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Chapter 6: The Functional Freeze and Margaret Mead

April 19, 2011 | Annemarie

Chapter 6 is Friedan’s dissertation on how Margaret Mead contributed to the Functional Freeze and ultimately failed the feminine movement. Friedan begins the chapter with her definition of the role “functionalism” played in American society:

By giving an absolute meaning and a sanctimonious value to the generic term ‘woman’s role,’ functionalism put American women into a kind of deep freeze like Sleeping Beauties, waiting for a Prince Charming to waken them, while all around the magic circle the world moved on.

Margaret Mead is later defined as a significant contributer to the women’s movement, however, according to Friedan not always a positive influence:

The most powerful influence on modern women, in term both of functionalism and the feminine protest, was Margaret Mead.

Friedan continues later in the chapter:

The role of Margaret Mead as the professional spokesman of femininity would have been less important if American women had taken the example of her own life, instead of listening to what she said in her books.

Friedan closes the chapter with Mead’s contribution to American women:

Apparently Margaret Mead does not acknowledge, or perhaps recognize her own role as a major architect of that ‘climate of opinion.’ Apparently she has overlooked much of her own work, which helped persuade several generations of able modern American women ‘in desperate cavewoman style, to devote their whole lives to narrow domesticity–first in schoolgirl dreaming and a search for roles which make them appealingly ignorant, then as mothers and then as grandmothers . . . restricting their activities to the preservation of their own private, and often boring existences.’

Regardless of Mead’s influence on The Functional Freeze it’s obvious that like Friedan, she believed that the job of a wife and mother was “narrow” and a “boring existence”. The above terminology is extremely disturbing and absolutely untrue. I agree that women have been gifted and talented just like men and should be allowed to pursue their interests and dreams. However, I strongly disagree that motherhood is insignificant, narrow and least of all a boring existence. Friedan invalidates her argument when she tries to tear down the very backbone of any functional society—the value and significance of mothers.

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