Chapter 13: The Forfeited Self

by Catherine on June 15, 2011 · 1 comment

I wish Betty Friedan could have read David Brooks’ recent op-ed in the New York Times, published on May 31, 2011. His ending rings entirely contrary to Friedan’s views in Chapter 13 of The Feminine Mystique. He says:

“Today’s grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But of course, as they age, they’ll discover that the tasks of life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can’t be pursued directly. Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.”

According to Friedan, a wife and mother’s tasks are only performed out of an inferiority complex as a “low-dominance” woman. Friedan’s error again is in her hierarchical qualitative divide of tasks she creates between that of men in the corporate world and that of women in the home. Both are responsible for solving problems and seeking knowledge, truth, and wisdom. Of course the topics of their pursuit are vastly different, yet, that they both pursue these virtues is the greatest commonality.

Nonetheless, according to Friedan, “the feminine mystique has succeeded in burying millions of American women alive.”

What do you think, dear readers? Are wives and mothers less developed people because instead of losing themselves in a task or in sacrifice for a cause they are perpetually trying to find themselves?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kara June 29, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I do not believe that this is remotely true. I think it is even hard to scholars to define what it means to be “developed.” We can relate “developed” to school test grades, cultural awareness, or even meaningful work (however you define it). But is that the only way a woman can be developed?

However I have to admit that one thing that severely confuses me is the profound impact this book had! How is it that something that seems so wrong to me gained so much popularity?

I think the answer is found in Catherine’s quote from David Brook’s. I think it is true that the majority of us are very egotistical most of the time. I think the Feminine Mystique hit a chord with thousands of woman who spent more egotistical moments feeling sorry for themselves rather than enjoying the growth of their children. I believe the “problem with out a name,” was incorrectly diagnosed by Friedan. Luckily for the feminist movement they were able to unite thousands of women against one common enemy, “The Housewife.” I would be willing to bet my right hand that there are just as many “unsatisfied” women today as there were in Friedan’s time (maybe more). But now there is no common enemy to unite them under.

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