The Feminine Mystique and Today's Girls

This is the 50th anniversary of the Feminine Mystique, which got us questioning the role of women in our society. I wonder if we are being complacient about the toy selection for our girls.

Have you heard of Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique? We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of its publication in 1963. At a time when women were to find fulfillment in being mothers and wives, Friedan’s research showed that women also wanted careers and an education. The book sparked conversations, led to protests and eventually legislation. Women began to examine their live, seek out jobs, and desire equal pay to men. 

I wonder if we now have complacency in what manufacturers are producing and retailers are selling to our girls. A walk through a discount store or toy aisle leads you into a ‘princess world.’ What’s wrong with that? Nothing if girls are not unduly influenced by the expectations of the ‘princess aura.’

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are we setting expectations for girls that they must be ‘good’ at all times?
  2. Do they need to be pretty and thin?
  3. Do the toy representations of a princess look like all of our girls—do they represent all ethnicities and cultures?
  4. Are girls happy all of the time and never mad?
  5. Are girls subordinate to the males in their lives, or are they supposed to be?  Are they to be a damsel in distress waiting for a man to save them?
  6. Are they from homes where everyone has wealth, the same family structure and no problems? Does this reflect their future adult homes?
  7. What are their futures? Will their jobs be stereotypical femininity and not scientists, corporate executives or construction workers?

So, if the primary options for toys are princess related, what happens psychologically to our girls as they grow up? Will a girl be ostracized if she is not a princess or does not play with princess things? Consider how princess play may affect our boys’ views of girls/women and of their roles in life.

We need to be having conversations with our girls and boys about princess expectations, being a female in our society, career ambitions, and educational goals. Our girls do not have to fit a mold.  

I wonder will we have a new Betty Friedan writing a Feminine Mystique in 2050?


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Carolyn Otten February 20, 2013 at 04:13 AM
I have a 4 year old daughter who is in full on princess mode. I am a Ph.D. Chemist. Somedays she says she wants to be a princess. somedays she says she wants to be a scientist. I tell her she has to choose something that she likes to do. I will buy her the princess stuff. But I will also take her to my work, too. I think she will outgrow the princess fantasy. But she will continue to see what I do and see that I love it.


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