The Feminine Mystique, By Betty Friedan
Sunday 28 March 2010
It has been a "victory for the assholes" writes Lionel Shriver, incisively introducing this iconic 1963 book, that the word "feminist" has become stigmatised. Why are so many independent contemporary women reluctant to identify themselves as feminists? Perhaps, suggests Shriver, it is because they are fearful of being perceived as "difficult", man-hating harridans. The advice that Shriver offers to those women who would choose housewifery and motherhood over a demanding career is to watch every episode of Mad Men, and then to read this book.
It is indeed a book worth reading carefully; it feels as relevant today as it was when it was first published. It was written, claims Friedan, out of a sense that there was something wrong in the way that American women were trying to live their lives. Friedan conducted an intensive questionnaire of her Smith College classmates 15 years after their graduation, and in the results, "some tortured, some serene", identified a "schizophrenic split" between the reality of these women's lives and the image to which they were meant to conform – "the feminine mystique". It was "the problem that had no name"; a strange yearning and dissatisfaction that lay buried in women who were taught not to want careers, further education or political rights.
In these pages, this outspoken campaigner for women's rights forcefully explores topics ranging from the crisis in female identity, through to the "sexual solipsism" of Freud, and the "progressive dehumanization" of women.
What Shriver describes as the "unachievable idealisations of what it means to be female" are still rampant. Yet Friedan's message is an affirmative one – that women can affect society as well as be affected by it.
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
- 2 Art Garfunkel: Paul Simon is a 'monster' with a Napoleon complex
- 3 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 4 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
- 5 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
Game of Thrones rape scene criticised as 'disgusting' by US senator Claire McCaskill who says she's 'done' with show
Eurovision 2015: Graham Norton returns with another cutting commentary - his best lines
Art Garfunkel: Paul Simon is a 'monster' with a Napoleon complex
Eurovision 2015: The best moments from Australia's random entry to Lithuania's gay kiss
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland