samedi, février 04, 2006

Remembering Betty Friedan

The first time I read The Feminine Mystique I was as a high schooler. I re-read the book as a college student. I completed my third revisioning of the book as a master's student. To this day I remain impressed with the astuteness of Friedan's articulation of the "feminine mystique" at a time when women's voices and bodies were so vehemently surpressed. Though I never completely related to this work, primarily because of its erasure of race in her feminine mystique critique, I nonetheless think its an important book and have it in my own personal canon. A brilliant student who graduated from Smith College summa cum laude with a BA in Psychology, Freidan wrote The Feminine Mystique as a suburban housewife and mother.

"Gradually, without seeing it clearly for quite a while, I came to realize that something is very wrong with the way American women are trying to live their lives today," Friedan wrote in the opening line of the preface. "I sensed it first as a question mark in my own life, as a wife and mother of three small children, half-guiltily, and therefore half-heartedly, almost in spite of myself, using my abilities and education in work that took me away from home." The next 400 pages of the book seemed like something from The Stepford Wives. Drawing on a motley of disciples from psychology to economics to history and sociology as well as personal interviews with middle class women from across the country, Friedan asserted that the myth of the fulfilled, contented suburban housewife was just that, a myth. She stated that women were quite the opposite, completely unfulfilled, stunted and trapped in monotony and oppression.

I am consistently in a state of sadness and shock when so many greats pass on. Who will continue the important work that people like Betty Friedan pioneered?

stertorous -- adj: characterized by a heavy snoring or gasping sound; hoarsely breathing

"A woman is handicapped by her sex, and handicaps society, either by slavishly copying the pattern of man's advance in the professions, or by refusing to compete with man at all"
--- Betty Friedan