Celebrate The Feminine Mystique’s 50th Birthday With the New School

by Katrina Pallop

We’ve got quite a few important anniversaries to acknowledge this year. Fleetwood Mac’s album Rumours is 30 years old! Roe v. Wade is forty! And ringing in the big 5-0 this year is The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan’s 1963 Magnum Opus. To commemorate this occasion, the New School is hosting React: The Feminine Mystique at 50, a two-day symposium and exhibition featuring some of today’s most well-known and respected feminist activists and writers. 

The symposium will take place in NYC on February 22-23, and the keynote speaker will be Susan Ware, author of Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women’s Sports. Also present will be Femininisting.com’s Samhita Mukhopadhyay and author Susan Brownmiller, among many others. The curators of the event say that “We selected quotations, interviews, articles, objects, and advertisements from the book that we felt reflected mid-century America and the patriarchal society Friedan was reacting against. From the ways in which students were provoked to create work, it is clear to us that 50 years later it is absolutely worth revisiting.”

While The Feminine Mystique has been triumphed and criticized during its half-century of life, no one can deny its importance to the woman’s rights movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Friedan’s book is a response to her deep frustration with the state of women’s rights in America, and the compromises she was forced to make as a young, career-minded woman.

The Feminine Mystique addressed the conundrum of the modern suburban housewife, and the strange landscape of the suburbs in general. Many women of Friedan’s generation, particularly the academically-minded, related viscerally to The Feminine Mystique, a book that managed to diagnose the dilemma of the contemporary woman before most even realized that there was a problem. 

Though The Feminine Mystique has been called out for failing to discuss women of color or lower socioeconomic status, the book’s influence and precise critique of its particular historical moment deserve the admiration and respect that are heaped upon it. As the New York Times’ Gail Collins says, “If you want to understand what has happened to American women over the last half-century, their extraordinary journey from Doris Day to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and beyond, you have to start with this book.”

Reserve your space here (for free!), and enjoy all the thought-provoking programming that the New School has to offer at React: The Feminine Mystique at 50. 


Photo via Marxists.org

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