‘Quite the opposite of a feminist’: Phyllis McGinley, Betty Friedan and discourses of gender in mid-century American culture

Gill, J. (2013) ‘Quite the opposite of a feminist’: Phyllis McGinley, Betty Friedan and discourses of gender in mid-century American culture. Women's History Review, 22(3), pp. 422-439. (doi: 10.1080/09612025.2012.726127)

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Abstract

This article examines the relationship between feminist and anti-feminist discourses in the period between World War II and the publication of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1963). It takes as its primary focus the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘housewife poet’ and self-proclaimed anti-feminist, Phyllis McGinley. McGinley was a successful poet who has disappeared from the record since the publication in 1964 of Sixpence in her Shoe—her best-selling retort to The Feminine Mystique. Her example is important because it gives voice to the much-maligned suburban housewife and offers a spirited alternative to Friedan's reading of white, middle-class domesticity as always and inevitably oppressive. The article offers a close reading of McGinley's work and situates it in relation to its historical and cultural contexts (specifically the highly charged domain of suburban domesticity) and to its wider readership. It compares her anti-feminism with that of other anti-feminist writers of the period, thereby illuminating the tensions and contradictions in contemporary debates.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gill, Professor Jo
Authors: Gill, J.
College/School:College of Arts
Journal Name:Women's History Review
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:0961-2025
ISSN (Online):1747-583X
Published Online:27 February 2013

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