Chapter 3: The Crisis in Woman’s Identity

by Catherine on March 27, 2011 · 2 comments


Last year, in a presentation I attended, best-selling author, rabbinic scholar, and the host of his own radio show in San Francisco, Rabbi Daniel Lapin argued that there is a kind of “magic alchemy” when humans are together creating a family, a community, or a city. He explains that we were each created with creative independent capacity. While alone, you might have just one good idea per hour, however, when placed with other people in a meeting for an hour, together, you all will produce hundreds of thousands of ideas. Thus, whenever you are on a team, achievement is multiplied exponentially.

This ability for exponential achievement when people come together for one purpose is unique and is exactly what Betty Friedan tries to devalue in Chapter 3 of The Feminine Mystique.

Friedan specifically sets forth the idea that since many women do not always know what they want to do after college, they get married out of default, and then never fully develop into their full human potential. They never fully evolve their desires, according to Friedan, and this is a “crisis.”

But Friedan is wrong. Doing is secondary to being. One must know first who they are and once they know this – they will know what they want to do – whether it is big or small, specific or general.

What is the crisis, is Friedan devaluing of the “magic alchemy” of when two people come together to form a family – saying that when a woman marries and decides to become a wife and mother she is giving up who she is.

However, this is absurd.

Would Friedan say a woman is losing her identity when she signs on to be a Creative Specialist, a Senior Editor, a Media Director, or a Vice President of Marketing because she gives so much for her team?

Of course not!

Friedan’s sense of human value is based on one’s environment. And this is dangerous footing.

For a woman to desire a creative opportunity to form a family and giver her full effort and energy for this “team” is a high end and destiny, as Rabbi Lapin said. Humans coming together to create a team is an exceptional purpose, whether in the family or career sector – not one to be demonized.

Friedan closes the chapter with declaring that:

“Anatomy is woman’s destiny. . .But is it? More and more woman are asking themselves this question. As if they were waking from a coma. . . For the first time in their history, women are becoming aware of an identity crisis in their own lives.”

So, now, dear readers, let me ask you, is anatomy (woman’s or man’s), in fact destiny? Or is this even a question that needs to be asked? Does it matter?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

A. Reader March 31, 2011 at 3:09 pm

In this day and age should we be talking about anatomy of body or anatomy of place? In the 50s, the home could be physically isolating. Now that a house can be “wired” and portable communications devices can make flextime more integrated into your daily life, maybe those old limitations at least have more “give.” To go back even further in the history of women’s writing, the original Beauty and the Beast story was written by a woman. Her description of the Beast’s house very much prefigured the “smart home” being built today (and by that I don’t mean those Jetsons-style robotic houses in 50s industrial films, with press-button ovens and the like!).

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empowered woman April 19, 2011 at 9:27 am

You are missing Friedan’s point, as well as ignoring the time period/context of when it was written. Friedan’s point was that women of the era were limited to playing the role of wife/mother. There was really no option for women to break into the public sphere. At that time, marital rape laws didn’t even exist because it was considered a ‘private matter.’ This is what Friedan is discussing. Women lacked a choice to work outside the home if they wanted to. She is not declaring that women cannot also be wives and mothers, just that they should also be allowed to have a career, if they want one.

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