Free Essay Example: Feminine Mystique and the Second Wave Movements

Published: 2023-03-17
Free Essay Example: Feminine Mystique and the Second Wave Movements
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Women Discrimination Abuse Feminism
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1556 words
13 min read

The Second Wave and feminine mystique are among the most critical issues in the field of women and gender studies. The term Second Wave refers to a period of feminist activity that started in the early 1960s in the US before it spread to other Western countries and beyond (Gosse 54). Second Wave feminism brought to light critical issues like sexual liberation for women, inequalities in the workplace, and gender-based violence. Other vital concerns were the need to raise consciousness about patriarchy, sexism, domestic abuse, and marital rape. The feminine mystique, on the other hand, refers to a misconception that the role of women in society is to be housewives, mothers, and wives_ nothing else. The feminine mystique is essential in gender studies because it sheds light on the struggles of American women in the 20th century. Betty Friedan, an American activist, and a feminist writer, extensively covered the plight of women in the United States from the 1950s to the 60s, which sparked the Second Wave of feminism (May 97). Friedman argued that a false notion of domestic womanhood had created an identity crisis among American women (92). Many scholars have credited the work of Betty Friedan for inciting the emergence of 2nd Wave feminist movements, whose efforts dramatically enhanced the status of women in the United States and beyond. Therefore, struggles surrounding feminine mystique and Second Wave are relevant to feminism today because they sparked the emergence of feminist movements that led to the liberation of American women.

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Both feminine mystique and the Second Wave have significant contributions in women's liberation. Issues surrounding feminine mystique paved ways for the establishment of feminist movements that sparked the Second Wave. The two issues connect in that they contributed to the emergence of the 20th century feminist movements that brought to light the plight of American women at that time. The Second Wave and feminine mystique also interconnect in that both issues enhanced women's identity in society. The root cause of women's problem, according to Friedan, is that they envied men rather than accepting their nature (91). Friedan created awareness among American women that the feminine mystique was the cause of the troubles that they were facing in the twentieth century. Before feminist writers like Friedan enlightened women about their identity and position in the society, a vast majority of them envied men. They could only find fulfillment in male domination, sexual positivity, and nurturing maternal love (Friedan 91). The problem with feminine mystique, according to Friedan, is that it gave American women an image that their primary occupation was to be housewives (92).

The relevance of the Past Struggles to Feminism today

The Second Wave is relevant today because it revolutionized the role of American women. More importantly, it led to the emergence of the Second Wave feminists of 1950 to 1980 era who championed women's involvement in business, among other economic activities (Heffernan 386). These feminists fought for the establishment of a work environment where everyone, including women, could be respected with no regard to their dress code or sexuality. Also, they envisioned that American women would pick their career paths without coercion, eliminate their dependence on men, and even educate themselves (Heffernan 386). Other contributions of the Second Wave feminists were raising awareness of inequality and lobbying for equal rights legislation.

Research shows that American women embraced ideas and the vision of the Second Wave Feminists vigorously (Heffernan 386). Because of the efforts of these feminists, women today hold over 37% of managerial positions, more than 46% of the country's workforce consists of women, and nearly 50% of graduates in the field of business are women (N Heffernan 386). So, the Second Wave is relevant today because its struggles ushered an era of feminist movements that have enhanced the roles of women in business and education.

The feminine mystique paved the way for the emergence of labor feminists that improved social roles and, more importantly, the status of women in today's American societies. Since then, these labor feminists have continuously fought for equality between men and women. The ideologies and the efforts of these movements transformed the status of American women from homemakers to a better position where they could work as professionals and business people. Research shows that by the 1940s before Betty Friedan's ideology of feminine mystique, a vast majority of women did not work outside their homes (Pieper 2). At that time, American women perceived themselves as workers and mothers. They also believed that they would become better mothers in society if they worked fewer hours and paid more wages (Pieper 2).

