Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique
The Feminine Mystique is the title of a book written by the late Betty Friedan
who also founded The National Organization for Women (NOW) to help US women gain
equal rights. She describes the "feminine mystique" as the heightened awareness
of the expectations of women and how each woman has to fit a certain role as a
little girl, an uneducated and unemployed teenager, and finally as a wife and
mother who is happy to clean the house and cook things all day. After World
War II, a lot of women's organizations began to appear with the goal of bringing
the issues of equal rights into the limelight.
The stereotype even came down to the color of a woman's hair. Many
women wished that they could be blonde because that was the ideal hair color.
In The Feminine Mystique, Friedan writes that "across America, three out of
every ten women dyed their hair blonde " (Kerber/DeHart 514). This serves as
an example of how there was such a push for women to fit a certain mold which
was portrayed as the role of women. Blacks were naturally excluded from the
notion of ideal women and they suffered additional discrimination which was even
greater than that which the white women suffered from.
In addition to hair color, women often went to great lengths to achieve
a thin figure. The look that women were striving for was the look of the thin
model. Many women wore tight, uncomfortable clothing in order to create the
illusion of being thinner and some even took pills that were supposed to make
them lose weight.
The role of women was to find a husband to support the family that they
would raise. Many women dropped out of college or never went in the first place
because they were lead to believe that working outside of the home was for men
and that it would not be feminine for them to get jobs and be single without a
husband or children to take care of.
An enormous problem for women was the psychological stress of dealing
with this role that was presented to them. The happily married, perpetually
baking, eternally mopping, Donna Reed that lived in every house on the block
with her hard working husband and her twelve children that existed in the media
made women feel that there was something wrong with them if they didn't enjoy
their housewife lifestyle. And it was not easy for women to deal with this
problem. As Betty Friedan writes in The Feminine Mystique, "For over fifteen
years women in America found it harder to talk about this problem than about sex.
(Kerber/DeHart 515)." Many psychiatrists were baffled and the problem was often
ignored with no known solution because everyone found it to not make any sense.
Women of low economic status also struggled a great deal because they
had to deal with the problems associated with a single income household which
could become very frustrating when she has every reason to get a job, but cannot.
It is also harder to raise...