After The Feminine Mystique : redefining women of color in higher education.




Palacios, Elizabeth, D.

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Fifty years ago, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique demystified the notion of the “Happy Housewife Heroin” and dismantled the American construct of the “fulfilled” White, middle-class, college-educated housewife and mother. American culture had built an expectation that everything a woman pursued should lead to finding the perfect husband to please. This included going to college in order to be able to converse intelligently with her future husband, which, by the way was an excellent place to find a prospective mate. Female college students in the 1960’s were largely comprised of middle- to upper-class, White women. Many of the colleges emphasized knowledge and skills that would enhance their marketability as prospective wives for intelligent and well-established men who would be able to provide comfortable lives for them. Women who attended college tended to pursue female-oriented occupations such as teaching, social work, nursing, etc. Yet, there remained colleges and universities who had not opened their doors to women and were unapologetically male centered. Males dominated college campuses and flourished in a structure designed for them. Today, women outnumber men on college campuses. Females have surpassed males in earning bachelors’ and graduate degrees (Ph.D. included). Nonetheless, women and minorities are still underrepresented in the STEM majors, and those females who do major in STEM areas are less likely to pursue jobs in those areas after college graduation. Women continue to earn less than their male counterparts at 82 cents for every dollar men earn. As female enrollment was gradually growing in American colleges, minorities were still banned from attending many of the mainstream institutions of higher education. It would be in the mid- to late-sixties that the Brown vs. Board of Education (1954) decision would be enforced in some of the more resistant states where legal obstacles had been put into place. Although desegregation was mandated and implemented, there still remained disparities in education among women and minorities. That holds true today. There has been a steady increase in minority enrollment, but adversity and challenges continue to threaten college success. Cultural expectations continue to define female roles where education is not a priority. Many young women still have to combat parental views that women should live at home until married, college might conflict with finding a viable husband and having children, or education is for the sons, not the daughters. After 50 years of celebrating the revolutionary work of Betty Friedan, there still remain barriers to remove, paradigms to change, and educational access to champion



The Feminine Mystique., Higher education., Women of color.