Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Stephanie Coontz

Stephanie Coontz teaches history and family studies at Evergreen State College. Her books include Marriage, a History, The Way We Never Were, and The Way We Really Are.

From Coontz's Q & A about her new book, Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s, with Husna Haq at the Christian Science Monitor:

What would Betty Friedan think of Valentine’s Day?

She would certainly hate the way it has been commercialized. One of the most powerful chapters of "The Feminine Mystique" – and one that still rings true to readers today – is called “The Sexual Sell.” Friedan used the internal memos of motivational research firms to expose how marketers fan our insecurities, to persuade us that buying things will satisfy our hunger for meaningful relationships and meaningful work. She would be very critical of the ads claiming that you can solidify your relationship by buying the right gift or find happiness by receiving such a gift.

On the other hand, she would probably welcome the celebration of romantic relationships. Contrary to myth, Friedan was not a man-hater, nor was she anti-marriage. In fact she argued that when women gained confidence in their own abilities and found meaning in their own lives, they would be better partners…

How has love and marriage – and women’s role in it – changed since Friedan wrote her seminal book?

Women’s new economic independence, legal rights, and social status have had paradoxical effects on love and marriage. On the one hand, women feel less pressure than in the past to enter or stay in a relationship that doesn’t meet the full range of their needs. As late as 1967, two-thirds of college women said they would consider marrying someone they didn’t love if he met their other criteria, most of which had to do with financial security, protection, and social respectability. Today most women hold out for love and mutual respect. Women are more willing to...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Stephanie Coontz's Marriage, A History.

--Marshal Zeringue