological regression that moved to limit women to the domestic sphere. So the choice element is taken out through coercion.

“Chosen motherhood is the real liberation. The choice to have a child makes the whole experience of motherhood different, and the choice to be generative in other ways can at last be made, and is being made by many women now, without guilt.”


Research showed that these women suffered from profound feelings of emptiness, depression, alcoholism, physical ailments, unhappy marriages & had children who were more likely to be abused or had low self-esteem. To top it off, these women were also blamed when children had low self-esteem, had discipline problems, or were found to be too smothered that they did not know how to perform basic things themselves. But it was also at that point people seriously looked into the despair that was plaguing housewives.

These housewife-mothers suffered. They often had an identity crisis because they were denied the ability to realise themselves and often did not know who they were beyond their identity as wife and mother.

This book is not perfect, Friedan’s discussion on homosexuality was a trainwreck. But in terms of revealing the reality of housewives at the time, it was a truly important expose. It really made me understand my own housewife mother’s profound dissatisfaction too.
  verkur | Jan 8, 2021 |
I gave it three stars bc I am grateful to have read it, but the arguments and ideas are dated and redundant. One may even argue that Friedan's FM helped make the arguments/ideas redundant and irrelevant today. Interesting, but the very real problems presented are sorely missing a biblical resolution. My full review: https://www.greatbookstudy.com/2020/11/feminine-mystique-by-betty-friedan.html ( )
  GreatBookStudy | Nov 20, 2020 |
If nothing else, read the chapter on advertising in this book: that alone is worth the cover price. I've read it three times already and I'm finding something new to think about each time in that chapter. Friedan does this trick of hitting it out of the ballpark a couple more times in the book... a ho-hum chapter here and then suddenly WHAM. Certainly makes one sit up.

Though some parts of this book are a little dated (its focus on white middle-to-upper-class women, its insistence on devaluing motherhood, its support of Freudian antihomosexuality etc), there are overwhelmingly more parts of it that are still fresh and very relevant today. This is a must read for any feminist and probably an eye-opening read for anybody else. ( )
  nandiniseshadri | Jul 12, 2020 |
"La mística de la feminidad" es un clásico del pensamiento feminista que se publicó originalmente en Estados Unidos en 1963. Se trata sobre todo de un libro de investigación respaldado por un abundante trabajo descriptivo, y sólo como consecuencia de esto se acaba convirtiendo en un libro militante, lo que lo aproxima al otro gran clásico del siglo XX, "El segundo sexo", de Simone de Beauvoir.
  bibliotecayamaguchi | Jun 10, 2020 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Friedan, Bettyautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Collins, GailIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Hardenberg, JanTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Melior, EvaTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Posey, ParkerNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Quindlen, AnnaEpílegautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Quindlen, AnnaIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Shriver, LionelIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Wagenaar, StannekeTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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For all the new women, and the new men
to Carl Friedan
and to our children—
Daniel, Jonathan, and Emily
—1970 Dell Paperback edition
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Preface:  Gradually, without seeing it clearly for quite a while, I came to realize that something is very wrong with the way American women are trying to live their lives today.
The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women.
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