and It Ain’t Good
Betty Friedan was a giant in her day, touted as the most prolific and life changing writer and feminist of her time. Her extremely famous book named The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963. I never have written about her but I have known about her my entire life because (help me with this) She was my grandmother’s sister–which makes her my….aunt? once removed? I don’t know what she was other than very famous and wrote a book that changed the world…..until lately. She started her book by calling her first chapter “The Problem That Has No Name”. The book is over 500 pages so I will give you some short cuts. Her hypothesis was that there was something unholy going on with American women specifically in the suburbs that was causing great unhappiness amongst the women who were raising their families there. She questioned if making beds, ironing clothes for tomorrow, finally making an acceptable pot roast and being clean and perky for husbands with martini in hand at 6:00pm. did in fact constitute a life fulfilled.
Friedan graduated from Smith in 1957 and did extensive research regarding the level of contentment or misery experienced by the women in the suburbs who dedicated their lives to the domestic realm even if they had earned degrees from Major Universities…she pondered if –and I am quoting her right now “women were suffering alone and wondered “Is this all there is?”. After much research and interviewing she came to the conclusion that there was a name for what she expected was crushing the female counterpart of traditional home life and she came up with ‘housekeeping and raising children was not conducive to a fulfilling life but rather, it crushed the spirit of any bright young woman who expected much more from her life than taking care of kids, husband and shopping and preparing food.
So, this aunt–some sort of relative of mine took a chance and although she knew she was to endure much criticism she was brave enough to write her heart out in a very non-militant palatable style. How do I know–I don’t-but I bet she was surprised that her book was to influence what is now referred to as the second wave of feminism. As she became more outspoken in her book she likened the housewife-mother to a “Dehumanized woman living in a comfortable concentration camp”.
Why do I care about all this? Because I live in -well, you have to guess – –but the hint is it’s either Westport, Westin, Fairfield, Trumbull, Darien, Greenwich, Wilton…you get the picture I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO FEMINISM ????????? After all of the hard work of so many women and help from many men as well, to gain their rights and demand that their lives were going to be more than a house Frau (spelling?-sorry) and glorified maid- What happened? I just happen to have some answers.
It’s almost as if we have created a sociological circle, leaving us off at the same place we started. We are training our children who to look for as an ideal mate through TV, youtube and popular music. The girls should look like movie stars with very big breasts and the potential husbands should all look like dream boats just out of a modeling agency, oh..and be very very rich. There seems to be no weight offered up to young minds that it is important to have a deep heartfelt connection to a partner/ marriage or just dating to sustain a viable relationship. I asked one of my own male teenagers what type of girl they like and was told I don’t really care that much—she just has to be gorgeous. Aunt Betty F. would turn over in her grave.(She died in 2006). Through media we are teaching that perfection is the goal and the more perfect a potential mate might seem the more chance they have of getting the job. Oh! What job? Here we go round and round again. She, our daughters want to be a a a a WIFE. And the circle starts again. Look around you. How many female friends do you know that have the “Mommy Job” and that is all they have.
I fault myself here (a little). I work part time,as you can see but I think I should be teaching or getting another degree or climbing a mountain or saving whales or something. I get that housewife(y) feeling too sometimes and I hate it. I had children late..I was 40 with newborn twins and listen up ladies..I don’t care HOW MUCH CHILDCARE you have–you still are going to work like an animal if you don’t have your own personal self fulfilling life to match the wife stuff.
To finish, I have to tell you that there are so many female patients of mine that are so lonely, bored, angry and full of regret. Do you see yourself in any of this? That perfect casserole may be fun the first few years but I guarantee, at some point you will want more. Ah..life. We only get one.