An Analysis of The Feminine Mystique, Chapter 2
Right off the bat, Friedan inundates us with more stories of women who are all “Relieved to find out I wasn’t the only one!” This is followed up by examples of “impossible ideals” being sold to women in advertising. “I’m living the same life as the TV people – why aren’t I haaaaappppyyyy?”
On the surface this seems very similar to the Genesis of the Manosphere, with one major difference: the Manosphere developed because we were lied to; Friedan’s “Problem with no name” is a matter of identity.
The Manosphere started out as guys on IRQs comparing notes. “Wait, you mean you met a girl who didn’t like nice guys, either?” Et cetera. Bit by bit we put together the pieces, and realized that the script we’d been handed in life was completely and utterly false.
- Nice Guys finish last,
- Women are not more loving and more faithful,
- There is no reward for working hard at the corporation.
Yeah, we were pissed – especially the guys who’d been through a False Rape Accusation or Divorce Theft – we were learning that these hadn’t been isolated incidents, but rather, they were something which was systemic, which had been intentionally hidden from us, and we were nothing but batteries for the Matrix. All we wanted was a fair shot at life, and we’d been denied it.
Man, I see in Fight Club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.
Tyler Durden, Fight Club
Palahniuk’s quote captures the essence of how we felt – that gut feeling that something was going very, very wrong in our lives – but veers off course with the details. It wasn’t that the TV had promised us something that it couldn’t deliver – we knew that the celluloid images were idealized representations, not to be taken seriously. A Lamborghini and a Super Model would’ve been nice, but a Mustang and a loving wife would’ve been fine, too. It wasn’t the failures of facade that upset us – it was the lies.
With Friedan, it’s but facade. Women comparing their lives to advertising slogans; to articles in their magazines; to bucolic pictures of domestic bliss. They weren’t looking for a solution – they were looking for an identity! Which is precisely why the recognition of their angst is more important than its solution.
For the Men of the Manosphere, it was solutions we were interested in: above a certain baseline of commiseration, nobody really cared about their pain being recognized – we just wanted it cured. For Friedan and the women she interviews, however, a solution is the last thing on their mind. “The Problem With No Name” is the perfect diagnosis because it defies both description and prescription. It’s the eternal chimera, and it can be whatever they want it to be.
Friedan wasn’t finding a societal pattern – not at first, anyway – all she was finding were Narcissists who’d come in at Second Place, who wanted to rewrite the rules so that they could come in at First – and damn the consequences! Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven, after all.
They sought an identity, and they found it; the reason it was so dangerous was because of its innate pareidolia. The sheer volume of literature that Second Wave Feminism produced guaranteed that every woman would find some aspect of her life in it, and she’d never realize that what she was seeing was nothing more than a shape in clouds; a prediction in a horoscope.
After all – if that many women believed in it, it had to be more than just smoke and mirrors, right?
Next Friedan goes into descriptions of the whiz-bang Fantasy Land which she mistakes for Reality; pure Apex Fallacy, of course. While a small number of men might have been revolutionizing science, art, and everything else, most of the rest were stuck pushing the button at the box factory.
She then starts analyzing stories, and praising the “young-but-mature” heroines of the 1940s to the “old-but-childlike” protagonists of the 1950s. In reality the young characters were flighty and hopeful, while the older characters were disciplined and responsible. Perfect fodder for the sixties, though; comparing the excitement of youth, to the “banality” of adulthood.
I think that plenty has been written on this, so let me sum it up briefly: nothing is as exciting as that first year after High School, when the world feels fresh and full of opportunity. As you age you become set in your ways, you don’t have the same spread of possibilities anymore, and yet living as if you were still seventeen becomes more and more pathetic by the year… but there’s no reason that you have to keep acting like a child. The reality of adulthood is that there are deeper waters to be found, after you’ve sampled the surface springs; wine and whiskey require aging for their true bouquet to come out. A bit of nostalgia is only natural, but celebrating youth at the expense of maturity is folly – and that’s precisely what Friedan is doing.
She next goes on to say that women won’t become masculinized in the workforce (they did), and that home economics don’t contribute as much as working at the Box Factory does (it contributes more). H.L. Mencken had argued all of this to sufficiency back in 1919, but she doesn’t bother addressing him; she just bluntly makes these bold, and incorrect claims.
Finally she starts talking about all the possibilities that are out there, if only the foolish housewives would look beyond their own noses!
Let’s just be blunt about this: most people are average. In my mind, there is nothing crueller than promising the world to somebody who just isn’t up to snuff. Rather than find value in themselves as hard-working, and moral human beings, Friedan wants to measure women by their accomplishments – and even if you ignore the reality that they’ll be competing against men on man’s turf (and losing), there’s still the simple fact that 90% of them will fail to achieve the same recognition which they could have had by raising a healthy stable of children.
They could have achieved a C+, maybe even a B-; but thanks to Friedan, many of them will score an F.
I remember back in High School, when my mother – who’d been reading too much beaver-leak about “Manifesting Your Destiny” (5% occult truth, 95% toxic lies) told me that if I just believed in it enough, that I could be the team Quarterback next year.
This was utter nonsense, of course – and thankfully I had the good sense to realize this. I don’t enjoy sports enough to practice it for hours in my off time, I could hardly catch the football due to astigmatism (at the time, only recently corrected through contact lenses), and while I was physically fit, I wasn’t that physically fit. If I’d pinned my ego on the belief that I “Could’ve been a contender!” then it would have heralded my eventual spiral into misery and Narcissism: after all, if I knew that I was going to be a Quarterback, and it didn’t happen, that means somebody sabotaged me, right? It wasn’t my fault – after all, I believed!
I suspect a great deal of the degeneracy in the lower classes comes from the examples set for them by the elites: while the elites have always been glamorous, the glamour used to be based around the virtues: the Prince was a courageous soldier and a faitful husband, the Princess a doting wife and mother. Now that’s been replaced with celebrity and bling; echoes of what Pahlaniuk wrote. Wealth is no longer earned by hard work and virtue, it’s earned by lottery-tickets and playing basketball.
Ergo twerking; why not?
To write about celebrities being housewives – that is, to write about how they’re normal underneath all the glamour – is terrible, according to Friedan. I’d argue that promising the world and delivering nothing is worse.
Towards the end of the article the truth comes out – though Friedan likely didn’t realize it herself:
Behind her cluttered desk, a Mademoiselle editor said uneasily, “The girls we bring in now as college guest editors seem almost to pity us. Because we are career women, I suppose.”
Time and again we see it in the modern feminist movement: embittered by their own failures at life, they try and lead other women down the same poison path. They’re no longer the fairest one of all, and rather than age gracefully, and accept their lot in life, they demand that the world celebrate their greatness…
… even if that means destroying innocence.