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The Feminine Mystique (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Betty Friedan
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Mar 2010 Penguin Modern Classics

When Betty Friedan produced The Feminine Mystique in 1963, she could not have realized how the discovery and debate of her contemporaries' general malaise would shake up society. Victims of a false belief system, these women were following strict social convention by loyally conforming to the pretty image of the magazines, and found themselves forced to seek meaning in their lives only through a family and a home. Friedan's controversial book about these women - and every woman - would ultimately set Second Wave feminism in motion and begin the battle for equality.

This groundbreaking and life-changing work remains just as powerful, important and true as it was forty-five years ago, and is essential reading both as a historical document and as a study of women living in a man's world.

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The Feminine Mystique (Penguin Modern Classics) + The Second Sex (Vintage Classics) + The Female Eunuch (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (4 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141192054
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141192055
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Feminism ... began with the work of a single person: Friedan (Nicholas Lemann)

About the Author

Betty Friedan (1921-2006) is hailed by historians as a seminal figure in the 'Second Wave' of the women's feminist movement. In 1957, Friedan wrote a questionnaire for her former classmates at a reunion at the all-female, Smith College. The results revealed that many women shared the same frustrations as her in their roles as housewives and mothers. Friedan's findings provided a clear-eyed analysis of the issues that affected women's lives in the decades after the Second World War, and became the basis to her book, The Feminine Mystique. A sensation on publication selling over 3 million copies, it established Friedan as one of the chief architects of the women's liberation movement.

A novelist and journalist, Lionel Shriver was born in North Carolina and educated at Columbia University in New York. Her eight published novels include New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World and international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, for which she won the Orange Prize in 2005. Her ninth novel So Much for That will be published in 2010. She writes regularly for the Guardian, the Times, and The Daily Telegraph, and has published features, reviews, and columns in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, and the Economist, among many other publications. She lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still worth reading today 18 Mar 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I first read `The Feminine Mystique' back in the 1970s when it was very popular and on re-reading it found it just as relevant now. The book explores the desire of many women in America in the 1950s and 1960s to become housewives and mothers rather than pursuing careers of their own. One of the main reasons for this trend could well have been a general reaction to the end of World War II. Women who had worked to help the war effort were now returning home and the men who had been fighting wanted nothing more than to relax in the comfort of domesticity and a settled home life.

The book seeks to examine the effects the trend had on the mental and physical health of women confined to the home and living vicarious lives through their husbands and children. Many became pale shadows of their former selves and resorted to drink or affairs with anyone and everyone. Research carried out at the time showed that women had fewer mental health problems if they had some outlet or interest of their own which took them away from their domestic environment. Some were in such a poor state mentally that they ended up being treated for depression as well as many minor ailments which may or may not have been psychosomatic. Obstetricians noticed that women who had their own careers and interests outside the home had far fewer physical and mental problems with childbirth than did women who were housewives and mothers with no other interest.

The author suggests that it is extremely bad mentally and physically to live the whole of your life through and for others and cites compelling research to back up her thesis. These women in many cases ended up resenting their families for curtailing their prospects.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So original, amazingly good 16 Sep 2004
By A Customer
I read this for a class I did at uni on the American women's movement and it is utterly amazing. What is so astonishing - and if you're buying this for uni my lecturer gave me an A for this point - this is the first book that really trated men and women as equal. Friedan is the first person who ever really questioned the idea that women and men are so different and that their lives should be dictated by those differences. Friedan sees women and men as being equal in opportunity, and this is what makes this book so groundbreaking. She doesn't tell women to go out and live like men, or to give up 'womanly' things like children or marriage, but instead she is saying there is no 'natural' reason for that. Women and men can do exactly as each other can and create their own lives - unlike the prevailing thought that we still see today, that your gender defines what your life will be. This is so incredible to read I think anyone who geets the chance should.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must have in your library 25 Mar 2014
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are several detractors on Friedan's work but I have to say it marks an era of wondering what on earth was this "feminine mystique". It is a very insightful and uncomfortable reading of the lives of women in 1950s and 1960s era, the stepford wife era, and her point that is does not exist and the "essentialist" debate about the feminine is just a load of smoke and mirrors holds true to the present debate on masquerade and performance of gender.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Out of the kitchen 11 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very important book, especially in the US. it gives an wonderfully revealing account of what it was really like to be a housewife before a measure of enlightenment came in the 1970s. It is a bit dated now but essential reading for anyone, especially men, who thinks that anything close to gender equality has been achieved. I
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Welcome Return 18 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent seminal work, important to go back to the classics and take on board what has changed and more importantly what is still frustrating and unchanged.
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19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic, but not a gospel 5 Feb 2005
Sometimes you have to read a classic to fully understand why it had such an impact. This is one fantastic book, and I can appreciate why it moved millions to look at the relationship between the sexes more closely.
It is a testament to its many 'truths' that it still commands respect and attention 40 years on, and the many descriptions of how the 1950s/1960s left women feeling isolated and powerless, plus the many changes that show they have a path out of domesticity, are the things that I still value most about this text.
However, time has shown up some of the books faults. For me, the most glaring - and the one that reveals how a political view can incline a writer to fit data to a hypothesis, rather than the other way around, is the poor discussion of spending power and adverstising.
Friedan reports that 75% of money earned is spent by women, and tries to turn this on its head to claim that they are still 'victims' because advertisers pay so much attention to manipulating them. This is a bit like saying that if men had 3 votes to women's 1, that men would be 'victims' because politicians were more interesting in winning men's votes. Women have spending power in our society and this gives them not only a lot of economic power but collective control over much of the media (who must not offend women to retain adverstising revenues).
A brilliant book, but not faultless. For a similarly sympathetic book from men's perspective try to get your hands on a copy of "Why Men Are The Way They Are", by Warren Farrell.
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