Chapter 8 begins with a description of post-WWII America: men returning from the battlefield coming home to start families and enjoy the comforts of family life. American women were ready when their soldiers returned, they too wanted to enjoy the comforts of married life and the joy of a growing family.
To most people the picture painted looks rosy and desirable: marriage, babies, families and the comfort of home life. Not so for Friedan. She takes the very joy one might feel about home and family and wipes it away with her claims that the role: wife/mother and the term: fulfillment are mutually exclusive. According to Friedan, the allure of the home and married life are all part of the mystique. They are empty promises, a way to devalue women and keep them infantile and out of the workplace:
The girls who would normally go to college but leave or forgo it to marry (eighteen and nineteen are the most frequent ages of marriage of American girls today; half of all American women are married by twenty) are products of the mystique. They give up education without a qualm, truly believing that they will find “fulfillment’ as wives and mothers.
Friedan goes on to talk about how Americans were focused on the home and family so much that they shut out the rest of the world:
We can see all this now, in retrospect. Then, it was easier to build the need for love and sex into the end-all purpose of life, avoiding personal commitment to truth in a catch-all commitment to ‘home’ and ‘family’.
It’s interesting to note that Friedan doesn’t quote any sources in regards to these claims. No statistics, no research, no data. As a reader, it appears Friedan is simply giving her own opinion, not retelling what actually happened.
Friedan closes with these thoughts:
And so the American woman made her mistaken choice. She ran back home again to live by sex alone, trading in her individuality for security. Her husband was drawn in after her, and the door was shut against the outside world. . . What keeps the women home?
What do you think? Have American women made a mistaken choice when they decide to work at home as a wife and mother?