Betty Friedan, author of the Feminine Mystique — the book credited for igniting the modern feminist movement that began in the 1960s — died yesterday on her 85th birthday in her Washington home. The cause of death was congestive heart failure, according to a family spokeswoman.
Friedan’s book helped dispel the myth that the typical woman — in this case, in the 1950s — was fulfilled completing household chores, child-rearing and awaiting her husband’s return from work:
The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night — she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — “Is this all?”
Of course, a certain feminist and her followers would have us believe that women are “opting out” of the workforce to return to this feminine mystique. But as this San Francisco Chronicle article points out there was no appreciable drop in the number of mothers in the labor force in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As for women like myself who left a full-time job to stay home, we have so many options that our mothers did not have, thanks to Friedan.
Unlike my mother who stayed home with four children almost 30 years ago and was not allowed to question it, I had the option to remain on birth control until I was ready to have a child. I am not expected to complete all household chores — although, admittedly, I do anyway. (I don’t do the “frivolous” stuff like bake cookies or vacuum my curtains though. Hmm…I probably don’t change my bed sheets nearly enough either.) I go to school and blog — guilt-free. Sounds like feminism is far from dead.