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The Feminine Mystique (1963)

by Betty Friedan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,150432,409 (3.85)90
Landmark, groundbreaking, classic--these adjectives barely do justice to the pioneering vision and lasting impact of The Feminine Mystique. Published in 1963, it gave a pitch-perfect description of "the problem that has no name": the insidious beliefs and institutions that undermined women's confidence in their intellectual capabilities and kept them in the home. Writing in a time when the average woman first married in her teens and 60 percent of women students dropped out of college to marry, Betty Friedan captured the frustrations and thwarted ambitions of a generation and showed women how they could reclaim their lives. Part social chronicle, part manifesto, The Feminine Mystique is filled with fascinating anecdotes and interviews as well as insights that continue to inspire. This 50th-anniversary edition features an afterword by best-selling author Anna Quindlen as well as a new introduction by Gail Collins.… (more)
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» See also 90 mentions

English (40)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (43)
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
An important book (maybe the most important book) for second-wave feminism, it helped start the movement. This book at times feels dated, it was written for the housewife, yet this book feel relevant still. It talks about how women with a college degree get married only to end up being a housewife and listening to their husband, when they aught to do what they want, get a job, and use their degree. In other words, GET OUT OF THE DAMN KITCHEN!

Wasn't going to read this until later, but I was watching the Hulu show Mrs. America and tis book and Betty Friedan are a key part to the show. Helped me understand the show and second-wave feminism better. It's important to know the different waves because they don't share the same ideas. ( )
  Ghost_Boy | Aug 25, 2022 |
This was excellent book. It would take too long to go through everything, but I will try to hit some highlights. Friedan wrote this book to explore a problem she saw in American society in the 40s and 50s. Women in America were expected to be nothing more than housewives and mothers. By "nothing more than housewives and mothers", I do not mean to imply that being a housewife and mother is not a worthwhile thing to do. What I mean is that society expected the role of wife and mother to fulfill a woman completely and for her whole life. Such an expectation would be as silly as expecting me to find complete fulfillment in being nothing more than a software engineer. I love what I do, but if I were expected to have to be the only thing in my life, I would laugh at the expectation -- or come to hate my job.

Friedan is opposed to the notion that all women are the same and will be fulfilled by the same things. The society of her time presented an image of the happy house wife joyfully scrubbing her floor and using her new and shiny vacuum cleaner. This image, largely created by the media (to sell more stuff) did not take into account that different women are, well, different. In some ways, things have gotten worse in that regard. We are constantly bombarded by media that pushes us to make ourselves over in some media image. There is more variety but, regardless of gender, the message is that you should be what you are told to be rather than looking into yourself and discovering what you want to be.

Now that most women have careers, we can look back and think that it was naive of Friedan to think that a career would cause women to break away from spoon fed images and find fulfillment. Many women have found fulfillment in their careers, but many others (women and men) have not. Fulfillment comes from the process of self discovery. When women had to push themselves out of the comfort zone of the home to start a career, perhaps starting a career was equivalent to finding oneself. However, now that it is an assumed part of the life of a woman, a career can be, and often is, just another thing to do. Yet the answer is not, as some people seem to think, sending women back to the home to magically find fulfillment there. Whatever the answer is, it is not simple, it is not the same for everyone, and it is internal not external.

Women are both better and worse off than men when it comes to freedom to find fulfillment. On the one hand, women are expected to be perfect in all their roles: wife, mother, professional. When a woman chooses to forgo one of these rolls completely, she is vilified (largely by other women!) and and seen as unnatural -- if she gives up marriage or children -- or anti-progress -- if she gives up a career. On the other hand, at least women have that choice. While men technically can take on nurturing roles in their families, it is still considered strange, and there are not many role models for men who want to stay home. For both men and women, there is an expectation that fulfillment comes from something external: a career, family, religion, possessions, money, image. This seems reductionist and, really, a bit silly.

The Feminine Mystique was a start. What's the next step? I don't know, but it won't be simple, it won't be obvious, and it will involve women and men moving forward together. ( )
  eri_kars | Jul 10, 2022 |
I remember reading about this book before I actually picked it up and read it. I can see why it changed the thinking of a lot of women. Of course, some of what was covered is now seen as "the way it is" or a given, but back then I'm sure a lot of it was radical and to think I read something that had so much power over changing the lives of many people for the good...it's just awesome. ( )
  BookLeafs | May 26, 2022 |
3.5 stars. While watching Mrs. America, I realized yet again that I hadn't yet read The Feminine Mystique! I decided I should probably take care of that.

