Excerpted from: Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 1963).
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THE PROBLEM LAY BURIED, unspoken, for many kind of years in the minds of Amerihave the right to womales. It was a stselection stirring, a feeling of dissatisfactivity, a yearning that womales suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each subcity wife struggled through it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover product, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her kids, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay alongside her husband at night—she was afrhelp to ask even of herself the silent question—“Is this all?”
For over fifteenager years tright here was no word of this yearning in the millions of words written around women, for women, in all the columns, books and posts by professionals informing womales their function wregarding seek fulfillment as wives and also mothers. Over and over woguys heard in voices of tradition and also of Freudian sophistication that they can desire no better destiny than to glory in their very own femininity. Experts told them how to catch a male and also keep him, exactly how to breastfeed youngsters and manage their toilet training, exactly how to cope via sibling rivalry and adolescent rebellion; exactly how to buy a dishwasher, bake bread, prepare gourmet snails, and construct a swimming pool through their very own hands; exactly how to dress, look, and act more feminine and also make marriage even more exciting; just how to store their husbands from dying young and also their sons from prospering into delinquents. They were taught to pity the neurotic, unfeminine, unhappy womales who wanted to be poets or physicists or poccupants. They learned that truly feminine woguys execute not desire careers, higher education and learning, political rights—the freedom and the avenues that the old-fashioned feminists fought for. Some women, in their forties and also fifties, still remembered paintotally giving up those desires, yet a lot of of the younger women no longer also assumed around them. A thousand professional voices applauded their femininity, their adjustment, their brand-new maturity. All they had to execute was devote their lives from earliest girlhood to finding a husband also and also bearing kids.
By the finish of the nineteen-fifties, the average marriage age of womales in America dropped to 20, and was still dropping, into the teens. Fourteenager million girls were engaged by 17. The propercent of women attfinishing college in comparison via men dropped from 47% in 1920 to 35% in 1958. A century earlier, women had actually combated for greater education; currently girls visited college to obtain a husband. By the midfifties, 60% dropped out of college to marry, or because they were afrassist also much education would be a marriage bar. Colleges built dormitories for “married students,” however the students were nearly always the husbands….
… In the late fifties, a sociological phenomenon was all of a sudden remarked: a 3rd of Amerideserve to womales currently operated, however the majority of were no longer young and extremely few were pursuing careers. They were married woguys that organized part-time jobs, offering or secretarial, to put their husbands via school, their sons through college, or to assist pay the mortgage. Or they were widows supporting family members. Fewer and also fewer womales were entering expert job-related. The shorteras in nursing, social occupational, and teaching professions led to situations in practically eincredibly American city. Concerned over the Soviet Union"s lead in the room race, scientists detailed that America"s greatest resource of unprovided brainpower was woguys. But girls would not research physics: it was “unfeminine.” A girl refused a science fellowship at Johns Hopkins University to take a project in a real-estate office. All she wanted, she said, was what every various other Amerideserve to girl wanted—to gain married, have 4 children and also live in a nice house in a nice suburb.
The subcity housewife—she was the dream picture of the young American womales and also the envy, it was said, of womales almost everywhere the human being. The American housewife—freed by science and labor-conserving gadgets from the drudgery, the dangers of childbirth and the illnesses of her grandmommy. She was healthy and balanced, beautiful, educated, pertained to only around her husband also, her kids, her house. She had actually found true feminine fulfillment. As a housewife and mother, she was respected as a full and also equal partner to male in his people. She was totally free to pick automobiles, apparel, appliances, supermarkets; she had actually everything that woguys ever before dreamed of.
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In the fifteenager years after World War II, this mystique of feminine fulfillment ended up being the cheriburned and self-perpetuating core of modern American society. Millions of woguys lived their stays in the photo of those pretty images of the American subcity housewife, kissing their husbands goodbye in front of the picture home window, depositing their stationwagonsful of youngsters at school, and also smiling as they ran the brand-new electric waxer over the spotmuch less kitchen floor. They baked their own bcheck out, sewed their own and their children"s clothing, kept their brand-new washing makers and dryers washing all day. They adjusted the sheets on the beds twice a week instead of once, took the rug-hooking class in adult education and learning, and pitied their bad frustrated mothers, that had actually dreamed of having a career. Their just dream wregarding be perfect wives and mothers; their greatest ambition to have 5 youngsters and a beautiful residence, their just fight to acquire and keep their husbands. They had no thought for the unfeminine difficulties of the civilization external the home; they wanted the men to make the major decisions. They gloried in their duty as women, and also composed proudly on the census blank: “Occupation: housewife.”
If a woguy had a trouble in the 1950s and also 1960s, she kbrand-new that something have to be wrong via her marital relationship, or via herself. Other woguys were satisfied with their stays, she assumed. What type of woguy was she if she did not feel this mysterious fulfillment waxing the kitchen floor? She was so ashamed to admit her dissatisfaction that she never before knew how many various other womales mutual it. If she tried to tell her husband, he didn"t understand what she was talking about. She did not really understand also it herself. For over fifteenager years women in America found it harder to talk around this difficulty than sex. Even the psychoanalysts had no name for it. When a woguys went to a psychiatrist for help, as many type of women did, she would say, “I"m so ashamed,” or “I need to be hopelessly neurotic.” “I don"t understand what"s wrong through womales today,” a subcity psychiatrist sassist uneasily. “I only understand somepoint is wrong bereason the majority of of my patients take place to be woguys. And their trouble isn"t sexual.” Most woguys through this problem did not go to see a psychoanalyst, however. “There"s nothing wrong really,” they kept informing themselves. “Tbelow isn"t any kind of problem.”
… I uncovered many kind of hints by talking to subcity medical professionals, gynecologists, obstetricians, child-guidance clinicians, pediatricians, high-school guidance counselors, college professors, marriage counselors, psychiatrists and ministers—questioning them not on their theories, yet on their actual suffer in treating Amerideserve to woguys. I became mindful of a growing body of evidence, much of which has actually not been reported publicly bereason it does not fit right into present settings of thought around women—proof which throws into question the criteria of feminine normality, feminine adjustment, feminine fulfillment, and also feminine maturity through which a lot of women are still trying to live.