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Book Review: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

Preach, Arianna Huffington!
    I owe the New York Public Library $4 thanks to this book.  I returned it a couple weeks late.  But whatever, it was worth it!
     This book read like a horror story, but it's actually a well-researched non-fiction investigation of "the problem that has no name" - basically, sexism in the 1960s'.  Mystique has the distinction of being one of the catalysts of the American second-wave feminist movement.  It explores how women were conditioned - through advertising, women's magazines, phony college courses, pseudo-Freudian psychology, peer pressure, etc. - to expect marriage and child-rearing alone to fulfill them.  Even wealthy, college-educated women were encouraged to find a man ASAP and embrace domestic life at the expense of personal identity.  But Friedan noticed that women who did so became depressed and destructive, so in this book she argues that women need intellectual pursuits outside the home in order to be happy and healthy.
     Everyone should read this book.  Of course, it is flawed in that its brand of feminism focuses on white, educated, wealthy housewives, but no single book could possibly encapsulate all of feminism and deal with the problems of all women.  Instead, Mystique should be appreciated as part of a tapestry of feminist texts, a tapestry which includes works by women of all classes, races, and sexual orientations.

     - Carly

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