Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Feminist Mystique

In order to understand a movement's true intentions, it is important to look at it's founding. Contrary to popular belief, there was no "feminism" movement or "feminists" until 1963. A woman named Betty Friedan authored the cultural sensation The Feminine Mystique, based on her personal experience and projections of women around her. She is the woman who coined the "feminist" and "feminism" terms, as well as triggered the "feminist movement" as we know it today. She soon partnered up with Gloria Steinem, who is arguably one of the most legendary feminist icons. Together they managed to portray themselves as progressing an earlier and very different movement, Women's Suffrage, despite no common ground or relation other than gender (ironically).

The Women's Suffrage movement in the United States took place in the late 1800's to early 1900's, concluding in 1920 with a national victory. Prior to this, women's suffrage was decided at the state level (like most other political issues) but only a few states actually allowed women to vote. Once this goal had been realized, the group and movement became a great remnant of the past.. until 40 years later when feminism needed credibility. That's when Gloria Steinem started referring to both feminism and women's suffrage as two steps within the same overall "women's movement/liberation".

Feminism, as Steinem poignantly said, "seeks for a revolution and not a reform". There is no one issue that they want to resolve but rather an entire nation and our human nature that they want to change. This is completely opposite of the Women's Suffrage which simply fought for one specific issue. For this reason, feminism took on a different name then "suffragettes", much like when a company changes it's name when it's bought or starts selling different products.

The Feminine Mystique was written in the post-WWII era, which happened to be the perfect time and place for it. Life was traditionally suburban, crime was low, technology was on the rise with constant new inventions, there was a spirit of rebellion amongst the youth, and civil rights became a major socio-political focus. Unlike the Depression era generation before them, the Baby Boomers decided to engage in much more self-indulgent and self-destructive behaviors. Technological advances had left the average American enjoying far more leisure time and comforts. This led to a disintegration of character and work ethic.

Betty Friedan was no exception to the behavior of this era. She willfully married into a mutually abusive relationship and had children that she was not ready for. Her personal experiences led to her projecting that all women despise their role as wife and mother. This was the subject of her book and the origin of the "feminist movement" as we know it today.

No comments:

Post a Comment