"The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan

Discussion in 'Health and Lifestyle' started by Madeline, Nov 30, 2010.

  1. Madeline
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    Madeline BANNED

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    I am 9 chapters into this book and have found it hard going. There are lengthy discussions of Freud, etc. that seem so antiquated that it is hard to be patient and just read. The discussion of the suffragettes, etc. has been the only bright spot so far.

    I asked myself why this book so electrified me in the 1960's and seems like such drudgery now? IMO, it's because Friedan spends so much time unraveling and refuting the notion that men and women are different (as opposed to individuals are different) and that women are only truely fulfilled when they are passive, subordinate and withdrawn from the world at large to tend to the home.

    This notion seems so facially stupid as to need no refutation -- and yet it was the guiding principle of the women of my mother's era, and to a degree, of mine. I can't remember any girl I went to high school or college with openly wondering if marriage and children were just not for her. Ours was the generation that wanted more but had to smash barriers to get it. When I attended law school in the 1980's, my class was predominately female. Go back a decade, and the stories of women lawyers about law school are really horrifying....and even in my day, sexism was still rampant.

    We seem to accept that each person should be free to find their bliss, at work and at home, in whatever fashion best suits them. That some women make better leaders and that some men are quite nuturing. That freedom all by itself is doubtless a burden to many, but the misery of the past is gone, for the most part. Most people want to be accepted, respected and loved for who they really are. Most people want to use their natural talents.

    Without the work of women like Betty Friedan, no one could -- doubtless life was almost as stifling for men in the 1950's as it was for women. Her book may be passe', but doubtless for that, we have her and others like her to thank.
     
  2. PoliticalChic
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    PoliticalChic Diamond Member

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    I've said this before, and don't mind repeating it....you really start some of the most interesting threads...

    I hope this one has legs, and that I can find the time to get into it (homeschooling is about to start!)

    And if you celebrate Hanukah, I see it in your sig, than here's hoping you get eight great presents!


    So many of us have fought the battle of “Motherhood vs. Career,” and come up with a final decision based on personal and individual understandings of what is involved. This article by Kay Hymowitz investigates the question in a fascinating way, and sheds new light on this moment in time.

    1. Feminists consider sexual identity a “social construct,” a human—or, to be more precise, a male—invention. Evolutionary scientists, on the other hand, believe that we have inborn physical and psychological traits that result from millennia of adaptations to our natural environment. Where feminists see society, evolutionists see nature. But recent findings in primatology, neuroscience, and genetics have… lent support to some deeply controversial ideas about differences between the sexes. Among the most troubling for [the feminist view] is that the inner conflict between child rearing and independence may be a battle between two powerful evolutionary forces.

    2. If there’s one part of evolutionary thinking that spells bad news for the feminist worldview, it is parental-investment theory, an idea originally proposed by Harvard professor Robert Trivers. Trivers was attempting to clarify Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, which went something like this: females of most species are more particular about their mates than males are. Females, as he put it, “invest” more than males—and that includes being cautious about their sexual partners, the fathers of their offspring. Parental—which almost always means maternal—investment governs mating and reproduction. The profound female connection to her offspring is the Rosetta stone of female sexual behavior. Just about all scientists have signed on to Trivers’s basic template that in nature, females almost always do the kids.

    3. The notion that females are more highly invested in their children than males is being confirmed by findings in biochemistry and neuroscience, as these disciplines clarify the role of hormones—particularly testosterone and oxytocin—in sexual and reproductive behavior. Like the male sex hormone testosterone, oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus. But in most other respects, it is the anti-testosterone. Instead of fueling aggression, it promotes attachment, reduces fear, and leads to feelings of pleasure and well-being. Testosterone appears in males at far higher levels than in females; oxytocin, on the other hand, is more prevalent in females. Women have many more oxytocin receptors in their brains than men do, and those receptors rev up during orgasm, childbirth, and breast-feeding—signaling that at a biological level, the boundaries most of us take as axiomatic between sexual pleasure, reproduction, and mothering are not all that clear.

