That’s what people in the fifties had been; sick and tired. Now however, they were sick and tired of being sick and tired and weren’t going to stand for it any longer. Betty Friedan wrote her book ‘The Feminine Mystique’ in 1963 and despite the fact that I belong to a completely different generation, reading it touched something inside me the way it did with the women of those times. Just the idea of being in their situation of, as Friedan states, ‘living through their husbands and children and giving up their own dreams for all that’ is incredibly daunting for me to think of. Not only is it a terrifying prospect but an incredibly unfair one at that. However, reading this chapter of Zinn’s book made me see how women had gotten into that miserable situation in the first place. Men would require the women to work when they were off at war and as soon as they would come back, they would the push the women away and expect them to go back to the way things had always been. Not only this, but the way men talked about women to each other was appalling. According to Robert and Helen Lynd, men among themselves were likely to speak of women as ‘creatures’ that were relatively ‘purer’ and ‘morally better’ than men but as ‘relatively impractical, emotional, unstable, given to prejudice, easily hurt and largely incapable of facing facts or doing hard thinking.’ They also thought of women as ‘weak and incompetent sex play things’, of pregnant women as ‘helpless’, middle aged women as being ‘no longer beautiful’ and older women as ‘people to be ignored and put aside.’ If their fathers, husbands and sons thought about the women in their lives that way, it’s no wonder women were so frustrated and plagued by the ‘problem that has no name.’
Betty Friedan’s book helped start the fight for the civil rights of women. However, in the sixties and seventies there seemed to be a general rebellion against repression and oppression of any kind, especially against the ‘artificial, previously unquestioned way of living.’ Sex became an openly discussed topic. Married couples began having extramarital affairs in what became known as ‘open marriages.’ One of the greatest changes that took place was that homosexuals no longer concealed their sexual orientation. Gay men and lesbians now started organizing to ‘combat discrimination against them, to give themselves a sense of community and to overcome shame and isolation.’ This shows how humans in the sixties started a great wave of a radical reconstruction of sorts once again, which would continue on into the seventies.