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The Feminine Mystique, a landnote book by feminist Betty Friedan published in 1963 that described the pervasive dissatisfactivity among womales in mainstream American culture in the post-World War II duration. She coined the term feminine mystique to explain the societal presumption that woguys could discover fulfillment via housework, marital relationship, sexual passivity, and also kid rearing alone. Further, prevailing attitudes organized that “truly feminine” women had no desire for greater education, careers, or a political voice; quite, they found complete fulfillment in the residential spright here. Friedan, however, provided that many housewives were unsatisfied through their lives yet had obstacle articulating their feelings. Friedan understood that unhappiness and also incapacity to live approximately the feminine mystique the “problem that has no name.”


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Betty Friedan
Betty Friedan.
Smithsonian Institution

Friedan’s critique

Human-potential psychologists such as Abraham Masluggish, popular during the late 1950s and also early ’60s, influenced Friedan’s claim that the feminine mystique denied women their “standard humale should flourish.” Since that standard need for advance was stunted, Friedan kept, woguys would remain unhappy, and children would certainly grow up via unfulfilled and neurotic mothers. Friedan also said that the feminine mystique hurt women both personally and also professionally, and she held that, for women and for males, identification was greatly grew via a feeling of personal accomplishment, primarily via a career.

Situating her examine of women in the post-World War II era, Friedan argued that as soon as men returned residence after the battle, women—who had actually stepped in to fill the work guys had left in order to fight in the war—were supposed to return to the house and to percreate more-suitable “feminine” activities. That expectation inspired the feminine mystique. Men returning from war looked to their wives for nurturing. In addition, greatly bereason of the escalating Cold War throughout the 1950s, the cultivation of the Amerideserve to nuclear family and also the idealized domestic space was component of an ideological fight versus Soviet Russia. Middle-class white womales in particular were taken into consideration warriors in that fight, bereason, in representing idealized femininity, they proved the superiority of the Amerideserve to capitalist customer society.

Friedan provided statistics and interviews to illustrate women’s desire to achieve the feminine mystique. For instance, by the finish of the 1950s, 14 million girls were becoming involved by age 17, and also the average age of marital relationship had dropped to 20. The variety of womales in college dropped from 47 percent in 1920 to 35 percent in 1958. During the mid-1950s, 60 percent of female students dropped out of college to get married or to cease their higher education and learning before they became “undesirable” on the marriage sector. The media perpetuated the idea that woguys saw college just to land a husband—the “Mrs. Degree.” From touting women’s natural role as mothers and caregivers to advocating just how to appropriately take care of one’s husband, the media and the education and learning mechanism helped perpetuate all aspects of the feminine mystique. The Amerideserve to housewife who correctly percreated her domestic duties was reputed by the Amerihave the right to media to be the envy of woguys throughout the world.


When Friedan interperceived housewives, yet, she discovered that behaviours suggested in magazines and house economics textbooks—such as having actually dinner on the table when her husband also reverted from work-related and also making him comfortable by taking off his shoes and also offering him a drink—did not always prove fulfilling for women and that a lot of womales might not live as much as that idealized feminine behaviour. Unable to obtain the feminine mystique, many women invested years through psychologists who tried to help them adjust to their “feminine role,” or they took tranquilizers or drank alcohol to ease their feelings of emptiness. By the beforehand 1960s the media had well-known that subcity women were regularly unhappy via their duties. Some attributed that unhappiness to education; they contended that the more educated a woman was, the even more most likely she wregarding be unfulfilled as a housewife. Magazine posts better said much better ways to find fulfillment through sex.

Friedan’s own solution to the problem differed considerably from those in mainstream Amerideserve to culture. She rejected the feminine mystique and argued that woguys construct a new “life arrangement.” Rather than being treated as a “career,” housework was to be finimelted as conveniently as possible. Friedan additionally competed that a woman might have actually a effective career and also a family. Education, in her estimation, had actually much less to do via reinforcing the feminine mystique than via the outappropriate emancipation of womales.

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Impact and also criticism

The Feminine Mystique was among many type of catalysts for the second-wave feminist movement (1960s–80s). By the end of the 1980s, yet, its fregulations had actually been plainly determined. Its disagreements, generally speaking, were much less appropriate, bereason twice as many womales were in the workforce as had actually been throughout the 1950s. Additionally, feminists of colour, notably bell hooks, found Friedan’s manifesto both racist and also claid, not at all applicable to African Americans and other working-course woguys who joined the work pressure from need. Social chronicler Daniel Horowitz, in Betty Friedan and the Making of The Feminine Mystique (1998), revealed that Friedan had been dishoswarm about her vantage point, which she asserted was that of a suburban mommy and housewife. She had been a leftist radical activist from the moment she was at Smith College. It was, he concluded, a crucial fiction if both she and her feminist concepts were to be offered a possibility to take root. Still various other critics noted that she based some of her theories on researches that have actually considering that verified inprecise.

Regardless of the following criticism, the book undeniably galvanized many type of women to think about their duties and identities in society. Since its initially publication, it has actually been reissued plenty of times with additions—by Friedan and also other feminist authors and also scholars—that provide additionally context.