Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Betty (Book Review: Feminist Mystique)

I'm late to this, I know, but I've been watching Season one of Mad Men on DVD over the past few weeks and have just been loving it. The clothes, the men, the aura - it's all just so cool. What else do I love about it? Being reminded of Betty Friedan and The Feminist Mystique.

It has been a long time since I read The Feminist Mystique for a high school history class assignment. For those of you who aren't familiar with this landmark work, here is the Amazon description:
The book that changed the consciousness of a country—and the world. Landmark, groundbreaking, classic—these adjectives barely describe the earthshaking and long-lasting effects of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. This is the book that defined "the problem that has no name," that launched the Second Wave of the feminist movement, and has been awakening women and men with its insights into social relations, which still remain fresh, ever since.

Like Betty Draper (photo above, from Mad Men, for those of you who haven't seen it)(but you should, FYI, if that wasn't obvious), Betty Friedan was a well-educated suburban housewife who gradually grew more and more dissatisfied with her life as wife and mother. Friedan, though, had been a journalist, so was motivated to find out whether she was alone in her unhappiness. She sent a questionnaire to the graduates of her Smith College class, the results of which showed that most of the women were disappointed with their lives. In her book, Friedan wrote that women are "victims of a false belief system that requires them to find identity and meaning in their lives through their husbands and children. Such a system causes women to completely lose their identity in that of their family" (from Wikipedia). Basically, Friedan thought middle-class women were set up to fail: they were only allowed to find their purpose through their role as wife and mother. If they didn't, then tough.

As a historical document and a classic feminist text, The Feminist Mystique is first-rate. And as a stand-alone book, its very intriguing. The first half of the book, where Friedan explores her "awakening" and the findings from her questionnaire holds up better than the latter portion, but in general, this is an excellent book. Yes, there are dated ideas/passages, but I think this book holds up very well. I encourage you to read it if you have not done so already.

Buy The Feminist Mystique on Amazon.
Buy Mad Men Season One DVD on Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. I heart Mad Men!

    Regarding the Ellen Emerson White books, there are 4 books in the series! I'll feature the last two in the next two weeks, I believe the 4th one was written only last year!


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