Chapter 9: The Sexual Sell

May 12, 2011 | Catherine



Being a wife and mother is all a conspiracy. A big conspiracy initiated by capitalist CEOs who need to make more money. So, what do they do when women start to work outside the home? Create a campaign that keeps women in the home so they buy more things.

At least, this is what Betty Friedan argues in Chapter 9 of The Feminine Mystique. She kicks off the chapter with this:

“Why is it never said that the really crucial function, the really important role that women serve as housewives is to buy more things for the house . . .the perpetuation of housewifery, the growth of the feminine mystique, makes sense (and dollars) when one realizes that women are the chief customers of American business. Somehow, somewhere, someone must have figured out that women will buy more things if they are kept in the underused, nameless-yearning, energy-to-get-rid-of state of being housewives.”

Later she notes that American wives are given a sense of “identity, purpose, creativity, the self-realization, even the sexual joy they lack – by the buying of things.”

Not sure about you, but I want to think the best of Friedan. That she was really wanting to help women. But really, she fails entirely. In this chapter particularly,  she insults the intellect of any woman who decided or decides to be a wife and mother. To remove herself from any kind of retribution for such an argument, Friedan ends the Chapter by moving into the role of a great protectorate, by saying that really, women who become wives and mothers are victims. Victims of the feminine mystique created by our culture.

In the middle, however, Friedan does quote an ad that basically poses this question and one which I wish to pose to you, readers: When a child is talented with ambition or has high intellectual pursuits, and this child is a girl, will this rare gift be wasted if she becomes a housewife?

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