Reading 3/29

I was struck most by the excerpt from Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. When I think of the 1950s in the most basic sense, I think of the wives and mothers found in the home. These women, though, like Friedan explains, are missing something. They are not sure what it is, like the title suggests, “The Problem That Has No Name,” but they know they are not getting it from their families. I have read similar feelings in diaries from the 1850s and 1860s, so it is most definitely not a new idea. What is new, though, is a general outpouring of the same sentiment. In class, we’ve discussed that the “flappers” of the 1920s were the minority. If this sentiment, though, that something is missing is coming from women (even if it is only white, middle-class women) on a broader scale, then the concept is new. This only reminded me that I cannot assume that most women during the 1950s, especially those my group has been studying, felt that the home was the place for them and they just needed to get married to get everything they always wanted. Betty Friedan is trying to show that even though women have lovely lives, a great family, a caring husband, new appliances, a new car–some are realizing that there has to be more to their lives than feeling “empty” or as if they “don’t exist.”

I also believe that this sentiment would not have occurred unless the families were prosperous. A family in need, working class or maybe a “broken family” would not being seeing life the same way. They are working towards the comfort that the women Friedman speaks of already gained. In a time of war, as well, these white middle-class women would not have been able to speak of something like that–even to their friends–because every one had a focus: the war. Now that the war is over, the white middle-class women can finally widen the focus and say, “Hey, I have all this stuff that I thought I wanted, but now I don’t feel like I have meaning.”

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