30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still worth reading today
I first read `The Feminine Mystique' back in the 1970s when it was very popular and on re-reading it found it just as relevant now. The book explores the desire of many women in America in the 1950s and 1960s to become housewives and mothers rather than pursuing careers of their own. One of the main reasons for this trend could well have been a general reaction to the...
Published on 18 Mar. 2010 by Damaskcat
7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the 2nd Sex
An interesting read but compared to other feminist literature it involves quite a small group of people. Namely housewives living in the USA during the 1950's and 60's. The underlying problem is repeated throughout the book and surrounds the fact that, these ladies, despite often being quite bright and having the benefit of a good education decided to give everything up...
Published on 24 May 2008 by Sally Wilton
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars slightly overzealous, poorly written, but some interesting ideas,
This review is from: The Feminine Mystique (Paperback)
First off I'll declare my bias, in that I'm a man; I believe I'm unusually feminist, however a man nonetheless. Secondly, this review needs to be framed within the premise that it's a review of its value in 2008, rather than in the early 1960's when it was originally published, and so the emphasis is more upon recommendation on whether to read it now, than commentary on its historical or political value.
That said, Friedan's tome on the re-oppression of women through the 1950's, after their earlier liberation was overall not particularly enjoyable and quickly became a laborious read. Bearing in mind that such books are not necessarily meant to be fun, I found Friedan's writing style overly repetitive, often confusing and apparently self-contradictory.
Friedan made some very good arguments and her concept of the Feminine Mystique, in other words the oppression of women by societal pressure to conform to the stay-at-home housewife stereotype, hit the nail on the head and still has strong resonance today. However her arguments were unfortunately undermined by her poor writing and use of pseudo-scientific methods to evidence her argument, for example providing anecdote after anecdote to illustrate her points. This left me asking myself about the hundreds of thousands of American women she didn't personally speak to, even though I agreed with most of what she argued. A further related bias, which she freely admits herself within the book, was that her samples were specifically from middle-class women.
What made the book most difficult to stomach, was the unbalanced nature of her argument. To call Friedan's suggestions that the Feminine Mystique is comparable to Nazi concentration camps, is responsible for increased drug-use in teenagers, or for lack of courageousness in American GIs and homosexuality, overzealous I think most will agree is an understatement.
I gave it 3 stars because on balance "it's OK". However, The Feminine Mystique is overblown, difficult, and although the underlying premise is sound, I personally would not recommend this book to anyone. If however, you take the approach adopted by one of Amazon's list maniacs (feminist texts I must read before I die), then I suppose this may be worth reading.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have in your library,
This review is from: The Feminine Mystique (Mass Market Paperback)
There are several detractors on Friedan's work but I have to say it marks an era of wondering what on earth was this "feminine mystique". It is a very insightful and uncomfortable reading of the lives of women in 1950s and 1960s era, the stepford wife era, and her point that is does not exist and the "essentialist" debate about the feminine is just a load of smoke and mirrors holds true to the present debate on masquerade and performance of gender.
4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Feminist Text,
An academic, thoroughly researched yet easy read. It seems a bit dated now, 43 years on, but a must-read for anyone interested in equality. The issues now are slightly more complicated than just getting women into work, and discouraging housewifery. If anything, the celebration of work by Friedan hasn't helped us keep our feminine serenity. The world economy as it is means that those in work are overemployed - why can't we have a 3 day weekend now? The influence of this book can't be underestimated - I read Stepford Wives recently and it is a fiction which seems to be based around this work!
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars,
This review is from: The Feminine Mystique (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
9 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Housewife phobia,
I have avoided reading this book for many years, because I knew from what I'd heard about it that Betty Friedan had a low opinion of housewives, and as a housewife myself I didn't think reading it would do me any good. However, I eventually decided to take the plunge and see what it was all about.
I have to say that it is even worse than I thought. I knew that Ms Friedan didn't think much of housewives, but I wasn't quite prepared for the venemous contempt that she directs towards us in this book. Women who stay at home are, according to her, infantile and mentally arrested. We move through life like zombies, unconnected to the 'real' world (it goes without saying that the world of paid employment is real, the world of home is not). She really puts the boot into us:
'There are aspects of the housewife role that make it almost impossible for a woman of adult intelligence to retain a sense of human identity, the firm core of self or 'I' without which a human being, man or woman, is not truly alive.' Well, that puts us in our place, doesn't it?
When she wrote this book, in the early 60s, she was convinced that the reason why so many women were being divorced by their husbands was that the husbands were sick of supporting dependent women. Possibly her venemous dislike of housewives may have misled her a little, since although most married women are no longer housewives, the divorce rate shows no sign of declining. She also thought housewives were responsible for battered children and homosexuality. However, neither of those things are in noticeable decline either.
Possibly, despite what Mrs Friedan thought, we are not responsible for all the ills of the world after all.
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The Feminine Mystique (Penguin Modern Classics) by Betty Friedan (Paperback - 4 Mar. 2010)