The Feminine Mystique

I honestly don’t recall if I have written about it here, but a few years back I realized that I have always agreed with every bit of feminism I have encountered, including radical feminism. So, I have reordered my book-reading to match. Until I feel confident that I can understand history and the present-day through the lens of feminism, every book I read will be a feminist book. So far, I’ve read:

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay
Female Chauvinist Pigs: Woman and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti
Shrill by Lindy West
Professions for Women by Virginia Woolf

And around the internet:

Letter the Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker
Men Still Explain Things to Me
If Hermione Were The Main Character In Harry Potter
Jessica Valenti: my life as a ‘sex object’

This is all based on a list from Lauren Parker called Feminist Primer, which used to be on her website. It is currently on Medium: The List of Books Men Must Read Before Messaging Me. I’ve made some of my own additions, so I have over forty books to go. I need to read faster.

So anyway, I’m currently reading The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, and this idea popped into my head while reading:

In chapter one, Friedan is describing her 1940s perspective of a very real concern about regression to the 1800s, an almost atavistic return to earlier gender rolls where women lose: autonomy, dignity, education, personhood. This is frequently exemplified by the generation after Friedan choosing to sacrifice education, career, and fulfillment on the altar of premature marriage and stultifying domesticity. As a nation, we have a deeply entrenched default of that particular restricted and personhood-denying vision of femininity however this default is hidden under the effects of generations of economic contraction since Friedan wrote in the 40s. What I mean is this: women are marrying older, having fewer children later, forging careers — is this because we listened to Friedan? No. We, as a nation most certainly did not enthusiastically embrace, support, or push for feminist equality, laws, and reordering of the social fabric. The patriarchy of the United States still polices every facet of womanhood and denies her humanity. However, the economic reality of being a woman, where a vibrant life outside of constant work (much less heading a single-earner household) are near-impossibilities, where kids produce real economic hardship, these realities have produced different behaviors in the past few generations, and these changes in behavior, while appearing to show progress towards feminism on the surface, in fact cover up the nation’s unresolved and deeply entrenched anti-feminism.

So that’s just a bland stream-of-consciousness from me during reading. BUT. But but but: when I record the refinement of my understanding of feminism here, please know that it is not a contribution to the great discussion taking place across the decades. It is merely a bookmark in the reading list of my own growth. Don’t read what I’m saying, read what the women who live this shit daily are saying. Listen to them. Believe them.

Brief Notes Nearby