by Black Captain
Personal ambition for the middle class woman acceptably extended to a husband with a good job, a lovely house and a brood of beautiful children. There was little sense of sisterhood among most women because they were set up to be in constant competition for a man. It hadn’t always been like this – both Friedan and Mann contrast the 1950s glorification of the housewife with the “new woman” heroines of magazines in the 1930s and 1940s, and focus on its relationship with consumerism and post-war backlash. The women of the 30s and 40s were described in terms of their dreams and ambitions. Romance was often a factor in their lives, but they were portrayed as being adventurous, being involved in a variety of jobs, being pioneers and standing up for their beliefs.
By the 1950s, dreams and ambitions were described in terms of the happiness brought by a new pair of curtains or a kitchen appliance; fulfillment was a compliment bestowed by a husband following the purchase of the latest shade of hair dye; feeling depressed was solved by deciding to have another baby. Ultimate joy was realising that you were best off in your role as the “little woman”, who didn’t tax herself by attempting to go back to college or understand the family finances. I think you’d be hard pressed to find many women today who could identify with any of that, despite the media’s insistence on wheeling out panic pieces entitled “Do men REALLY want an intelligent woman?” or “Men: still threatened by successful women” every so often.