7 Ways Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique Changed The Game For Women

by Evelyn Chapman


Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique turned 52 this week. As controversial as it is—in turns called classist, racist, and homophobic—we would like to celebrate all the ways it inspired a movement during a time of housewives, Jell-o molds, and sedated contentment.

Friedan, known for sparking the beginning of second-wave feminism, was called “angry” and “hysterical,” insults we are quite familiar with even today, for her identification of what she calls “the problem with no name.” Like a true badass, she never shied away from criticism, claiming that anyone who didn’t like her book just “felt threatened by it.” Though this may not be entirely true, but this book is still a must-read for any young feminist—or anyone confused about what the term means—and here’s why:

  1. Friedan called out the male-dominated newspapers and women’s magazines that brainwashed women into thinking they were happy.

  2. She reminded us of the women who fought valiantly for women’s rights, and how the fight is far from over.

  3. She challenged the educational system for women in the time period, commenting on how even college level classes focused mainly on housekeeping, mothering and marriage. She believed that this lack of intellectual discussion and debate stunted women’s maturing and even their senses of identity.

  4. The fight against gender specific advertising is ongoing (think SuperBowl 2015), but Friedan was one of the first to bring attention to these cheap ploys for a quick buck.

  5. Although her logic is fairly antiquated and has been subject to a lot of criticism, Friedan wasn’t afraid to talk about female sexuality. Even discussing women’s sexual needs and desires was incredibly taboo at the time, but someone had to do it.

  6. She called bullshit on the theory that “career women” raised maladjusted children. Enough said.

  7. Friedan’s work inspired women to challenge the submissive role they played in society. They were encouraged to pursue careers without sacrificing their desire for marriage, children, and “femininity.”

“This man’s-world-woman’s-world bit is for the birds,” said Friedan. 

Then she dropped the mic. 


Images c/o The Atlantic, Slate, Makers

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