Gender Roles In Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique?

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In Betty Friedan’s novel The Feminine Mystique, she addresses a problem deeply buried within women up until the beginning of the twenty-first century. A problem with no name, that makes women feel desolate and purposeless, forcing them to ask themselves “is this all?” Norma Jean toils with this very same question in Shiloh, a realistic fiction short story by Bobbie Ann Mason. The marriage of Norma Jean and her devoted, yet inactive husband Leroy falls to shambles when he gets injured from work, forcing him to remain home. They wander aimlessly around each other, much like ghosts, withholding their need to confide in one another, which inevitably leads to the end of their marriage. As Norma Jean redefines gender roles in her household, she …show more content…

As she reverses gender roles, so strongly built by history, she is confused of her duty in the household. In an article by journalist Harriet Pollack, it blames Norma’s confusion on her generations lack of established roles. Unlike the generation before her, Norma has new hopes and dreams, but compared to the role that her controlling, patriarchal mother tries to oppress her with, she seems crazy and absurd. Tina Bucher in Changing Roles and Finding Stability refers to Norma Jean as a “downhome feminist,” a women who just wants “a little bit more breathing space from her husband.” While Norma’s redefining of gender roles are subpar compared to societies large change of women roles occuring during this time, such as the right for birth-control during second wave feminism, it still shows her need for a new story in her narrative. She uses this new sought after freedom to invest her time in new activities such as working out and college classes. Mason also, as commented in the article, uses Norma’s strength while bodybuilding as a conservative symbolism for masculinity, but uses it to embark the new independence Norma has found. Also subtle instances of Norma breaking gender roles can be found in the empty cereal bowl she leaves on the counter as she leaves for work, driving to Shiloh as Leroy rides, and becoming the “bread-winner” of the family as Leroy is injured and stuck at home. Although these are substantially insignificant it shows her much needed yearn for change and

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