In the 1950s and 1960s, the concept of the American housewife was increasingly popular. American women strived to fit in social stereotypes. They were concerned with proper education, marriage, children, and household routine.
However, the firmly established stereotypes did not allow young girls to fulfill themselves in other realms than those of a woman and a housewife. In particular, most of the American women living in the suburbs of the country were restricted in disclosing their self and realizing their professional competences. In this respect, Friedan, the author of The Feminine Mystique and the confounder of the National Organization of Women, was among the pioneers who made women change outlooks on their existence and start searching for their selves. She persistently advocated women, irrespective of their race, marital status, social class, sexual orientation and promulgates such values as freedom and equality in American society. First attempt to highlight the nature of the problem among women was connected to a psychological analysis of mass women dissatisfaction with their lives.
Specifically, women mistakenly thought that the roots of their problems lied in their unhappy marriage or in their personal psychological instabilities. Therefore, she actively worked on the newspaper The Reflector because she believed that her ideas and views on life should be given to publicity (Oliver 10). While researching historic data, Friedan refers to the nineteenth century’s women whose role was confined to those of a mother and housewife. Indeed, true feminine identities can only be revealed when women widen their opportunities and defend their independence. To find the core of the problem, Friedan recalls her decision to meet society’s expectations, raise children and become a good wide instead of continuing her promising career. Overall, her active participation in American women movement has been represented in many alternative ways so as to capture the depth of the problem of recognizing feminine identity of her time. The fear of staying without husband made women forget about their personal interests and give up their education to marry at an early age. However, many women fail to find fulfillment within the narrow frames they were enclosed in and, as a result, they become concerned with their emotional and psychological state.
Because of the life phase that women face, American society faced as serious challenge – the loss of femininity. According to Oliver, “Friedan agreed that a college education made women better wives and mothers, but she disagreed…that college-educated women should limit their contributions to American society to burping babis and cooking dinner” (Oliver 62). Misconceptions concerning females’ actual roles are also closely associated with the increased popularity of Freudian theories and ideas. Exposure of provoking ideas on sexuality made women adhere to even more stereotypical visions. In this respect, Friedan labels society as functional by assigning strict duties and responsibilities to males and females, which is the backbone of the nineteenth century society. Despite the deplorable history of women’s restricted existence, the nineteenth century placed a solid foundation for the emerging National Organization of Women.
The movement started out as soon as it was time to go beyond the development concept of feminine mystique. Moreover, it was step forward from ideology formation to practical actions. The underpinnings for the initiation of group meeting were associated with unfair and cruel attitude of males toward women. Indeed, men faced a significant threat when witnessing their women applying for nontraditional jobs.
That was a significant shift toward the emancipated society where a balance was struck between men and women (Oliver 64). Women resisted sexual harassment on the part of men; they opposed the roles assigned to them by male-dominated society. Therefore, Friedan was also among the pioneers that proved women’s ability to become independent. By breaking stereotypes, the feminine mystique concept becomes much clearer. While organizing feminist movement, Friedan was recognized as a talented and inspiring leader. Her active campaign burst out to make women rethink their lives and understand their original identities.
She called women for reading magazines and reveal their personal political and social outlooks. She conducted interviews with women to learn more about their attitude to marriage, maternity, and education to make the corresponding conclusions. Finally, she “called on her academic training in psychology and her expertise as a journalist” (Oliver 68). Therefore, the movement and journalist activities have provide a solid platform for women to defend their rights and freedoms and keep pace of intellectual development with men. In conclusion, the true history of feminist movement formation is introduced. The leader of the NOW provides the underpinnings of women’s discontent with their restricted roles of wives and mothers.
Specifically, Friedan discovers the term “the feminine mystique” by explaining why female society has become enclosed in the frames of societal stereotypes. Specific emphasis should be placed on the analysis of nineteenth century’s traditions and ideologies, as well as of ethical and morale influence in developing feminine identities. The author, therefore, unveils the problems and calls women for resistance against the established norms and spelling their actual needs.