A STRANGE STIRRING: The FEMININE MYSTIQUE and American Women at the the Dawn of the 1960s ~ Stephanie Coontz
A Strange Stirring is quite a read. It is a comprehensive look back at what Betty Freidan’s best seller the FEMININE MYSTIQUE said, created, and did not say or create. The research is quite extensive and the claims are even more amazing. As a student who read the MYSTIQUE in about 1969, it was fascinating to go back and read the book again, years later, and to see what was intrigued and formulated. I appreciated the scholarship and the ease of reading afforded by this book
I think the key concept I would take away from A STRANGE STIRRING is that MYSTIQUE polarized the population and much of the reaction to this book created a false premise and system of beliefs. The good news of the book is that the women who actually read the MYSTIQUE could stop blaming themselves; it was not their fault and society needed a makeover.
We have to remember this is the start of the MAD MEN philosophy of materialism, enculturation, and propaganda and they used this information in a huge campaign to get folks to become totally dependent, fearful, addicted to shopping and acquisitions.
Coontz did a marvelous job of researching and surveying the mature woman who read the book in the 60s and 70s and those that refused or thought they had read the book. Coontz had large numbers of her current students at THE EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE also read the book, discuss and take the surveys. The vastly different responses to the book and how many people thought they remembered or knew what the MYSTIQUE was about is astounding, or maybe I should say unnerving. Overall they remember what advertisers claimed and the conservative religious movement proclaimed and not actually what material was part of the book.
Some of the confusion was allowed to stand because the Feminist Movement wanted Friedan to be the name associated with the start of the NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN (NOW). Friedan was quite willing to lend her famous profile to this start up and also assisted in creating several major magazines.
The timeliness of the publication of A Strange Stirring does not go unnoticed, by this reviewer. I was in Graduate School very near the work going on in New York City and I heard many of the Feminist Movement’s greatest voices of that era. I had also just spent 2 years in the South working on the Civil Rights movement and voter registrations. I completed an internship in a Domestic Violence and Incest Center in the deep South and left there for Graduate School. This book put me right back into the conflicts and feelings of the times of my life and the polarization being promoted particularly the “moral conservatives” and the incredible igniting of power within women.
I am left wondering if women will have to lose all of their health care, support services, educational opportunities, rights and positions before the Phoenix will rise and folks will witness just how much they took for granted and what they lost. A Strange Stirring is a vivid reminder of how the media can reconstruct and delude our thinking and how polarization creates unnatural controls and fear.
Do you ever feel as though you are going backwards in time? History is repeating itself in a harmful way? Has something you have seen or read helped you rethink and reexamine past events? Did you read the FEMININE MYSTIQUE? What did you think it said?
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