The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan – noted as “the book that changed the consciousness of a country – and the world” according to the book’s back cover. The reading of this book will not only prove to be an important facet of my 1968 reasearch but will also strengthen my personal feministic convictions. Written in 1963, The Feminine Mystique gave a much-needed identity to the problem many women were facing and a voice to the women who were struggling with that silent problem. So, what is that problem and how can it be solved? It is the problem that breathed the initial life for the concept surrounding my film and the solution that is building the structure for the story of the film. While I have barely made it a quarter of the way through the book thus far, many conclusions can be drawn within the first 100 pages.
“The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women” the first chapter begins. Friedan continued to describe this problem as a “strange stirring” leaving the uncomfortable suburban woman with an unexplainable dissatisfaction. “As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night – she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question – ‘Is this all?'” (57). The problem is the plague of the Feminine Mystique, Occupation: Housewife, where the highest value and commitment for women is found in the fulfillment of their own femininity and in the existence in and through others. These women felt void of a personality feeling unable live as their own selves. In was popular for young women of the 50s to attend college in order to seek out a potential spouse and abandon their career dreams post-education to marry that significant other. The only true career women of the day were actresses. All else – occupation: housewife.
The Feminine Mystique created an open gateway for women to converse with one another about this formerly unspoken problem. In some cases, it took mere soft-spoken women who fought for their personal rights, but in other cases, it took a rare and raucous group of women to bring attention to this issue. The feminist groups that rose in the 60s, though gravely misunderstood, have left a bitter impression upon most people in the 21st century. Historically, feminism was unofficially divided into two incredibly different groups; one being considerably more “conservative”, the other being utterly radical, both comprising their own solutions. As aforementioned in a former post of mine, Shulamith Firestone was considered the birth-child of that dramatic radical movement (I refrain from using the term “mother” as it was considered a derogatory term in feminist circles – it refered to an individual who was “behind the times” or “out of date”). Firestone strongly believed in the elimination of sex distinction and sought to find alternative birthing methods. Valerie Solanas, as another example, was the founder of the gruesomely named organization S.C.U.M. (the Society for Cutting Up Men). In the S.C.U.M. manifesto, the introductory paragraph reads: “Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.” Unfortunately, these irrational groups have attached that sting to the term “feminism.” Even “conservative” feminists of the 60s were extremely frightened by the term because of these audacious women. True and honest feminism of the period reflects a desire for gender equality in the workplace, in politics, and in the home, which is suggested by Friedan. As a Christian young woman myself, I firmly believe that God, the Ultimate Creator, gave both male and female varying strengths and weaknesses. But, those differences should not be exclusive to specific gender roles. Especially in the traditional Christian household there is a hierarchy of power between genders, something I do not see represented in Biblical examples. Now that I’ve finally preached my two cents worth, I will no longer strain your thoughts with gender politics.
I am continuing my research through the primary research stage as I dive into the magazines (Life, Time, Saturday Evening Post, Look), read the entire S.C.U.M. manifesto, and sort through the photos of the period.
For this post, instead of delighting you all with a series of fun facts, I have decided to leak a random set of plot points that will be included in my screenplay. I am not confidant enough in my story to present a throughline, but I expect that will come soon.
Key Story Points:
Main character is 37-year-old Virginia Gwendolyn Donaldson who finds herself torn between the conservative 50s and the tumultuous 60s
She struggles to find a job, even with her college degree
Virginia is married to an ex-military man who struggles with post-war depression
She is inspired by the youth movements of ’68 and has a desire to be involved
Secretly, she makes the decisions of the household while her husband performs homey duties (cleaning, cooking, etc.)
Virginia joins a “gang” of teenagers in order to get involved in social demonstrations