Date of Degree

2-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor(s)

Dagmar Herzog

Subject Categories

American Studies | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Keywords

feminism, ideology, progress, temporality, critique, contradictions

Abstract

My thesis attends to a common thread of critique in two founding documents of “second-wave” feminism: Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963) and Juliet Mitchell’s “Women: the Longest Revolution.” I am interested in the ways in which both foundational texts de-naturalize male supremacy by defining it as ideological. The concept of ideology as employed by three notable social theorists – Marx’s concept of a social mythology disseminated by ruling elites to uphold various forms of hierarchy, operating through internal contradictions; French communist Louis Althusser’s concept of a social practice disseminated by the institutions of civil society; and Michel Foucault’s identification of ideology with discourses or regimes of representation that shape and delimit what can and cannot be said about a given topic – is central to both Friedan’s book and Mitchell’s article; although Mitchell, in keeping with her British socialist milieu, employs the term ideology much more extensively than Friedan, both authors provide a broad critical analysis of how ruling elites define and police “natural” and “deviant” forms of “femininity” and “the family” that can be summed up as a critical analysis of ideology. My thesis seeks to challenge and broaden the common critique of “second-wave” feminism as narrowly middle-class and elitist to demonstrate the importance of Friedan’s and Mitchell’s insights for subsequent forms of radical social thought. In the first section, I will examine both the draft versions and the published version of The Feminine Mystique to show how Friedan explores the intellectual, emotional, and psychological work done by conservative gender ideology, how she establishes its relationship to ideas of progress and temporality, and how she attends to the ways in which its gaps, contradictions, and omissions strengthen rather than weaken its hold on society. In the second section I will perform the same analysis for Mitchell. I will conclude by analyzing how the work of Friedan and Mitchell helped pave the way for the critical insights of postmodern Left thought.

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