Some thoughts:
1. This was written long ago, and while it shows, it also points to the fact that we still do not have an ERA. It is also clearly written for the white woman of that generation and definitely shows some white privilege in the fact that they were lucky enough to go to college and then get married off and not have to work, just be a wife and mother and then damn, poor things are bored.
2. I am very thankful that Betty Friedan wrote this book and started the 2nd wave of women's liberation; I am thankful that things changed so much from the 1950's.
3. This was well researched and yet it reads not like a research paper. However, there are many repetitive parts, so I must admit to skimming over some topics...Freud.
4. Bottom line, women need to recognize themselves as human beings, make a life plan, get educated, and use that education for whatever makes her want to study, grow and be productive.
5. We need to support each other as women, in whatever choices we make in how we live our lives and also challenge each other to not be submissive to anyone. We are smart, strong, and completely capable.
6. There have been times that I wonder if it was worth all the pain these women warriors went through to get us into the work place, to be productive citizens, who are thinking and changing the world. I work very hard, have multiple degrees, have children, as happily married as anyone, have many interests outside of all of these venues, and still feel like I am working harder vs. smarter. I worked, so I needed daycare: I needed daycare so I could work. I paid a lot in daycare, and many times I thought, I am working just to pay for someone to take care of my children. There is nothing left over, or anything to save. I am in a position that doesn't offer career growth despite 25 years of experience. The job was my choice but always to avoid more daycare: I work in the schools so my work schedule was the same as my kids. My new college graduated daughter is making more than I ever have and I am happy for her but am also a little frustrated in my own wages. I still work hard in the home--cooking, grocery shopping, planning, laundry, often not sitting down until 8 p.m. I have probably been too involved in my children's lives but am enjoying their independence and young adulthood. But could I have ever just been a housewife? Not on my life. I love working. I think conditions could be WAY better: fair and much higher pay, maternity leave, options to grow a career and have a family if desired or to miss out on opportunities due to choices made.

I still think the ERA would be a lovely addition and long overdue. So, yes, it isn't perfect but much better than what Betty was writing about. Watch Mrs. America. ( )
  BarbF410 | May 22, 2022 |
While we thankfully do no still live in the America that Friedan writes about it is amazing to see how far we have come... While this book is outdated (and the thoughts on homosexuality are completely wrong) I feel like everyone should read this book. Equality is something that will always have to be worked on as we still live in an unbalanced society. All people deserve to be treated as humans. Being an immigrant does not make you less intelligent or skilled. Having a different skin color does not make you less than anyone. Loving someone of the same sex does not change the love that exists in the world. Having a disability does not make you less able. If more people are free to be themselves society can only grow. We need to keep working on making the world a better place for all and we need to protect this planet from the people and corporations that are destroying it. (I am still baffled how companies can have more rights than humans and we all just let it keep going...)
My mother told me when I was younger to "never rely on a man for anything, if you can take care of yourself everything will work out great". I never understood this advice till now. Her mom and childhood was exactly what was written about in this book. She watched her mother struggle with the problem with no name firsthand. She was one of the aimless ones that dropped out of high school to chase good times and eventually found passion, work and my dad. My parents split the load my whole life. My mom would go to work early and my dad would get me ready and walk me to school. My mom would be home early and make dinner and my dad would come home later and help us with homework. She made time for my brother's sports and my piano/dance recitals and she even met a president. She was no less of a woman because she worked and I was fortunate to never know a world with the feminine mystique. ( )
  maddogish | May 9, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Friedan, Bettyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Collins, GailIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fermaglich, KirstenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fine, Lisa M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hardenberg, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Melior, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Posey, ParkerNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Quindlen, AnnaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Quindlen, AnnaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shriver, LionelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wagenaar, StannekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For all the new women, and the new men
to Carl Friedan
and to our children—
Daniel, Jonathan, and Emily
—1970 Dell Paperback edition
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Preface:  Gradually, without seeing it clearly for quite a while, I came to realize that something is very wrong with the way American women are trying to live their lives today.
The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women.
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Landmark, groundbreaking, classic--these adjectives barely do justice to the pioneering vision and lasting impact of The Feminine Mystique. Published in 1963, it gave a pitch-perfect description of "the problem that has no name": the insidious beliefs and institutions that undermined women's confidence in their intellectual capabilities and kept them in the home. Writing in a time when the average woman first married in her teens and 60 percent of women students dropped out of college to marry, Betty Friedan captured the frustrations and thwarted ambitions of a generation and showed women how they could reclaim their lives. Part social chronicle, part manifesto, The Feminine Mystique is filled with fascinating anecdotes and interviews as well as insights that continue to inspire. This 50th-anniversary edition features an afterword by best-selling author Anna Quindlen as well as a new introduction by Gail Collins.

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W.W. Norton

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