was a leading activist of the Second wave feminist in the 1960’s. In 1963, Friedan published a book entitled The Feminine Mystique, which attracted great interest from women in the era who also advocated women’s rights. This article does not cover this important work in its entirety, but rather focuses on a section in the beginning of the book called “The Problem that Has No Name.”
Friedan begins by describing women in the 1960’s. With the passage of the 19th Amendment in the 1920’s, women had the right to vote and also had a greater opportunity to pursue higher education. However, in spite of their increase in rights outside of the home, Friedan describes how women were still oppressed in their own homes. Even with a college degree, women of her time were not encouraged to pursue career aspirations of their own. Society voiced to women of that generation that it was the most fulfilling aspect of life to get married, have children, and care for a family and household of their own. As a result, many educated women failed to form career goals; marrying in their mid twenties and dedicating all of their time to being a housewife. All of these women mirrored society’s expectations and the media’s projection of them.
After receiving their education, whether it is primary school or graduate school, women prior to Friedan’s time commonly married, started families and became housewives. A huge majority of women found that being a housewife was not the most fulfilling aspect of life, and that they would much rather pursue their own independent aspirations rather than cater to the will of their families day after day. With the conflict between what women want, which was to pursue their own careers and aspirations, and what they were told to want, which was to get married, have children, and become a housewife, many women began to develop psychological disorders, including anxiety, depression, and lethargy. Mental health professionals were unable to explain the huge increase in these symptoms among married women, but noticed a trend in the disturbances. Many of the women felt as though they were neurotic for thinking about pursuing their aspirations aside from their children or husbands and had no idea that there were other women out there that felt the same way.
According to Friedan, this common thought was said to be a result of women’s rather recently acquired rights. They argued that because women were already so stressed out with all of the burdens and demands of running a household that the additional demands of being politically enlightened and academically educated was too much pressure for them to bear. As a result of all of this pressure, women were developing these psychological symptoms. A proposed cure was to revoke these rights from women so that they would not have to worry about the added responsibility of their newly acquired civic duty.
In light of the ignorant propositions made by oppressors of women, there many better alternatives to this solution. Women should be treated as equals to men. Both of the sexes should have the same demands on them and they should work together to achieve the same goals. Men and women should both be encouraged to follow their dreams and aspirations and to be encouraged to pursue lives that they enjoy and have pride in. Perhaps with time, such ignorant thinking in regards to the treatment of women will change.