Labor feminists that emerged, following mystique, sought to improve women's pay, working conditions, and hours. As a result of the efforts of labor feminists, a vast majority of American women joined unions that played leading roles in championing their interests. There is evidence that there were only 800,000 women who had joined trade unions by 1940 (Pieper 2). During World War II, however, there were more than 3 million organized women workers in the US (Pieper 2). The figure had significantly risen by the mid-1950s because labor feminists led campaigns that enlightened women about their rights (Pieper 2). It is, therefore, apparent that the feminine mystique is essential in the history of women's liberation in the US. The issue is still relevant because it is the basis of women's labor movements and trade unions in the US.

Scholarly research on labor movements and gender equality has been primarily concerned with three issues (Akchurin and Lee 679). These aspects are gender gaps in union priorities, leadership, and access. In these three areas, there is evidence that gender differences still exist. This phenomenon is the basis of feminism ideologies in the US today. The struggles of labor feminists and Second Wave feminists connects with the efforts of today's Fourth Wave of American feminism. However, the struggles of present-day feminism intersect with LGBT and racial justice movements. The problem of exclusion in politics, besides issues such as violence against women, the division of domestic labor, media, and social inequalities, have been the primary critical concerns in modern feminism. Feminists that emerged in the US after the era of feminine mystique and, more importantly, the Second Wave advanced critical issues that connect with the efforts of women's movements in America today.

During the feminine mystique era, there was a notion that women were an oppressed class, and this aspect had adversely impacted every facet of their lives (Gosse 157). Feminine critique promoted the spared of ideas that women were initially exploited as sex objects, domestic servants, breeders, and also a source of cheap labor. Gosse said that mass feminist movements of the 1970s urged women to liberate themselves because they were considered inferior beings whose primary role in society was to enhance men's lives (156). Such struggles are relevant to modern women's movements, which advance issues similar to that of the Second Wave feminists and labor feminists. Annual Women's Match at Washington, for instance, have been protesting against the allegations of the secretive financial dealings and anti-semantics. The language used to define women, besides media portrayals and changes on stereotype also play leading roles in the modern feminism struggles. In this regard, it is no doubt that the spirit and the ideologies of the Second Wave feminists inspire the current women's movements that drive national and global action on gender equality.

The influx of postfeminists in the 21st century, according to Sharp, has its roots in the ideas of both Betty Friedan and Betty Crocker (43). Research shows that the ideologies of Betty Frieda, in particular, still shapes the identity of women in contemporary America, although the prescriptions for femininity tends to be less rigid (Sharp 43). This phenomenon implies that the Second Wave and, more importantly, the ideologies underlying feminine mystique has significant effects in shaping the identity and the role of women in the contemporary world.


The struggles of women's liberation movements that championed equal rights for both genders during the Second Wave era are still relevant to feminism today. The efforts of the Second Wave feminists are still relevant in that it improved the status of American women. In this regard, the struggles of the Second Wave movements transformed the state of American women from wives, mothers, and house workers to their current position where they have equal opportunities as men. The feminine mystique, in contrast, shapes the identity of women in contemporary societies and also still influences the struggles for gender equality.

Works Cited

Akchurin, Maria, and Cheol-Sung Lee. "Pathways to Empowerment: Repertoires of Women's Activism and Gender Earnings Equality." American Sociological Review 78.4 (2013): 679-701.

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique (Reprint). W. W. Norton & Company, 2001.

Gosse, V. "Women's Liberation and Second-Wave Feminism: "The Personal is Political"." Rethinking the New Left, 2005, pp. 153-170, doi: 10.1007/978-1-4039-8014-4_11.

Heffernan, Margaret A. The naked truth: A working woman's manifesto on business and what really matters. John Wiley & Sons, 2004.

May, E. T. "A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s." Journal of American History, vol. 98, no. 3, 2011, pp. 897-898, doi:10.1093/jahist/jar453.

Pieper, Katherine M. "The Other Women's Movement: Workplace Justice and Social Rights in Modern America, by Dorothy Sue Cobble." Women's Studies in Communication, vol. 28, no. 1, 2005, pp. 149-151, doi:10.1080/07491409.2005.10162487.

Sharp, Elizabeth A. "Betty Crocker versus Betty Friedan: Meanings of Wifehood Within a Postfeminist Era." Journal of Family Issues, vol. 39, no. 4, 2016, pp. 843-867, doi: 10.1177/0192513x166800

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