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The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

The Feminine Mystique (1963)

by Betty Friedan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Norton Critical Editions

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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
I was super excited about this at first because you think of feminism as a roughly linear progression but she was talking about the "mystique" like it was something that came over women in the fifties where before that they were all tough professionals like Ruth Benedict. And you go with her on that because it's a counter narrative and you want it to be true because the present always so patronizes the past, but then it turns out what's actually happening is that the standard line on this book where she doesn't give a shit or know a shit about women who are not in her upper-middle-class Seven-Sisters-educated bubble is dead on, and some of what she said later I found informative or provocative in the good way but just all so tainted. Imma try not to move the goalposts on this--of course it was a death inside, of course women needed to be allowed to contribute--but oh her contempt for childraising, for instance, such a trivial task that women could do it off the side of their desk. We haven't, like, fixed that problem, but at least we've (I think?) agreed that the answer has something to do with men pulling their weight, which Betty Friedan could never ever suggest because oh Father's in his study? I'm being super presentist and sure what have I done for women lately but upper-middle-class people treating other people like they don't count gets my goat. (Oh also she was a homophobe, the end.) ( )
1 vote MeditationesMartini | May 22, 2018 |
The thing about the feminine mystique is that it’s supposed to be very flattering, like Middlemarch’s “stupid complimenting”.

But of course, reality is better than illusion.


Thinking differently came so easily to Betty Friedan— she was an Aquarius— that she never gave the impression of being hurt. ( )
  smallself | Apr 26, 2018 |
I can see why this book sparked such a movement. and although most of the content of this book is irrelevant in today's world we can still relate it to other things that are still a problem today. Housewives of today no longer have the problem of just simply being a housewife and having to settle for that. If you want to learn how to play the violin then go out and buy a violin and learn how to play it. There is nothing stopping women from doing these sorts of things on top of being housewives. We no longer feel the stigma that there's something wrong with us if we feel the need to branch out into other interests.
The author relates a lot of her information as a sort of piggyback on to work already researched and written by both Freud and Kinsey. She states that several times when doing her interviews her interviewees steer the conversation to some sort of sexual frustration and/or empowerment. As the author states "Sex is the only Frontier open to women who have always lived within the confines of the Feminine Mystique."
Although this book was written for women in the 40s 50s and 60s, it is still eye-opening to read today. Even though most of it reads as a dull textbook there is still some very good information within it. I also agree that this is a part of our history such as the Malleus Maleficarum and Mein Kampf and should continue to be read and studied as a historical text. ( )
  TheReadingMermaid | Jan 26, 2018 |
A deeply interesting read. The image we all have of 1950s and 1960s American suburban housewives, happily domesticated, turns out to have been a horrible façade. Friedan revealed that many of these women were deeply unfulfilled, or popping pills to relieve their utter boredom. She pointed out the (to us obvious) fact that running a home, being a parent and loving a spouse does not give an intelligent person any fundamental satisfaction.

I love her analysis of the psychological and sociological pressures on women to conform to this housewife myth, and the chapter on the importance of bored housewives as consumers was startlingly prescient.

I realise that I have taken my freedom to be educated and to take up a career of my own choice for granted: the generation of women Friedan describes simply didn't have those options. I think about some of the older women in my family and recognise in them the frustration and empty consumerism that is described so vividly here.

It's amazing to think that no magazine of the time would publish Friedan's articles on this topic. By today's standards, Friedan's argument seems mild, but this book reignited feminism in the US in the 1950s. I find that amazing, too. Amazing and inspiring. ( )
  AJBraithwaite | Aug 14, 2017 |
From my Cannonball Read review...

I am a feminist. I don’t think that’s a groundbreaking title to claim, although if you listen to some of my more famous peers (Katy Perry, I’m looking at you), it’s a dirty word. But whether you claim the title loudly and proudly, or claim everything the title represents but annoyingly shun the term itself, it’s good to understand its roots.

Enter The Feminine Mystique, written by Betty Friedan, founder of the National Organization for Women. Dense but accessible, the book focuses on the malaise that struck (straight, affluent, white – we’ll get to that in a minute) women in the 50s and 60s. Ms. Friedan put a name to “the problem that has no name,” exploring why women who seemingly have it all – or at least everything society thinks they should want to have – are unfulfilled, depressed, and even suicidal. She backs up her discussion with facts, referencing studies ranging from Kinsey’s research to polls from Mademoiselle magazine. She pretty neatly takes down the ridiculousness of Freudian theory as applied to women in the United States, and points to evidence that supports the idea that women who access higher education (whether before marriage or during) and pursue careers find themselves happier (and with better sex lives, natch) than their counterparts.

Much of the book is filled with important information and suggestions for how to achieve equality. While it took me awhile to get into it, I found that by breaking it down into chapters I was able to really process what I was reading. It was frustrating to read lines that could have been written today, describing how people view the ‘role of women’ in the home, that the most important thing that women can do is bear and raise children. As a childfree woman myself, I’m also well aware of the weird dichotomy that exists in the United States today: this worship of the idea of motherhood, but the disdain for mothers (e.g. no mandated paid maternity leave, shock at seeing a nipple in public to feed an infant, the judgment women cast upon each other over life choices).

BUT. And this is a big but, and one that I only discovered by reading the book – Ms. Friedan was apparently homophobic. It’s distressing to learn that she views that “Male homosexuals … are Peter Pans, forever childlike” who have a “fear of adult responsibility.” Say what now? While one can raise all the arguments they want about a book being ‘of its time’ (published in 1966), the fact remains that even in her later years of activism Ms. Friedan was at times guilty of expressing disdain for gay men and lesbians.

The other GIANT issue with this book is that, while focusing on what I would argue was (and to a degree still is) a real issue for women, she presented her arguments as though they applied to all women. I don’t think every book needs to examine all sides of every issue, but she certainly spent no time on the intersectionality of gender with race and class, and she also spent no time (at least that I saw, and I read it pretty closely) focused on why this is the group that needs the attention.

Still, I’d say this is a book to read for everyone who wants to understand better the history of feminism and be reminded not so much of ‘how far we’ve come’ but really of how far we haven’t come. ( )
  ASKelmore | Jul 8, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Friedan, Bettyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hardenberg, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Melior, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Quindlen, AnnaIntroductionsecondary 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
First words
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393322572, Paperback)

The book that changed the consciousness of a country—and the world.

Landmark, groundbreaking, classic—these adjectives barely describe the earthshaking and long-lasting effects of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. This is the book that defined "the problem that has no name," that launched the Second Wave of the feminist movement, and has been awakening women and men with its insights into social relations, which still remain fresh, ever since. A national bestseller, with over 1 million copies sold.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:45 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Landmark, groundbreaking, classic?these adjectives barely describe the earthshaking and long-lasting effects of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. This is the book that defined "the problem that has no name," that launched the Second Wave of the feminist movement, and has been awakening women and men with its insights into social relations, which still remain fresh, ever since. --publisher.… (more)

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W.W. Norton

An edition of this book was published by W.W. Norton.

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