It was fifty years ago this controversial book hit the shelves and sparked the debate about women's roles. Was her rightful place in the home with her pots and pans and nursing babies? Or did she really belong out in the workforce where she could truly make a difference?
I was born in 1974 when the idea of "girl power" was already being indoctrinated into America's youth. I first learned about it in this Sesame Street song:
The 80's rolled along. Women began divorcing their husbands, leaving their kitchens and entering the workplace. I learned to "Just say No". I watched "The Cosby Show" and yearned for that kind of perfect family. I believed in the Janeen Brady Song "When I grow up, I want to be a mother and have a family: one little-two little-three little-babies of my own."
Look, I found a link to the song! I love the internet
I was sad when my parents followed the trend and got divorced. Not because my mother wanted a career but because Dad wanted the sexual freedom of sleeping with whomever he wanted. Mom just wanted someone to sleep with. I vowed never to be that selfish. If I grew up to become a strong, independant woman with a career, fine, I'd make the best of it, but if that Mommy job and a husband that woud bring home the bacon ever presented itself, I wouldn't mind that either. I hoped a man would love me for more than my looks and my body. Nice to have a choice but was it really better women now wielded the power of refusal?
Here we are in the 21st century asking, "What does it mean to live in a patriarchal society?"
Pre-1963 before books and songs about how women could be anything they wanted, it was taken for granted that women went to college to earn her "MRS" degree and assumed the role created for her. Men dominated the workforce and college campus. Men made all the laws. Men ruled over home, wife, children with an iron hand. A man made all the major decisions of where his family lived and what his child would grow up to be. If a boy wanted to take a girl out on a date, he had to first meet dad. If a young man wanted a wife, to the girl's father he'd go with quaking legs to ask for her hand. It was a man's world in those days. That was the way it was done and everyone accepted it. We hoped they did it gently and never abused their power over the women and children in their lives. Since it was the greatest generation that won the second world war, we must conclude that this patriarchal dominance over our culture back in the day was a good thing. I'm starting to yearn for a return to those patriarchal days and I wonder if I'm not the only one.
I just saw the movie "Austenland" about a single woman with no dominating patriarchal figure to rule her life and tell her what to be, yet she yearns for a Mr. Darcy. I think we all yearn for that strong, silent, brooding male figure to provide that quiet influence. Young men need such examples to follow. Perhaps it's time for a return to a patriarchal society where women are not sexually abused but recognized as equals. Woman demanding equal rights is not new. Jane Eyre declared it to Mr. Rochester, just as Elizabeth Bennett did to Lady Catherine "We are equals," they both said, and the same still rings true today as women fight to free themselves from sexual slavery and subjugation. If there's to be a woman's rights movement, let it be in that direction. Women should declare their outrage over the number of out of wedlock births and the number of women injured and even killed at the hands of men. With all this talk of gun rights maybe it's time for a return to shotgun weddings.
Fifty years later. Women wanted more options. We got them and we're paying the price. Women are still grossly underrepresented in Congress. Women aren't topping all the Forbes 500 lists as CEOs. The only thing women seem to be doing more than men is graduating from college but we are not better off for it. We still don't hold all the earning power but I think the greater tragedy is how men gave up their earning power so easily. Perhaps it's time for a call for men to take back what is rightfully theirs. I miss not having a father around to rule over my life. To hold the purse strings. To help me decide what to be and also to provide that protection from a cold, cruel world. To point the gun at the poor guy and insist on us getting married. I miss not having someone to introduce my dates to. How can I marry if I have no dominating patriarch to demand the boy's worthiness of me? Is it good for woman to be alone and make all her own decisions?
With the fifty year anniversary of "Feminine Mystique" it is interesting how a woman no longer goes to college in order to graduate with her "MRS" degree. Instead she graduates and spends the rest of her life working in what has become female dominated workplaces. I should know, I've worked in education, nursing, the food service industry, even when I filled orders at the Wal-Mart Distribution Center, women outnumbered the men, every time, in every job I've ever had (with the exception of working in a kitchen where I was surrounded by male Mexican immigrants but the subject of illegals working the jobs Americans are too lazy to do themselves is for another post). She is strong, independant, smart, successful, so much so that she can't find a man on her same intellectual level to marry. Her biological clock is ticking. Women are now back to square one asking, "Is this all?"
If you ask me, Betty Friedan's book really didn't change anything.