The Problem That Has No Name
by Betty Friedan
‘What if she isn’t happy – does she think men are happy in this world? Doesn’t she know how lucky she is to be a woman?’
The pioneering Betty Friedan here identifies the strange problem plaguing American housewives, and examines the malignant role advertising plays in perpetuating the myth of the ‘happy housewife heroine’.
Penguin Modern: fifty new books celebrating the pioneering spirit of the iconic Penguin Modern Classics series, with each one offering a concentrated hit of its contemporary, international flavour. Here are authors ranging from Kathy Acker to James Baldwin, Truman Capote to Stanislaw Lem and George Orwell to Shirley Jackson; essays radical and inspiring; poems moving and disturbing; stories surreal and fabulous; taking us from the deep South to modern Japan, New York’s underground scene to the farthest reaches of outer space.
My second book from the Penguin Modern Series is number 41, “The Problem That Has No Name” written by Betty Friedan in 1963.
This book comprises of two non-fictional essays from Friedan’s larger work, ‘The Feminine Mystique’. Out of the two, I think I preferred the first but both are an important read and I’d definitely recommend picking this little book up.
Friedan talks about the role of women in 1960s America, as mother and wife. The problem mentioned in the title of this book is that once married with children, women were told that they had everything and that they should be happy and content. But in reality, many women felt that something was missing, their lives were unfulfilled and many often couldn’t understand why they weren’t as happy as society said they should be. I particularly enjoyed reading the short extracts from real housewives of the time.
“I seem to sleep so much. I don’t know why I should be tired. This house isn’t nearly so hard to clean as the cold-water flat we had when I was working. The children are at school all day. It’s not the work. I just don’t feel alive.”
This book, while short, is written elegantly. Even when stating statistics, the writing is clear and logical, without losing interest and both essays were well paced. I sped though this little book in under and hour and have to say that I really enjoyed reading just a peek of Friedan’s larger work.
Overall rating: Exploring and understanding the emptiness felt by housewives in America during the 1960s, this little book is a really interesting read, especially if, like me, you don’t know a great deal about the first two waves of feminism. 5 stars!