The Feminine Mystique and society : a look at new media representations.
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Betty Friedan, in her 1963 bestseller, The Feminine Mystique, examined the role of various institutions in keeping women in a subservient position. The text helped kick off 1960s feminism in the United States. Fifty years later as feminism enters into the fourth wave, the time is ripe to study the book’s lasting impact on society. This essay examines representations of the Feminine Mystique in popular culture. Specifically, it investigates pins posted to Pinterest in 2013. While The Feminine Mystique is unquestionably a noteworthy text that helped stimulate the feminist movement, very few communications research articles have addressed the book. A search on Communication & Mass Media Complete revealed only five scholarly articles on the topic. Of these articles, only one discusses the 50th anniversary of The Feminine Mystique, and none discuss new media portrayals of the book. Building on these gaps in the literature, this study addressed two questions: (1) what themes are present in Pinterest pins about The Feminist Mystique? (2) what content is linked to Pinterest pins containing Feminist Mystique in the title? The artifacts for this analysis were 100 Pinterest pins found by searching for the keywords “Betty Friedan and Feminine Mystique” in October of 2013. Pins are visual bookmarks stored on a user’s Pinterest account that link to outside content (see Diagram 1). Pinterest is one of the newer social networking sites that launched in beta mode in March 2010. The invite-only visual bookmarking site is exclusive, yet by June 2012, according to Google DoubleClick, Pinterest was up to 31 million unique visitors per month (Chang, 2012). Preliminary findings indicate Pinterest pins containing the term “Feminine Mystique”link to content such as YouTube videos, products and websites, For instance, one such pin spotlights New York Times columnist Gail Collins’ debate on the strengths and weaknesses of the ageless book (see Diagram 2). Pinterest pins also tout products ranging from art to high fashion to the book itself. For instance, an NPR blog entry highlighted in a pin focuses on an interview with Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men (Neary, 2013). Rosin states that she was surprised by Friedan’s anger as she systematically laid out the case against a male-dominated society that was determined to keep women in their place. She adds that The Feminine Mystique is still relevant especially when it comes to society’s “understanding of women and domesticity.” Another pin links to a blog post titled, “4 Big Problems with 'The Feminine Mystique,” featured in The Atlantic (see Diagram 3). The author Ashley Fetters explores what she calls several “grains of salt” that deserve consideration in any discussion of the 50-year-old book's legacy (Fetters, 2013). The post asserts that The Feminist Mystique ignored the black and lower-income women of the 20th century. It also discusses the positive achievements that women have made in the last 50 years. This exploratory study reveals The Feminine Mystique remains an integral part of popular culture. Study findings illustrate the significant impact the text has had on society. The text continues to shape women’s lives in the 21st Century. Pins discuss and critique feminism, commemorate the five decades following the publishing of The Feminine Mystique and keep alive the valuable debate on important women’s issues.