Is this all?
Those three little words — Betty Friedan’s simple question — went on to define an era.
Her book, The Feminine Mystique, arrived on February 19, 1963. Per The New York Times Back Story:
When she wrote the book, Ms. Friedan was a suburban housewife and mother who penned freelance articles for women’s magazines.
She had become disillusioned by the conventional wisdom that all women needed to be happy was a husband, a home and a family.
53 years later many of us are experiencing a life that is the polar opposite of Betty Friedan and her peers. Since we find ourselves on very different paths, not surprisingly, we contemplate a different sort of ‘is this all?’ and its related pondering.
On March 9, you’ll get a greater sense of some of our modern day cultural questions. That’s when I’ll publish an interview with Lisa Manterfield. We conducted it as part of a virtual book tour for her latest, Life Without Baby: Surviving and Thriving When Motherhood Doesn’t Happen, which will be available March 7.
Meanwhile, another familiar trailblazer has been busy answering questions and lighting up the radio waves and the social media landscape. In case you haven’t heard, Gateway Woman founder Jody Day has a new book edition out. Living the Life Unexpected (officially available yesterday) is 100 pages longer than the original version. It is packed with stories of other Gateway Women (and two men) from around the world, as well as significant new content in several chapters. You can read more about her consciousness-raising work, as well as what led to her inspiring reinvention here and via the Gateway Women Facebook page.
Finally, I continue to ask my own questions about where we are in society and culture as you’ll see here in this Medium piece, which went live last night. It is generating loads of comments and shares on Silent Sorority’s Facebook page. Feel free to weigh in here as well.
7 thoughts on “Our Modern Day Betty Friedan Moment”
Been meaning to write you back after you last email (which I will); but wanted to post here too.
There’s still the tendency to push for one prescribed road for a fulfilled life. That any deviation should be forgot and those who venture off the main path should be shunned.
Yet, time and again, happiness comes from when we get off the prescribed freeway and follow those less, understood roads. It’s hard to change public opinion about this (usually ground in fear), but to do otherwise is often more painful.
Jody’s book is an amazing one. And one that I think applies to more than those who are living as families of two.
So true, Cristy! Fear about being outside the norm or accepting those outside the norm (for what does it say about the value or status of those living the norm?) is a huge driver for aligning tightly with one and only one way to view the world…
I love the Feminine Mystique (and I’m 31…so it’s definitely timeless)! As much as I want(ed) (still do…I think) children, as I read her book everything resonated so clearly. She explained what I saw growing up in small conservative towns and my gut reactions to women who “just stay home and have kids”.
One thing I’ve been thinking about more and more is how closely infertility and feminism seem to be linked. I was a feminist way before I knew we had fertility problems, but I’ve been noticing the decidedly feminist stance in all the infertility-related writings. I wonder which came first – do people come to feminism as a reaction to infertility – a search for something more? Or does feminism allow people to be more open about their infertility, and the others stay in the closet? I’m not sure…but right now it seems like a cruel joke to me that I’m a feminist, and I’m infertile. It’s so difficult for me to explain the intense desire for offspring through a feminist lens, especially when I believe that children aren’t the only reason I’m alive. The irony is too much sometimes.
Thanks for your thinking here, Nicole. You’re part of a new generation of women who came of age when the ‘mommy movement’ took on a life of its own. It was quite the opposite for me — feminism and the women’s movement was still new. I wrote a bit about how the openness of women’s growth opportunities shaped my world here: https://www.blog.silentsorority.com/anything-but-ordinary/
I’ve also wondered aloud about the mixed messages girls are getting now as a result of society’s glorifying motherhood here: https://www.blog.silentsorority.com/the-unintended-consequences-of-placing-moms-on-pedestals/
I think feminism inadvertently led many women (myself among them) initially to hide their heartache about infertility. I tried to focus on my relief at not being born in the Betty Friedan era where women had limited opportunities. I was relieved to have other outlets for my time and talent and I also felt a bit odd about feeling such a loss in my life on the motherhood front given how much I wanted society to see women as more than their reproductive abilities. Definitely complicated! You can hear more in a great podcast by the woman, Cristy, who left the first comment on this blog post … portions of the podcast are transcribed in this post: https://www.blog.silentsorority.com/keeping-it-100-emotional-cratering-in-a-mommy-mad-world/
Welcome your added thinking as we have a 20 year span separating our experiences but clearly we’re interested in many of the same ideas…
Pamela, clearly we’re the same age! I definitely felt conflicted about my grief because of my feminist background.
Thanks for the welcome! You ladies are such beacons of hope for me, so thank you for trudging the path first. If this is something I must deal with, I’m glad that people came before us to help us along.
I definitely feel like my grief, conflicting thoughts/emotions, future plans, etc are complicated by my feminism. If I had trumpeted children as my only dream and purpose it would make sense to society for me to be upset about it. But because I have been so open about kids not being the answer to everything I get people telling me that I should move on and pick a new goal – like a new job, grad school, car, etc. What society thinks shouldn’t bother me, but it does. And growing up in the mommy-worship has lead to some very interesting gems (my husband’s aunt actually asked when I was going to “retire into motherhood”…)
Anyways, now that my mind is sufficiently blown, and I have much to think/read about, I think that all that is left is to say thanks again!
It is always comforting to see other women out there, speaking out, reminding people that we don’t have to be married with two kids to be normal, happy, fulfilled, and valued. Thank you for this!
And it’s always surprising to remember that people are always uncomfortable with emotional issues. Though I know I suffer – or certainly used to – from this myself. Fortunately, one of the things I’ve learned from my infertility is how to better respond to others experiencing pain or loss or sadness. If only we could figure out how to teach this right across society.