Stephanie Coontz, A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s

From domestic chores to women of substance

There have been controversies concerning the position of women in the society. In the 1950s, the position of women was clearly known. A woman was supposed to stay at home and take care of the family. This changed when women wanted to have new roles in the society. They wanted to be viewed as people who can do better than just staying home and taking care of the family. I believe life was quite boring waking up in the same place and spending the entire day in the homes. This needed a form of change that could make women more important than just housewives. Betty Friedan’s work was The Feminine Mystique was not received with open hearts. Opponents felt that the book brought controversies about women. The book was released in 1963 at a time when women were being empowered. American men were not amused with the book when they learnt that women were supposed to do more than just taking care of the children and their husbands. However, some white, educated and middle class women were happy with the idea of Betty Friedan. Their frustrations had been explained effectively in Betty’s book.  Stephanie Coontz did a thorough research of Betty’s book and he had different responses. Some were supporting the ideas of empowering women while others felt that women were better off in their homes taking care of the family (Fateman, 2011).

I love Stephanie’s work and she is not just a historian, but a brilliant writer. Coontz writes a biography of the book written by Betty Friedan. She did a correction of some of the fiction in Friedan’s book. The Feminine Mystique is blamed or destroying the consensus women had in the 1950s. Their place was at home. However, the book was the best selling and opened the minds of women. Opponents on the other hand believe that this book “revolutionized America but changed things for the worse.” It was normal for women to live at home and take care of the family. The world was at peace and women felt the same until there emerged feminine movements. An author known as Kate O’Beirne was also against Friedman work. She resisted the idea that selfless devotion by women was a recipe for misery. The feminine Mystique was also believed to break families. Women began to yearn for power and they no longer wanted to be told what to do by their men.

The book reflects the ideals of the modern woman. This is a woman who wants to be recognized and given equal opportunities as the men. It is good for women to contribute to development but not to a point of not caring for the family. Coontz argues that even people who never read the book reacts strongly to its title. They had specific arguments and responses about the book. Some felt that women were tricked to be home makers (Jackson, 2011).  Coontz was like those women who had not read the book but they had information about it. In many cases, women feel that they can do more than just sitting back and doing house chores. They can develop themselves as well as the entire economy. Coontz’s mother once asked her daughter if it was nice if she considered going to school for her masters. She would feel bored, lonely and insecure as a housewife. The same case happens today. I feel that women should be better than being just housewives. They can have a career and support the family at the same time. Friedman’s book gave women opportunity to be courageous in their search for freedom.

Women in the 1950s and early 1960s did not have an opportunity to air their grievances in the society. They were good mothers and wives. Only few women were heroines and even risked their lives during the World War II. It was a new idea that women could do more than just being at home. Many women even today struggle with the feelings of inadequacy. They think they cannot accomplish more in their lives. They think that their men need to be powerful and do more towards economic development. Friedman was able to reduce the fears that women have in the society. Unlike the past, current women have the ability of making their own informed choices. The women have to balance between their families and careers. This is different from the past when most women were relegated just to family duties. In the interviews conducted by Coontz, there are housewives who felt deep satisfaction of their lives. Women also argued that “men should be number one.” A woman who had worked for a paid job for ten years quit her job to get married.  She argued that “a woman needs a master-slave relationship whether its husband and wife or boss-secretary (Coontz, 2011).”

Despite the book by Friedman, women still felt that they should be ruled and their place is at home. They felt that men should be in control and women under them. To unmarried women, they feel that a woman should not be inferior while she makes the husband superior. This controversy has been there and even today women feel that they should be empowered and not become domestic housewives but women of substance. This way, they can develop themselves and their family. They should not just rely on their men for a living.

References

Coontz. S. (2011). A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the

Dawn of the 1960s. Retrieved August 18, 2013 from http://www.amazon.com/Strange-Stirring-Feminine-Mystique-American/dp/046502842X#reader_046502842X

Fateman J. (2011). A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the

Dawn of the 1960s by Stephanie Coontz, retrieved August 18, 2014 from http://www.bookforum.com/review/6950

Jackson N. (2011). A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the

Dawn of the 1960. Retrieved August 18, 2014 from  http://origins.osu.edu/review/strange-stirring-feminine-mystique-and-american-women-dawn-1960s