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Chapter 13: The Forfeited Self

June 15, 2011 | Catherine

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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