Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Good Beach Reading: The Feminine Mystique


The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan has been called the book that changed the consciousness of a country—and the world. Originally published in 1963, this trailblazing book that changed women’s lives is still just as relevant 50 years later.

For the first time in my academic career, I spent Spring Break at the beach. I took not only The Feminine Mystique, but also A Room of One’s Own and The Mercury 13. I came away with a healthy dose of 20th century feminism as well as inspiration. Betty Friedan not only informed me of things I knew little about (the shift backwards in the Women’s Magazines from stories about “Career Women” in the 1930s and 40s to stories about the “Happy Housewife” in the 1950s and 60s; the Madison Avenue campaign to make women fall in love with household appliances), but also put into perspective the issues I was familiar with (the Seneca Fall Women’s Rights convention; the college “Mrs. Degree”). The book is also very well written. If you are headed to the beach this spring, or even if you’re not, The Feminine Mystique is worth a read.

Here’s what Amazon says about The Feminine Mystique:

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.

Here are a few additional reviews:

“[The Feminine Mystique] now feels both revolutionary and utterly contemporary. . . . decades later, millions of individual transformations later, there is still so much to learn from this book. . . . Those who think of it as solely a feminist manifesto ought to revisit its pages to get a sense of the magnitude of the research and reporting Friedan undertook.” (Anna Quindlen )

“The book that pulled the trigger on history.” (Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock )

“One of those rare books we are endowed with only once in several decades.” (Amitai Etzioni, author of The Spirit of Community: The Reinvention of American Society )

“[A] bridge between conservative and radical elements in feminism, an ardent advocate of harmony and human values.” (Marilyn French - Esquire )