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The Feminine Mystique At 50

The Feminine Mystique at 50. We’ll talk with women about the book, Betty Friedan, what’s changed, what hasn’t, and women now.

A first edition of Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique.” (Bauman Rare Books)

A first edition of Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique.” (Bauman Rare Books)

Fifty years ago this week, February, 1963, the world first read Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. It was a cry of rage about how smart, educated American women were relegated to the home and high heels and buying laundry detergent. Cut out of America’s realms of power and professional life.

It seized a moment and a big problem. Became a huge bestseller. Broke open a giant conversation on sexism and feminism. Now we’re fifty years on.

This hour, On Point: Sandy Banks and Noreen Malone on The Feminine Mystique at fifty, and where women stand now.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Noreen Malone, staff writer at the New Republic. (@noreenmalone)

Sandy Banks, columnist at the Los Angeles Times.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times “Indeed, some cracking its spine for the first time — as more than one commentator on the 50th anniversary has sheepishly confessed to doing — may be surprised at just how scholarly the book is. Friedan, who claimed she gave up a prestigious Ph.D. fellowship in psychology after a boyfriend said it would threaten their relationship, spent years in the New York Public Library, digging as deeply into the theories of Freud, Margaret Mead, A. H. Maslow and David Riesman as into the women’s magazines she blasted for perpetuating the mythology of the ‘happy housewife.'”

Slate “What struck me most about The Feminine Mystique is how very radical it is. I mean, Friedan compares, at chapter length, the plight of women stuck at home with their kids to concentration camp victims. Sure, I’ve never had to sit alone with a mop and a crying baby and no Internet (side question: Was the problem that had no name possibly the lack of Wi-Fi?), but that seems more than a bit extreme to me. In fact, as much as I found myself cheering at the stirring introduction and conclusion, for much of the middle of the book, I was muttering and angrily underlining what I found to be particularly judgmental passages.”

Huffington Post “February 19, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking book The Feminine Mystique — a book that has undisputedly changed the lives of countless women and society as a whole. Coupled with the 1972 passage of Title IX, the law which prohibited “discrimination against girls and women in federally funded education, including in athletic programs” (Feminist Majority Foundation, 2012), there was a growing sense that women were well on their way to equality with men.”

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