“The World Split Open” by Ruth Rosen represents a fascinating and intriguing story following accurately the history of so called women’s movement. Rosen is a history professor and a journalist who participated herself in the struggles of women revolution. The narrative about the movement begins in the 1960s and is chronicled till the present days. The manner in which the author reminds us of the events and people who involved themselves in one our century’s most influential and effective social revolution, is bright and realistic. She touches both the aspects of political conflicts and those of the influence that sex discrimination had on distinctive personalities. With the help of all-embracing archival investigations and interviews, Rosen presents her readers with the possibility to take a more precise look on the situation, and to get a more profound understanding of how the movement has affected our present, and how it is still far from being coming to an end. Evidently, the author provides a fresh look on the problems of social discrimination, discussing such issues as why black women supported the movement more actively than their white colleagues, and how hundreds of women were hired by FBI in order to gain access to the demanded information.
Ruth Rosen refers frequently to the term “feminine mystic”, which she borrows from Betty Friedan’s book, which means “the cult of true womanhood”. She uses the notion to determine and evaluate the evolution the women went through to move away from social restrictions. She very briefly looks at the range of ways in which the mystique was maintained and praised by society. Rosen argues, it was used as a protection from communism for the period of the cold war, and the “…belief that American superiority rested on its booming consumer culture and rigidly defined gender roles…” The author also tells about how by praising women’s role as spouse and mother, and, moreover, as the chief buyer of consumer goods, the responsibilities of housewife was raised to a rank of professional activity, while the mere process of such an altering perception turned the act of consumption into a patriotic act.”
Rosen’s narrative cover the process of women’s moving out from under the imposed social rules of the “feminine mystique.” The curious thing as the author mentions, is that this movement had been happening long before society became actually aware of it. Individuals of both genders started to fight back against the sexual roles they were forced to perform. Women started to dispute the idea that their sexual life’s chief goal was to please their husbands and to bear children. Rosen states “Even before the sixties, a sexual revolution simmered.” When discussing the issue of sexual roles being developed in society, it is apt to refer to another book touching the subject of women movement in history. In particular, Davis and Kennedy in their “Oral History and the Study of Sexuality in the Lesbian Community”, claim that “…To be untouchable (the essence of the emotional/sexual dynamics) meant to gain pleasure from giving pleasure. Thus, although these women did draw on models in heterosexual society, they transformed those models into an authentically lesbian interaction.”
Meanwhile, men began to feel subdued by society’s belief of family unity that was distinctive for suburban life. Rosen also dedicate part of her book to the issue of women in politics, women’s career advancement and growing professional competence. The author as well raises a topic of the criticism and counterattack that was taking place in society as the women’s movement achieved more influence and control.