I've always avoided reading this book. I was aware that Ms Friedan had a low opinion of housewives, and since I am one myself (albeit a mediocre one) I didn't think there was likely to be much satisfaction in reading it. However, some recent discussions I have been involved in on the internet made me feel that it was about time I actually read the book.
I found it even worse than I had expected. The venemous contempt that Ms Friedan felt for women who were housewives is really beyond anything that I had imagined. The abuse she heaps on our heads would, if directed at any other group of people, have been considered positively libelous. Women who were housewives were, she reckoned, infantile, mentally arrested, weak, clinging, afraid to venture out into the real world (it goes without saying that the world of paid employment is 'real' and the world of the home is not).
Women were wasting their time at home because housework was so easy it could be done in an hour or so, leaving women with time for more important things. I.e. working at a job. Not just any job either, women must be doing something that will realise their full potential. She hasn't got a good word to say for men who are not in jobs that are exciting, creative and challenging either. a housewife who imagines she is doing something important is, she says, as deluded as the man who imagines he has made a car because he tightens the bolts on the assembley line. It doesn't seem to occur to Ms Friedan that we can't all be college professors, surgeons and high court judges. Somebody's got to tighten the bolts.
She blamed the useless, clinging housewife for the fact that the divorce rate was rising in the early 60s. She attributes this to the fact that men were sick of supporting their useless wives, and were dumping them. The only problem with this theory is that nowadays most wives work, but the divorce rate is not noticeably falling. She also blamed the housewife for juvenile delinquency, homosexuality, and child battering, none of which have notiecably decreased in recent decades either. Women who are emancipated and work outside the home don't batter their children, and they don't have sons who are homosexuals, or juvenile delinquents. And their husbands don't divorce them. So says Ms Friedan anyway, but the current state of affairs would seem to suggest otherwise.
Oh, and passive, submissive women (as most housewives were in her estimation) don't enjoy sex either. But at the same time, confusingly she complains about the sexually aggressive women who are hungry for affairs, and devour novels with lurid sex scenes their incessant demands. I found myself somewhat confused by these two conflicting images. Can housewives both be sex-hungry aggressors, and at the same time passive, submissive, and uninterested in sex? These two images seem to be somewhat at variance with each other, and I had trouble reconciling them. But Ms Friedan evidently didn't.
But then she, after all, was a college-educated career woman, and I'm just a zombified housewife—what would I know?