The Impact of Discourse on Women’s Status

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Adam Kline GESS 2900 The Impact of Discourse on Women’s Status If a person has the flu how do they get help? They tell someone, “I have the flu,” and are cared for appropriately. This seems to be the universal law of fixing problems—that is identifying your problem by its name and treating it like all the others in your situation have in the past. But what about a problem that has no name, no history, no tangible symptoms, and worst of all, is not okay to talk about? In Betty Friedan’s excerpt from The Feminine Mystique she identifies the true inhibitor of progress for gender equality: its discourse, the ways humans talk, think and in turn act about it. Friedan uses and expands the concept of discourse in relation to gender by attributing it to the conformity of femininity, acknowledging that the absence of speech and thought is a significant part of discourse, and envisioning a way of using it to change the social construction that it has created in order to both reveal and solve the problem with no name. (Cranny-Francis 93). Friedan introduces the notion of discourse using its most common interpretation: the way a subject is talked about, the subject being the condition of women. It is easy for women to conform to an idea when it is supposed to be a dream come true—everything they could ever want. An instance of discourse like this near the beginning of the text is “[women] learned that truly feminine women do not want careers, higher education, political rights…All they had to do was devote their lives from girlhood to finding a husband and bearing children.” (Friedman 270) This exemplifies the way that femininity is instilled into young women, and the one-track minds that result from it. When experts, teachers, parents and peers alike define the expectations of a woman, it is be difficult for females to imagine their femininity as anything aside from the
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