The Feminine Mystique: Book Review

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The Feminine Mystique (1963) examines the dehumanizing conditions of middle class American women who were excluded from social and political life to be anchored in their wifely and motherly roles. The book marks the Second Wave of American feminism. Friedan writes, “Their only dream was to be perfect wives and mothers” (61). This meant that the whole of an American woman’s life was meant to attract and keep her husband and serve his and children’s needs. She deals with this painful ordeal of women and clearly brings out the ennui, unhappiness, and the lack of companionship experienced by women in their marriages.
The feminine mystique was so powerful that women failed to realize their true desires and actual capacities. According to Friedan,
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. . when it wishes to exalt sexuality it celebrates fertility through the phallus; when it wishes to denigrate sexuality, it cites Pandora” (51). Patriarchy is more a habit of mind and a way of life than a political system. It is so deeply embedded in our culture that a change in the former is more difficult to attain than a change in the latter. According to her, a sexual revolution would bring to an end the institution of patriarchy and the ideology of male supremacy.
Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch (1970) makes a vehement attack on the stereotyping and fixed gender roles to which women are conditioned. According to her, “the female is considered a sexual object for the use and appreciation of other sexual beings, men. Her sexuality is both denied and misrepresented by being identified as passivity . . . The characteristics that are praised and rewarded are those of the castrate – timidity, plumpness, languor, delicacy and preciosity” (The Female Eunuch 17).
The title ‘The Female Eunuch’ suggests denial of sexuality to women, thus a non-entity. When this vital part of one’s life is removed or suppressed one becomes like a eunuch. She argues, “If marriage and family depend upon the castration of women let them change or disappear”
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