The Feminine Mystique

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan Read Free Book Online

Book: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Betty Friedan
stirring in women does not seem to be sex; it is, in fact, much harder for women to talk about than sex. Could there be another need, a part of themselves they have buried as deeply as the Victorian women buried sex?
    If there is, a woman might not know what it was, any more than the Victorian woman knew she had sexual needs. The image of a good woman by which Victorian ladies lived simply left out sex. Does the image by which modern American women live also leave something out, the proud and public image of the high-school girl going steady, the college girl in love, the suburban housewife with an up-and-coming husband and a station wagon full of children? This image—created by the women’s magazines, by advertisements, television, movies, novels, columns and books by experts on marriage and the family, child psychology, sexual adjustment and by the popularizers of sociology and psychoanalysis—shapes women’s lives today and mirrors their dreams. It may give a clue to the problem that has no name, as a dream gives a clue to a wish unnamed by the dreamer. In the mind’s ear, a geiger counter clicks when the image shows too sharp a discrepancy from reality. A geiger counter clicked in my own inner ear when I could not fit the quiet desperation of so many women into the picture of the modern American housewife that I myself was helping to create, writing for the women’s magazines. What is missing from the image which shapes the American woman’s pursuit of fulfillment as a wife and mother? What is missing from the image that mirrors and creates the identity of women in America today?
    In the early 1960’s McCall’s has been the fastest growing of the women’s magazines. Its contents are a fairly accurate representation of the image of the American woman presented, and in part created, by the large-circulation magazines. Here are the complete editorial contents of a typical issue of McCall’s (July, 1960):
    1. A lead article on “increasing baldness in women,” caused by too much brushing and dyeing.
    2. A long poem in primer-size type about a child, called “A Boy Is A Boy.”
    3. A short story about how a teenager who doesn’t go to college gets a man away from a bright college girl.
    4. A short story about the minute sensations of a baby throwing his bottle out of the crib.
    5. The first of a two-part intimate “up-to-date” account by the Duke of Windsor on “How the Duchess and I now live and spend our time. The influence of clothes on me and vice versa.”
    6. A short story about a nineteen-year-old girl sent to a charm school to learn how to bat her eyelashes and lose at tennis. (“You’re nineteen, and by normal American standards, I now am entitled to have you taken off my hands, legally and financially, by some beardless youth who will spirit you away to a one-and-a-half-room apartment in the Village while he learns the chicanery of selling bonds. And no beardless youth is going to do that as long as you volley to his backhand.”)
    7. The story of a honeymoon couple commuting between separate bedrooms after an argument over gambling at Las Vegas.
    8. An article on “how to overcome an inferiority complex.”
    9. A story called “Wedding Day.”
    10. The story of a teenager’s mother who learns how to dance rock-and-roll.
    11. Six pages of glamorous pictures of models in maternity clothes.
    12. Four glamorous pages on “reduce the way the models do.”
    13. An article on airline delays.
    14. Patterns for home sewing.
    15. Patterns with which to make “Folding Screens—Bewitching Magic.”
    16. An article called “An Encyclopedic Approach to Finding a Second Husband.”
    17. A “barbecue bonanza,” dedicated “to the Great American Mister who stands, chef’s cap on head, fork in hand, on terrace or back porch, in patio or backyard anywhere in the land, watching his roast

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