The Feminine Mystique, Chapter 2: The Happy Housewife Heroine

March 14, 2011 | Annemarie

Chapter 2 of The Feminine Mystique is an interesting compilation of stories showing the modern (1960’s) woman only wanted the hearth, home and husband. According to Friedan’s observation in Chapter 1, women had given-up their desire for independence and instead turned all their attention to:

. . . kissing their husbands goodbye in front of the picture window, depositing their statiowagonsful of children at school, and smiling as they ran the new electric waxer over the spotless kitchen floor.

Friedan continues to detail how women’s magazines would intentionally omit political issues or matters of national or international concern:

Our readers are housewives, full time. They’re not  interested in the broad issues of the day. They are not interested in national or international affairs. They are only interested in the family and the home. They aren’t interested in politics, unless it’s related to an immediate need in the home, like the price of coffee.

In all honesty, this does paint a troubling picture: women being totally oblivious to public affairs and matters of national and international concern. However, if one were to examine the women’s magazines of today, there are very few articles discussing matters of world concern. If you want to read about public affairs you don’t pick-up Harper’s Bazaar or Glamour, instead you read The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times.

According to Friedan, a new “feminine mystique” was emerging. A belief that women belonged at home and could only be fulfilled through their femininity:

And so the feminine mystique began to spread through the land, grafted onto old prejudices and comfortable conventions which so easily give the past a stranglehold on the future. Behind the new mystique were concepts and theories deceptive in their sophistication and their assumption of accepted truth.

The feminine mystique as explained by Friedan:

The feminine mystique says that the highest value and the only commitment for women is the fulfillment of their own femininity. It says that the great mistake of Western culture, through most of its history, has been the undervaluation of this femininity.

Chapter 2 closes with a great question, one I would like to pose to our readers:

The feminine mystique is so powerful that women grow up no longer knowing that they have the desires and capacities the mystique forbids. But such a mystique does not fasten itself on a whole nation in a few short years, reversing the trends of a century, without cause. What gives the mystique its power? Why did women go home again?

Why do women return home? Why do women today leave the workforce to care for their husband and children

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