In the excerpt from her 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, feminist Betty Friedan addressed American women, specifically those who remained quiet in the face of growing discontentment. At the time, women were expected to maintain the household, raise children, and please their husbands. Friedan’s audience, therefore, would not necessarily believe that their discontentment was a legitimate problem in American society since every other woman was seemingly satisfied with her life. Furthermore, American women were taught to pity “unhappy” women who wanted to become poets or presidents. Friedan attempted to expel the belief that the average woman was happy to be at home, repetitively referencing the idea of this “ideal” woman—someone who made the beds and shopped for groceries, someone relatable to her audience—struggling with frustration and self-doubt. This excerpt from her book was a call-to-action for American women to recognize and speak out against the fact that they were being kept “from growing to their full capacities.”
Friedan’s words were as much a confrontation of the American public, including men, as a plea for women to stretch beyond their biological functions. The public, she argued, was responsible for shaping a culture that would free women from the societal expectations that prevented them from developing identities. Although this broader audience may have initially gravitated towards the traditional order, their enthusiasm for American values such as freedom and success may have also allowed them to connect with Friedan’s feminist cause.
- Anjali Ravi
- Anjali Ravi