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February 17 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of “The Feminine Mystique.” Since 1963, millions of people have read this groundbreaking book.

As Gail Collins points out in The New York Times, it was a book that was able to “seize the moment – to perfectly encapsulate the problem of an era before other people even notice the problem exists.”

From NPR:

It was post-World War II America. The suburbs were growing exponentially and the economy was booming. A lot of women had worked outside the home during the war, and a significant number of women had gotten a college education. Now, they were all being told to stay home and find their fulfillment in taking care of their husbands and children.

“The moment was so pregnant and ready for an explosion,” Collins says, “that all you needed was somebody just sitting there and saying: Look at that ad. They think you are so stupid. They have contempt for you. They hate you. Take look at that again. That’s all you needed.”

Reading this book several years later, I realized at once that it was a completely personal outburst of anger. Friedan was not attempting to write a sociological treatise or a guide to the legal status of women. That’s important to note, since she has been faulted for barely mentioning poor women or African-American women.

Instead, Friedan was venting her own fury at the way intelligent, well-educated women were being kept out of the workplace, and turned into baby-producing and vacuum-pushing zombies. And if housewives dared to express frustration or depression with their lot, psychiatrists were ready to prescribe “mother’s little helper” to make them feel better and push them back into place.

The personal became the political as millions of women recognized themselves in Friedan’s life story.

But have things really changed since then? Or have they remained the same?

My own life has been profoundly shaped by the women’s movement.

As a teenage girl in the UK, I had attended a single-sex high school, where my male history teacher informed us that he never told anyone he was working in a girls’ school, since that would be too embarrassing. Then there was the local pub, with its lounge bar for everyone, and its public bar strictly for men, not to mention the Church of England where priests were always male and women were allowed to arrange the flowers.

In the late 1970s, on my arrival in the US from the UK, I began work at the Feminist Womens Health Center, a clinic and abortion center run entirely by women, and made possible by the passage of Roe vs. Wade.

Entering a work environment where women made all the decisions was liberating for me, and was a direct outcome of the Women’s Movement. Betty Friedan and her book, to say nothing of the first organization she founded, the National Organization for Women, may not have started the Women’s Movement, but were most certainly a major reason for its evolution.

But how much has not changed in these 50 years?

According to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, men spend more time than women at work each day, while women, even those with full-time jobs, do most of the household chores. The study shows 83 percent of women and 65 percent of men spent time each day in 2011 doing household chores such as cleaning, cooking, lawn care or financial and other household management.

The same holds true for Britain. From the Guardian:

Analysis by the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank shows that eight out of 10 married women do more household chores, while just one in 10 married men does an equal amount of cleaning and washing as his wife.
Just over one in 10 women – 13% – say their husbands do more housework than they do, while only 3% of married women do fewer than three hours a week, with almost half doing 13 hours or more.

So is it true that women haven’t given up the domestic areas they were in charge of, but rather have added new duties and responsibilities?

That may be true in some households, but nevertheless, the world has changed drastically since “The Feminine Mystique.”  If you want to see how far we have come, and to understand that passion that fired up the modern women’s movement, you can do no better than pick up a copy of “The Feminine Mystique.”

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Replies to This Discussion

More and more I realise how the pop areas of feminism are dominated by the male mystique. Valuing manufacturing industries, valuing growth economics and population, valuing colonialism. It may be males' greatest victory, in making sure the feminist movement stopped rocking the boat and joined the patriarchal quest in society. My greatest disappointment of patriarchy dominating feminist groups is we haven't even made a dent is male on female violence. That to me is the crux of the matter, I really don't give a shit about females in the military.

I'm also really tired of some forms of feminism, in order to accommodate patriarchy by creating super women, females that contribute to patriarchy through cheap labour simultaneously with uterine labour. All the while creating youth raised not with parental values but with industrial values given by the industrially paid for daycares modern society has become obsessed with.

But looking at today's situation, I'd say we in large part failed.

I read that book back in the 80s, and frankly I can't remember my feelings towards it.

I'd had a public atheist Facebook page for about a year and yesterday I was officially baptised into the feminazi club by a male atheist. So I've officially joined the ranks of all the females who've herein complained about sexist and mysoginist males in the atheist community.

Patriarchy and religion are inseparable, religion is the tool developed by patriarchy to subdue and domesticate our uteri. No misogynist should wear the label atheist, they are in name only.

Umm, I was right with you, up until that last sentence.  ^.^  Let's not get into no-true-Scotsman territory, here.  I know plenty of assholes who are atheists.

Hell, I know plenty of irrational, superstitious flakes who are atheists.  I dated a girl who is a fuzzy, new-agey, hippy atheist.  Sweet girl ... cute ... fantastic belly dancer ... but I finally couldn't cope with the constant bombardment of anti-skepticism propaganda from her.  It made the whole marriage and kids thing a bit iffy.  Too many differences in worldviews, and I would not freaking allow my children to go un-vaccinated.

My last roommate is an atheist, but he's buys into all kinds of crap.  He believes all of the mystical garbage that comes along with Buddhism, and he believes in homeopathy.

He loved to listen to The Atheist Experience and laugh at the silly Christians ... right up until they had the episode in which two Buddhists called in, and then he became outraged that they would attack his silly beliefs.

He doesn't believe in a god, though, so he's an atheist.  He's just gullible as hell in many other ways.

It's why I'm annoyed at Humanist campaigns to gain new de-converts to the atheist community. A majority of the newcomers are faithers in essence, they are just missing a celestial god, but they've still bought into all the rest of the koolaid, those people are atheist in name only.

I do not think it's a worthy objective to grow atheist numbers if we just end up with shits like that.

I'd rather see people become atheist "slow and surely" rather than "fast and stupidly".

Actually, I'm not even sure the two people I mentioned embrace the label of atheist.  They just happen to be atheists.

Right there with you on the faith part.  Skepticism first, and then we can allow that to bring them to atheism, once they overcome their emotional block and apply the skepticism to their religious beliefs.

I see why you like the flow of 'atheist-in-name-only', but that still doesn't sit right with me, because of the OCD, I think.  ^.^  I'll see if I can come up with a similar substitution for you.

Atheist-in-god-only?  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.  I'll get back to you on that.


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