The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
From the inside cover -
First published in 1963, The Feminine Mystiqueignited a revolution that profoundly changed our culture, our consciousness, and our lives. Today it newly penetrates to the heart of issues determining our lives — and sounds a call to arms against the very real dangers of a new feminine mystique in the economic and political turbulence of the 1990s.
Three decades later, the underlying issues raised by Betty Friedan strike at the core of the problems women still face at home and in the marketplace. As women continue to struggle for equality, to keep their hard-won gains, to find fulfillment in their careers, marriage and family, The Feminine Mystique remains the seminal consciousness-raising work of our times.
My thoughts -
This book is one of the most important feminist works of all time, if not THE most important feminist work. It took me awhile to get through, because Friedan researched the heck out of this thing. It’s full of statistics, citations from literary journals, interviews with real women, and quotes and stories from popular books and magazines. I’m so glad I finally got to this book, though, because it is so incredibly important. Reading Friedan’s book makes you wonder where in the world we’d be without it. She has made such an important contribution to women’s lives today that there simply aren’t enough words to effectively describe how crucial this book was/is.
Having said that, it’s remarkably sad to me that many of the issues she was sure would be solved by the 80’s are still serious issues today. She cites Roe v. Wadeas a monumental step for women’s rights, but that decision is now being questioned and attempts to revoke it have been made, and will continue to be made, by politicians and judges on both sides of the political spectrum. Friedan talks about how gaining access to child care and financial resources for women to further their educations and professional training is one of the first step to women’s freedom, yet today we still struggle with both these obstacles. Only the middle and upper classes can afford quality day care for their children, and most women cannot even dream of having the financial ability to go back to school after having children. Sexual harassment in the workplace, the glass ceiling, and the great pay divide still trap professional women to this day. Even worse, the word “feminism” now has such a negative connotation associated with it that most women, professional and otherwise, are completely turned off from using it to describe their personal beliefs. It’s hard that these are still such pressing problems, in 2008, but as long as there are still people working toward solving them, I have not given up hope. Millions are women do continue to be inspired by people such as Friedan, and the modern feminist movement reflects that.
My favorite part of The Feminine Mystique is the epilogue, when Friedan explains how she started NOW (the National Organization for Women) and made it such an unbelievably powerful and successful organization from nothing. This section is the most hopeful of the book, although one can see how many of the issues are still here today, it is also evident how much NOW has accomplished in its relatively short history, and what an amazing woman Friedan really is.