The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan, London, Victor Gollancz LTD, 1963, 410 pp., ISBN 0-575-00951-9
‘The Feminine Mystique’, first published in the year of 1963, is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential books in the 20th century as well as in the history of feminism. (Fox, 2006) The book signals the beginning of the second wave of the feminist movement as feminism literature to illustrate and analyse female problems in 1960s America. (Fox, 2006) At the same time, it is a declaration to proclaim an era in which American women strove towards the equality that females refused to be subordinate to patriarchal ideology anymore.
In ‘The Feminine Mystique’, Betty Friedan for the first time in history describes ‘the problem that has no name’ for American women in the 1950s to 1960s. It was the time just after World War II and men went back form the war frontier to their working positions, most of the American women went back to the kitchen rather than going out to work as they had during the war. They were identified by Friedan as ‘suburban housewives’ (Friedan, 1963:18), suffered from a common dissatisfaction of their lives, which is called ‘the problem that has no name’ or the ‘nameless aching dissatisfaction’ in the book. By analysing the essence of the problem combined with a quantity of real-life example and previous theories, the author defines the feminine mystique as the convention that women should become an ideal patriarchal woman in the society where men create women as capable housewives as well as gentle mothers. (Friedan, 1963:15-28)
Betty Friedan provides an evidence-based overview of the feminine mystique in America in the 1960s. After an overview of the book, she firstly gives a general picture of typical suburban American housewives in 1950s and 1960s, and demonstrates the core of their nameless aching dissatisfaction is because of the feminine fixed-position guided by the whole society, which then causes the crisis for women to identify themselves independently as individual human beings without their husbands and children. (Chapter1-2) Then the author reviews the history of feminism in ‘The Passionate Journey’ (Chapter4). In the third section, she analyses the background of feminine mystique including the criticism of solipsism of Freud, the critical areas such as education, business and World War II as the historical background.(Chapter5-9) The next section discusses some more serious consequences of the spread of the feminine mystique, including the passive attitudes of girls going on to higher education, the imbalance sexual desires between housewives and husbands, and the feeble personalities of the next generations to mention several examples.(Chaper10-13) In the final chapter ‘A New Life Plan for Women’, Friedan reveals her suggestions to women and the whole of society.(Chapter 14)
According to Friedan, it is a complicated process to form ‘the feminine mystique’, in which media acts a vital part in...