The Feminine Mystique

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Resistance and subversion : the American feminist press in the 1970s

Traditional women’s magazines

Mass media represent a powerful force in modern societies as they shape public discourse and influence public opinion by transmitting social, political and cultural values.
For decades, women’s representation in mediated popular culture has been a central problem because of the gendered ideologies it circulated. From the 1880s to the 1970s, American women’s magazines played a significant role in disseminating the dominant ideology and patriarchal order, perpetuating the myths of female disposability and domesticity, and maintaining traditional images of femininity. Such magazines as The Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, The Woman’s
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Their editorial content was exclusively concerned with the domestic sphere: family issues, children, health, nutrition and housekeeping, making women queens of domesticity. Thus, the discourse glorifying the domestic sphere and the image of the happy housewife contributed to the social conditioning of women that Betty Friedan called the ‘feminine mystique” in her book of the same name. Published in 1963, The Feminine Mystique laid the basis for the women’s movement by circulating contemporary feminist ideas, and soon became the founding text of second wave feminism. According to Friedan, « The feminine mystique says that the highest value and the only commitment for women is the fulfillment of their own femininity. » While deconstructing the feminine mystique, she pointed out the socializing role of women 's magazines and insisted on their detrimental influence. She argued that “the problem that has no name” was reinforced by the images and messages circulated in these publications . Her early feminist criticism of mainstream media revealed that they encouraged conventional gender roles, promoted women’s inferior…show more content…
However, the public communication of feminist issues remained a true challenge. The dynamism of radical feminist publishing was still contributing to shape consciousness and stimulate action. The number of publications controlled and operated by women grew significantly . Indeed, a myriad of publications were created that reflected the dynamics of the feminist movement as a whole. Among them, Up From Under was published in 1970 in New York, and Off Our Backs , an institution in the feminist press, appeared the same year, in Washington, D.C. This publication representing the radical branch of the movement was central to its nationwide expansion. According to its first editorial:

We intend to build a national network of correspondents and welcome women of all ages and from all parts of the country who will report regularly on the activities of their groups and cover the news they consider relevant to themselves and their sisters. Our bias should be clear. We intend to be just, but we do not pretend to be impartial. Our paper is part of a movement; we ourselves are committed to a struggle and we will take stands to further the cause of that struggle.
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