Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Feminine Mystique Made Unfemininity Seem Too Weird

A woman in my theory class had this excellent insight on reading The Feminine Mystique:

I had always thought that women, in this time period, were just being oppressed by men, but it turns out they had opportunities to rise above and stand out. But it is the idea of standing out that scared them away. They did not want to be seen as weird or unfeminine.

It has been helpful to us, as I noted yesterday, to see the feminine mystique as a brief interlude, not the eternal condition of women prior to 1970.

What today's insight adds is a psychological mechanism that makes sense to me. Women are more likely than men to place a high value on equal social relations, on doing what other women are doing. If the feminine mystique became the established norm for a time among critical female opinion leaders, I can see how it would spread powerfully among other women - especially if there were other structural forces backing it up.

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