Stranded In The Southland

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Feminine Mystique

I just polished off The Feminine Mystique. I'm not sure why I'd never read it; I guess I thought I was just soaking in it, between my hard-charging mom with her PhD, the succession of hard-core, no-shit feminists I dated over the years, and the high-achieving sweetie I eventually shacked up with.

I had expected a call to arms, loaded with details about "the man keeping us down," but found instead a description of late-50s and early 60s life that was stultifying. Friedan writes about women completely acquiescing to the idea of sitting home with the kids and keeping house, and about the ugly impact this sitting home had on them and their families. Women were getting their college degrees, then getting married and seemingly giving up on anything else, often taking it out on their families in unhealthy ways. Sure, Friedan blames advertisers and other folks for encouraging this, but she seems to believe that the biggest part of the problem was that women weren't grabbing hold of life with both hands.

TFM just suggests that women get off their asses and get to work, fulfilling thier promise in the world. That's about as radical as it gets -- I guess she talks about getting some government help for this (similar to the GI Bill), but she doesn't go much further than that. Of course, after this Betty Friedan helped found NOW and really got things moving, but I was sort of surprised that TFM wasn't any more radical. I guess this is evidence of how bad things really were then. Doh.

And for me? Well, as the faculty spouse, it did kind of suggest to me that I'm responsible for my own fulfillment; I can't just sit around and wait for things to get better, or mark time in my career, but have to get a plan and get going. We'll see.