MILESTONES: Happy 50th Birthday to “The Feminine Mystique”

the-feminine-mystiqueToday marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of one of the classic texts of feminism’s Second Wave, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. The book was a bestseller, the title entered the lexicon and women were offered a name for “the problem that has no name.”

Here’s a little Feminine Mystique at 50 quiz for you to answer in Comments:

1. Have you read Betty Friedan’s famous book?

2. How old were you when you read it?

3. Did it affect your becoming a feminist?

4. What stood out most for you in the book?

5. Did you ever reread it? Recently? Did you learn something new or have a different critique?

6. Would you recommend it to other feminists to read? Why or why not?


  1. I read it when I was 14 for a research paper I was writing. Reading it is what MADE me a feminist. The blatant discrimination that women were subjected to in the 1960s is what struck me, as well as knowing that such sexism is still prevalent today. It just resonated with me, and helped me recognize the fact that I’m a feminist. I’ve never reread it. I would definitely recommend it for other feminists to read, since it’s such an eye-opener.

  2. 1. Yes, I have read “The Feminine Mystique”
    2. I was 17 when I read it for the first time.
    3. I was already a feminist when I read “The Feminine Mystique” but it definitely strengthened my desire to pursue a degree in Women’s Studies.
    4. Nothing stood out, I enjoyed the entire book.
    5. I reread “The Feminine Mystique” shortly after I graduated with a B.A. in Women’s Studies last May (2012). I graduated from a Women’s College in Pennsylvania and rereading Friedan’s book made me appreciate being able to attend college in a modern era when I would not be expected to learn housekeeping skills or have people assume that I was only earning a MRS degree.
    6. Definitely! This book is a must-read for all feminists because it shows what we, as women, have overcome and how much more we need to work for to reach full equality.

  3. 1.Yes
    2.When I was 21
    3. I was beginning to understand it was an issue that I was a female. My father and mother always treated me as an equal and honestly so did their friends. I was confused by the ways boys my age wouldn’t acknowledge me as a productive intelligent part of society the way my parents did. They were wonderful that way, very democratic we all made big decisions together. I had moved off to college and suddenly realized I was only a vehicle in the mind of most young men. A vessel for marriage and children and I wanted to be successful and have my own place in the world be that with or without children. Feminism became something tangible to me through this book. It became a way to band together with other women and understand that the things I was meant to do were much larger than what had been planned or set out for me by the simple fact that I was biologically a female.
    5. I have never reread this book. I would love to as the adult I am now.
    6.I would recommend this book to anyone. I think it is a wonderful eyeopener to anyone that is interested in a relationship with a woman, or to any woman be they trans or biological. What we face as women will bring us together and make us stronger.

  4. I still have yet to read it! It’s always a shock to me when someone mentions it and I realize that I am totally out of the loop. It shouldn’t surprise me though as my family was apolitical so I wouldn’t have read it as a teen and it wasn’t discussed much in my classes at college. Obviously having not read it has not effected my becoming a feminist. I do wonder whether reading it will change my perceptions of feminism and what it means to be a feminist.

  5. Katina Lennie says:

    No I haven’t read it. I became a feminist of my own accord. Had a lot to do with events in my life. I will go out and buy a copy, it sounds intriguing by the read of the comments. Actually I was looking for a new book to read.Thank you for this post and Happy 50th Birthday.

  6. yes I have read it, and i was 33 when i did. I was already a feminist,and as such, was rather unsatisfied with this book. Although it articulates the realitties of white, middle-class, university-educated Western women, it purports to speak on behalf of all women, always a dangerous position to take as a feminist. Friedan’s solution to the problem that has no name, is for women to enter the workforce in order to fight social structures that disavantage them, but the ‘them’in question doesn’t include the women of colour and Black women,thepoor women, the immigrant women and so forth, for whom the “work place”means something entirely different, in 1963, as now. The problem that has no name speaks to a very specific and particular demographic, and ended up alienating a whole bunch of women, as well as further contributing to their disempowerment. I wouldn’t advocate for some women to attain their equality at the cost of most women’s continued subjugation. I think I would recommend it only with a STRONG disclaimer, and as an example of the kind of highly problematic analysis the 2nd wave produced.As an historical document, one that has been highly criticized for its lack of scope in thought, and its conttribution to the continued oppression of women of colour and/or poor women and/or queer people and isabled people, it has its worth,but should be read along side “Sister Outsider” and “This bridge called my back” an other texts . I don’t feel it has impacted my formation as a feminist in the same way as bell hooks, Angela Davis, Jenny Morris, Susan Wendell, Judith Butler, Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Anzaldua, Sandra Harding, Lorraine Code, Dally Haslanger, Robert McRuer or Ann Fausto-Sterling have and continue to do. Feminism are about developing a critical mode of interaction with the world, with ourselves, and with each other, and it wouldn’tbe the first text i would reccommend someone who was new to feminist thinking. My go to text is usually bell hooks “feminism is for everybody”.

  7. 1. Yes
    2. I was 22 and had just started grad school.
    3. I was already a feminist.
    4. Friedan’s descriptions of housewives’ lives were very moving. The showed the effects of isolation, lack of respect and economic dependence on a husband.
    5. I haven’t re-read it, but as we continue to run into frustrations on work and family issues, I think of Friedan’s comments in the 70’s and 80’s about feminists needing to focus on family issues. It is not enough for feminists to keep analyzing and doing studies on the housework and childcare gap and corporations that don’t “get it” on these issues. We need to build an organized MOVEMENT for egalitarian relationships and no, the marriage equality movement does not fit the bill.
    6. Yes, I would recommend it for historical reasons.

  8. I read parts of The Feminine Mystique when I was 17 in 1965. The black man who taught the Creative Writing class at Abraham Clark High School in Roselle, NJ assigned it. I totally missed the point, and look back to thank him and also regret missing the point he was trying to get to us. I became a conscious, radical feminist a few years later in my 20’s and contributed a lot to the women’s movement wherever I lived. I never reread the book.

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