Comparing American Feminisms. The Mystique of Femininity Between “Second Wave” and Contemporary Mainstream
by Giulia Longoni
This article analyzes The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan, to propose a comparison between “second wave” American feminism and its contemporary neoliberal variation. Following Catherine Rottenberg’s definition of neoliberal feminism as that phenomenon which has affected the popular reintegration of feminist themes within the mainstream field, the article critically examines this contemporary declination of the movement, which quotes 1970s feminism in order to legitimize itself but, at the same time, it re-enacts the Feminine Mystique by portraying a balanced happiness which sees all women as solely responsible for their self-care and the care of others. Finally, Judith Butler’s work about precarious lives and vulnerability will be proposed as a valid alternative to neoliberal feminism. By theorising human bodies as intrinsically vulnerable and in need of mutual support, Butler recovers the communitarian and revolutionary characteristics of “second wave” feminism. Butler’s feminism poses a structural critique to the contemporary socio-economical system and theorizes an alternative social structure made by the “99%” of precarious subjects.
Keywords: Feminine Mystique, Feminism, Neoliberalism, Vulnerability