    4. If that were evolutionary psychology’s whole story about women, then its experts would be proclaiming patriarchy as our destiny, which they don’t tend to do. In fact, as neuroscientists and geneticists piece together the human brain’s evolution, it’s becoming clear that, if it’s natural for a woman to go crazy over her babies, it’s also natural for a woman to run the State Department. The same human female brain that’s primed with oxytocin is, like the male brain, a fantastically complex machine, capable of reasoning, innovative problem solving, and maneuvering through hugely varied social environments—whether the PTA, a corporate headquarters, or Congress.
    Femina Sapiens in the Nursery by Kay S. Hymowitz, City Journal Autumn 2009

    Of course, this analysis does not include the political elements of so-called feminism, which, as we have seen is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the left.
     
  3. Madeline
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    Thankies for the compliments on the Op, but they actually belong to JB. I can appreciate the POVs you have discussed and would tend to agree, they are likely true for most people. However, they are not true for everyone. Some men are fully engaged, wonderful, nuturing parents and any child in their care will thrive. Some women do not want children -- and few of us would say we went to college just to land a husband, or that reading too much "spoils" women by making them too aware of the outside world.

    The point is not -- or should not be -- that there is one way and only one way to do things. I would be concerned if a child of mine, male or female, had no ambition to get a degree or start a career and just wanted to stay home with children, but not because I didn't believe that life would suit. I just don't know that it's economically viable and I would want to know my child could support herself or himself (and their kids) if ever the need arose.

    At nearly 60, I can say "good riddance" to the snide remarks and petty office politics that sought to marginalize women and their careers. But I also think for most people, male and female, the design of one's life should be almost entirely theirs.....yes, very small children need and deserve more care, but school aged children less and college aged children none, really. In a culture where people fully expect to live to be 90, a whole life prolly cannot be about the years between their child's birth and first grade.

    Home schooling, eh? I'm impressed, PC. That cannot be easy.
     
  4. Barb
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    Barb Carpe Scrotum

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    We've all got to make our way, best as we can. Our mothers had SO many conflicting notions of the "ideal" thrown at them, little wonder they were so conflicted...about us, about themselves, about what best to teach us so that we could thrive, and teach our own.

    I used to stretch, and yawn, and crack my knuckles at the very thought of "women's" studies. Then I took a course. Then I took a graduate course on our humor.

    We're more interesting than you might think, based on what we've been told. A goddamned sight funnier too.
     
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  5. Trajan
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    Trajan conscientia mille testes

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    because it was for the masses that is, a pioneering work, in anew era, poeple who read this kind of thing due to a number of reaosns (mass marketing, literacy etc.) exploded after ww2, so what was once discussed mainly among the hollowed halls of academia or dinner tables in upper upper middle clas to upper class homes was now more common.....you are more nuanced now and less... susceptible? ;)

    i.e.; silent spring-....if silent spring has come along now, it would have been branded quickly for what it was and the impact interest level would have left this number 43,267 on the amazon list.

     
  6. Madeline
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    Well, I think you're right Trajan. It was ground-breaking when first published and now has little we'd bother to argue about in it. Kinda amazing, actually, because Barb is correct......there was much confusion as to what sort of adults we should become.
     
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  7. sangha
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    sangha Senior Member

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    I think the idea was revolutionary because before then, most people just assumed that there were inherent differences between the sexes that made the members of one sex unsuited for certain specific roles, while making the other sex well-suited for certain specific roles

    It's the same sort of idea with gay marriage. Until recently, it was assumed that gays had inherent differences that made them unsuitable for marriage
     
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  8. will1944
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    will1944 Rookie

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    Yes, The Feminine Mystique is out of date in many ways, but there's a great new book by Stephanie Coontz arguing that we need to rediscover Friedan's confidence that both men and women can and should combine meaningful work with a loving family life. A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s has moving interviews with almost 200 women who read Friedan in the early 60s, and what life was like for them then. A fascinating final chapter assesses how far we have -- and have NOT -- come. And Coontz summarizes the important parts of TFM, so you can get what it meant to people at the time without plowing through the whole book.
     
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  9. William Joyce
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    William Joyce Chemotherapy for PC

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    It's interesting that today, even with political correctness being as nuts as it is, that nobody takes feminism seriously.

    Most people think women should vote and work if they want, but that's about it.

    NOBODY believes that sexes or sex differences are just a "social construct." NOBODY.
     

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