Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pathos in The Feminine Mystique

      It is possible that the most essential and powerful rhetorical tool Friedan used in The Feminine Mystique was pathos. It allowed her to connect to her audience in personal ways but also to bring a sense of urgency. The excerpt from The Feminine Mystique begins with a relatable description of the average women's mundane routine: "she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material...lay beside her husband at night-she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question–"Is this all?"". Based on the response to Friedan's work, it appeared that many women, on an deeply intimate but concealed level, identified with that sense of longing. Friedan later touched on the notion that if a women could not find fulfillment by being a housewife like other women seemed to, she blamed her unhappiness on a marital issue, or even herself, leading her to be ashamed of her discontent instead of acting on it. All of these ideas provide a powerful appeal to emotion and relatability, especially during the time of rampant feelings of unfulfillment amongst women. If relating to her audience was not enough, Friedan also used exceptionally strong and vivid language toward the end of the excerpt to paint a picture of what this problem meant for the United States as a whole. For example, she described how "the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human taking a far great toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease", an alarming and attention-grabbing statement. In this way, Friedan appealed to not just a women's individual issue, but a threat to the United States as a whole. In addition, she said the "feminine mystique has succeeded in burying millions of American women alive", a powerful use of imagery to make her audience aware of the gravity of the issue. In the excerpt, Friedan concludes with the question, "Who knows what women can be when they are finally free to become themselves?", as a sort of call to arms to empower women to raise their standard for themselves. 
-Taylor Rezeppa


  1. It goes without question to say that The Feminine Mystique touched a lot of people emotionally. I think your description of the way Freidan grasps the true nature of the situation is remarkable. The way in which quotes are embedded adds a deeper and more direct understanding of Freidan’s words, giving the reader a peak into the actual excerpt. In addition to your writing, there are a series of cartoons depicting such a scenario and a hyperlink or image to one of these could help create a slightly less serious tone if that is what you are looking for.

    Sam Jacobson

    1. Sam, really astute meta-commentary on Taylor's commentary. The writing in her post is spot on. Do you have a link to the cartoon you mention?

    2. Sam, really astute meta-commentary on Taylor's commentary. The writing in her post is spot on. Do you have a link to the cartoon you mention?