The Feminine Mystique

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Betty Friedan, after experiencing feelings of depression, self-loathing, and dissatisfaction as a mother and housewife, published The Feminine Mystique in 1963. The book, which focused on the “problem that has no name,” promoted awareness of society’s pressure on women to be seen in a certain way, especially in advertising. As Joyce Hart points out in her essay, this propaganda told women that being a wife and mother was all there was to their lives, and that they had to find meaning by standing in their family’s shadow. Hart states, “As young wives, women sought recognition through their husbands. As mothers, women promoted themselves through their children. Their offspring’s accomplishments were their own. It was one more excuse, Freidan states, for women to forego defining themselves” (Hart 2). Unfortunately, many women thought that there was something wrong with them for not finding complete satisfaction in motherhood and life in suburbia, and they wanted something else to give their life some greater meaning. Baffled by sexism in the workforce, Friedan also remarks on the inconsistency of the changing expectations and the treatment of women in America throughout the twentieth century. In the 1920s, for example, the ideal young woman was educated, independent, had a career, and even put off marriage and having children. After women were told to give up their jobs during the depression to give to a man to support his family, women in the 1940s had to participate in traditional “male” jobs to help support World War II efforts. After the war, the women who found meaning in the jobs that they took over for men were told to leave under the pressure of propaganda saying that they men somehow needed it more than the women, and tha...

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