Feminine Mystique (Review)

Labels: Great Works


The Feminine Mystique
Betty Friedan, 1963
382 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
April 2009

Although too small to read, here's what the fine print at the bottom of the book cover (on the left) says:

Changed the world so comprehensively that it's hard to remember how much change was called for.   —New York Times

It's hard to imagine that any single work could have the seismic impact this one did—especially one written by a women many considered an anathema: angry, strident and abrasive. Friedan, to say nothing of her book, was a lightening rod for controversy.

Even today, some 50 years on, The Feminine Mystique has the power to shock and infuriate. In providing an overview of women's status in the 1950s and '60s, Friedan calls upon a wealth of sources—popular magazines, advertisers, academics, psychiatrists—each insisting that women who sought fulfillment outside the home risked becoming masculinized, unlovable...and a danger to society.

All of which is reason enough to read this work, especially for younger women. When teaching, I was dumbstruck by how many 18- 19- or 20-year-olds belittled old-style "feminists." They had no idea how hard-fought was the very privilege they so took for granted—sitting in a classroom, pursuing business or science as a career.

Mystique is no feminist screed—it's academic in tone: sober, well-researched and documented. You'll want to read with a pencil—because you'll be driven to mark or jot down passage after passage...after passage to bring up for discussion.

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