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The Feminine Mystique (1963)

by Betty Friedan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,613482,520 (3.84)96
A fiftieth anniversary edition of the trailblazing women's reference shares anecdotes and interviews that were originally collected in the early 1960s to inspire women to develop their intellectual capabilities and reclaim lives beyond period conventions.

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English (45)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (48)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
What can you say about this book that hasn't already been said? I first heard of the The Feminine Mystique from my high school American History class, and later of course from attending Smith College itself, where Friedan famously graduated as well. I've always been drawn to just reading the original text of something rather than the multitude of opinions about whatever it is, so with all the lovely mess that is Feminist thought today critiquing (or downright ignoring) it, I had to see it for myself!

So, Friedan and this book are not completely en vogue right now. I get it. The author is from a time, place, and socioeconomic status that naturally ignored some glaring aspects of the American female experience, and it's rightly been critiqued. Friedan's remedy to the feminist mystique can seem a bit simplistic at times (just get a job!), but the intention is never nefarious. The issues Fridan saw and experienced were real, and you can't argue that the beginning of the women's movement brought great, good change (if feminism is even in your persuasion). Friedan was also notoriously weird about lesbianism and anything less-than-respectable, but again, does this cancel out how pivotal the change brought on by her? I don't think so, but obviously others do.

Unfortunatley, I found so much more of this book relevant to today than I had hoped. I thought it would be more historical, and much of it is, but man, much of it isn't. It's not the people willingly picking this up today who see themselves in it anymore: 60 years on, it's not the young women in cities or college campuses—it's the army wives, the Utah moms, the tradwives—whose lives today mirror so supremely the issues at hand in this text. Women have come a long way, but I think anyone would be daft to believe women are fully free from this mystique. Again, it's not in the liberal spheres most of us feminists today surround ourselves in that are in trouble, it's places like those I've named above. Many, many women grow up without this consciousness. I've witnessed this when living in Omaha, Nebraska: they grow up and never leave their hometown, they get married and have a baby to two because everyone else is, they may have a part-time job (it never promises growth), they spend their time on Instagram and TikTok looking at parenting videos, they obsess over colour palettes of babies' toys, they may get roped into an MLM, they buy 20 Stanley Cups, on and on, ad nauseum.

Friedan writes about this! So much! Especially the consumerism, which is I think the most prescient and insidious of women's issues today. Even 60 years on, women are advertised to and expected to be lascivious consumers: still today women's gender identities seem to be predicated on buying and wearing the correct clothing, and jewelry, having the most expensive-looking and beautiful hair, owning the newest social-media approved gadget. Even hair length is caught up in it—do you know how rare it is to see a woman outside of large cities with short, short hair? "Men's" haircuts? The ones that are cheap and easy to care for? I've spoken to women about it, and so many are terrified of the loss of social standing, even if they desire to finally rid themselves of it. It's a wonder and supreme privilege to live the way I do now, untethered to the worst of biological determinism and allowed to be an entire human being away from my "sex role." I'm lucky. Many, many women are not. They live in hostile environments, are stuck scared of the social repercussions of doing what they truly wish, and their sense of personhood suffers because of it.

Now, this book is a bit long, and it does belabor some points. It suffers the most from the inclusion of some heavy use of Freudian theory, which very popular at the time, has dated itself badly. One should view the book as a collection of essays rather than a cohesively narrativized argument, and I would recommend to feel free to read around out of order.

Despite what others say, this text is still prescient. More advanced discussion should occur on the plane of feminist thought, but abandoning it can only ideologically hurt those most in need of it. Similarly, Friedan's respectability is not so fashionable with the radical sect, but again, who suffers when we pass over it? Friedan's concern for men's happiness as well as women's is awesome, and we shouldn't ignore it. When we become so sectarian, when we villainize men for doing nothing but being failed by society, can we really be surprised at the rise of people like Andrew Tate or Jordan Peterson telling young men that they are not evil by virtue of their biological beginnings? To those that willingly pass over this, why can't we carry the gambit of feminist thought, for different scenarios, and different life experiences? There is no one-size-fits-all feminism, and beyond its blindspots, I think this one still stands the test of time. ( )
  Eavans | Feb 9, 2024 |
This is an essential read for the history of feminism. It is very sixties, but most is still relevant today.

This version had lots of interesting additional content including her retrospective from the late 90s. ( )
  lneukirch | Feb 4, 2024 |
I honestly tried to read this book, and I fully understand why it's an extremely important book for women and men alike... buuutttt, I have never been pressured into becoming a housewife so it is extremely hard to relate to. Interesting at times, extremely drawn out for the most part, though that may be because the book is fairly outdated. I didn't finish because it was... Gasp... Boring.
  fleshed | Jul 16, 2023 |
I reached page 110 before I decided it wasn't worth the time to read the rest of the book. ( )
  drmom62 | Apr 21, 2023 |
I reached page 110 before I decided it wasn't worth the time to read the rest of the book. ( )
  drmom62 | Apr 21, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (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, AnnaAfterwordsecondary 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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A fiftieth anniversary edition of the trailblazing women's reference shares anecdotes and interviews that were originally collected in the early 1960s to inspire women to develop their intellectual capabilities and reclaim lives beyond period conventions.

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