Repenser la femme mystifiée

OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON – Cette année marque le 45ème anniversaire de la parution de « La femme mystifiée » de Betty Friedan. De nombreux conservateurs blâment aujourd’hui encore Friedan et le féminisme pour avoir inciter les femmes à quitter leur foyer pour travailler, ce qui aurait selon eux eu pour effet de déstabiliser les familles et de mettre leurs enfants en péril.

Mais en réalité, le féminisme a plus été une conséquence de l’entrée des femmes sur le marché du travail que sa cause première. En Europe occidentale et aux Etats-Unis, les premiers temps du capitalisme virent des multitudes de jeunes femmes célibataires travailler dans des industries comme le textile. Les propriétaires des filatures construisaient souvent des dortoirs pour héberger les ouvrières. Beaucoup d’entre elles devinrent les premières partisanes à la fois du mouvement anti-esclavagiste et du mouvement féministe, tandis que les femmes de la classe moyenne trouvèrent une inspiration (en les enviant parfois) dans l’énergique participation des ouvrières à la vie publique.

Au moment de la publication de l’ouvrage de Friedan en 1963, les secteurs en expansion des services, du secrétariat et de l’information employaient un nombre croissant de femmes mariées. Les idées de Friedan trouvèrent un écho auprès d’une génération de femmes qui commençaient à considérer un emploi salarié comme davantage qu’une pause temporaire entre l’adolescence et le mariage, et qui étaient frustrées par l’insistance de la société à penser que le seul sens qu’elles pouvaient donner à leur vie était celui de femmes au foyer.

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