“Is This Really What I want to Be?”

That question made Betty Friedan (along with several others) incredibly uncomfortable:

“Growing up, many of us could not see ourselves beyond the age of twenty-one. We had no image of our own future, of ourselves as women…I came to a frightening dead end in my own vision of the future.”

To Freidan and many other women of her time, education was something that they had fully attained (bachelor’s degrees, doctorates, etc.), but the problem was that many women simply couldn’t use them to their fullest. Friedan interviews some of her post-grad colleagues, and quotes:

The tragedy was, nobody ever looked us in the eye and said you have to decide what you want to do with your life, besides being your husband’s wife and children’s mother. I never thought it through until I was thirty-six, and my husband was so busy with his practice that he couldn’t entertain me every night. The three boys were in school all day. I kept on trying to have babies despite an Rh discrepancy. After two miscarriages, they said I must stop. I thought that my own growth and evolution were over. I always know as a child I was going to grow up and go to college, and then get married and that’s as far as a girl has to think. After that, your husband determines and fills your life.

To Freidan and her interviewees, the so-called “Problem  with no name” / “Feminine mystique” is that women who were able to get educations and move up the academic ladder were in a sense denied the chance to embrace their identities as adults. While they may have studied psychology, business, philosophy, etc. – they were too bound in the social standards of the time of being married. After that, their identities as educated women, students, or future employees disappeared. Instead, they became wives of their husbands, and mothers of their children:

The feminine mystique permits, even encourages, women to ignore the question of their identity. The mystique says they can answer the question “Who am I?” by saying “Tom’s wife…Mary’s mother.” But I dont think the mystique would have such power over American women if they did not fear to face this terrifying blank which makes them unable to see themselves after twenty-one. The truth is… an American woman no longer has a private image to tell her who she is, or can be, or wants to be.”

Throughout her research project, Freidan links this lack of a real, self-defined identity to an overall disappointment with life and feeling of being unfulfilled – self-actualization (one of the most foundational elements in one’s own happiness) is, in other words, an unattainable dream, and had affected women throughout American boundaries for decades, perhaps even longer.

 

-CI

Gloria Steinem – “It’s not about integrating a not-so-good system, it’s about making it better.”

Howdy all,

Today I was looking around and found some really good information on Gloria Steinem. Steinem was a quintessentiall feminist during the 20th century, and continues her efforts today. She’s been tightly linked with movements concerning the equality of wages, availability of contraception, legality of abortion, etc. She founded her own magazine focused on feminist issues, titled Ms.

Oh. She also worked as a Playboy bunny in the 1960s.

What?

That’s right – not exactly what you’d expect.

I’ve attached the link to a PBS interview with her below – in it, she talks about her thought processes before coming to learn of the feminist movement during her time at Smith College – essentially, that “to be normal”, one had to get married and have children. Along with that, she discusses the future of feminism and what it means to be a feminist today. It’s a pretty interesting look at a very extraordinary woman.

Something that I’d like to discuss, however, is an article that she wrote in the 1960s – I Was a Playboy Bunnie. In this extended gonzo-fashioned piece of journalism, Steinem recounts her experience going “undercover” (i.e. with a false name and not revealing that she’d be publishing a piece on it) into one of New York City’s Playboy Penthouses. The entire piece exposes the darker underbelly of the adult entertainment scene during the mid-20th century, which includes massive sexual exploitation of women in desperate need of money, as well as a false image of happiness and contentment for the Playboy bunnies. Throughout her experience, she witnesses how women are completely objectified in their roles as Bunnies – not only by clubgoers (as is predictable), but even by their employers.

How does this relate to our topic, though?

I viewed her story as an example of an educated woman’s experience in a “traditional”/”non-educated” woman’s shoes. The feelings of pity, horror, and simple shock that her tale evokes are all worth mentioning.

 

Here’s a link to the interview as well as the article I refer to:

http://www.gloriasteinem.com/updates/2011/8/22/i-was-a-playboy-bunny.html

A Bunnie is Beautiful – Poetry Exercise #2

Their pink Bunny ears, placed neatly over my head.

Their Electric Blue miniskirt, so tight that I can’t bend over.

 

A soggy, wrinkled five dollar bill extended from the patron’s arm.

The pack of cigarettes he wants me to buy for and bring to him.

 

The journal I’m reporting all of this for,

The college degree sitting atop my cupboard door.

 

All these poor, young things

That one over there, no more than eighteen years old

 

She sat by her uncle’s home phone for twelve hours a few weeks back

Waiting for the call that would let her into this dark, damp place

 

And I’m supposed to write about her? How?

Is she not happy? “A bunny –

 

Like a Playboy playmate – is beautiful, desirable. We’ll do

Everything in our power to make you – the Bunny – the most envied girl

 

In America, with the most exciting career.

How can I save this poor, pitiable soul?

 

 

 

 

 

Women’s Progress After High School: The Figures

Hi All,

I’ve recently been doing some more digging into the actual history behind Women’s Education lately (my room is so filled to the brim with various books from the Hatcher library that its hard to open the door) and have found a very interesting interview online from a University of California professor, Margaret Nash. The link is below – please pardon the overly-enthusiastic host:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1s-AzoKnQg

Anyways, the professor seems to mention two specific trends: the first being that initially (during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries), women were actually more trending towards education in the sciences, whereas men were given more classical educations that focused on the ancient languages of Greek and Latin. As jobs and industries became more geared towards the sciences, however, the trends reversed themselves, with men taking more scientific educations and women being inclined to classical ones.

The second trend she mentions is that historically women have always had an upward trend concerning their post-high school educations.

Given that I’ve got all these books lying around, I decided to see the trend myself.

It turns out she’s absolutely right – here’s some figures:

If we look at 1947, only 4.7% of women 25 and older (of all races) had completed four years of college or more. One year later, however, in 1948, women make up a mere 22% of the entire labor force in the United States.

As we continue on throughout history, the amount of women who hold at least a Bachelor’s degree increase, and so do their participation rates in the labor force. The numbers progress through the 30 and 40th percentages throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and end up at 55.8% in 1987. Not coincidentally, we find that the number of women with college degrees also rapidly increasesm starting at 4.7% in 1940, and ending up (with a very smooth increase) at 58.2% in 1972.

I have more details on what exactly this means for women’s lifestyles and outcomes in terms of well-being, but I’ll post that piece tomorrow.

 

-Charlie