I had already planned to read the classic of feminist thought, but had also put it off for the same reason. However, the ongoing chapter-by-chapter discussion posted here at a great book blog got me to dig around for my copy and open it up.
I’ve only gotten through two chapters myself, and I can already see that Betty Friedan is a lot like Andrew Dworkin– very very intelligent, insightful, emotive and prone to fabulism. Both women reward close reading to ferret out what they’ve found out in their researches from what they fabulized. Both also identified real issues with middle class and above white female life, and, though this wasn’t their intent, revealed some issues with historical and current black female life. I can already see how this woman’s writing spawned dozens upon dozens of other books, both in support of and in rebuttal to her assertions and claims.
Very strangely, she spends Chapter Two running women down for keeping a truly massive civic and social structure going, the more fascinating because it was fairly brand new. She also complains about the shift in content in women’s magazines while ostentatiously ignoring the tv-shaped elephant in the room. When women’s labor was a lot less saved, reading a light story about a sassy proto-feminist heroine who still got the man was easy and relaxing. But by the 1950s white women with college educations had tvs, sometimes more than one, and could see it instead. So they did that.
Friedan so far seems to be quite cross that women don’t want to have dorm room bull sessions for their entire adult married lives. Welp, her side won, married motherhood done right is now a permanent struggle of acquiring and demonstrating credentials and consulting with experts (quite frequently self-proclaimed, but what is Bad and Low Class when someone fundie or evangelical does it is A-OK if they got a couple of degrees first and are aggressively secular).
Whether you went to college or not, good motherhood’s peg is set by the women who never wanted anything other than the boundaries and limited definitions of the schoolroom to be the whole world. And now we have no other choices. Funsies. I’d write more, but I have to take a class to be able to teach my own children at home, and they have to take classes on how to receive instruction itself.