Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan was a well known American feminist. Her book- Feminine Mystique is renown for getting the second wave of American feminism going. The book begins with a chapter named “the problem that has no name”, which is about the mutual unhappiness of 1950s women, little did they know that other women felt the same un-fulfillment in marriage, childcare and cleaning the home.

I guess back in the 1950s was similar to today society, or the other way around the world’s opinion has stayed the same: “They were taught to pity the neurotic, unfeminine, unhappy woman who wanted to be poets of physicists or presidents.” (Friedan, pg 15) Although today we do have much more freedom, women can be what they want to be in terms of careers, but society still looks down on unfeminine women. That forced pressure that women felt they must abide by in those days to look feminine could have cost them their lives, “In other hospitals, women dying of cancer refused a drug which research proved might save their lives: its side effects were said to be unfeminine.” (Friedan, pg 17)

Media in the 1950/60s was quite different to what it is today. The focus was on housewives, cleaning products and family life, rather than sexualised, idolised women. However they still worshipped these magazines, women still relied on those magazines for identity and to copy as they do today “Millions of women lived their lives in the image of those pretty pictures of the American suburban housewife, kissing their husbands goodbye in front of the picture window” (Friedan, pg 18) Further more, Friedan later says: “American women are so unsure of who they should be that they look to this glossy public image to decide every detail of their lives.” (Friedan, pg 72) Society was the same as it is today then, women don’t have their own identities, they copy those around them in order to fit in. This quote is interesting from Friedan: “I think women had to suffer this crisis of identity, which began a hundred years ago, and have to suffer it still today, simply to become fully human.” (pg 79) In other words, we cannot escape this identity crisis (women who don’t know who they are or how to be or how to act, therefore they copy what they see), this is how women have always been, and will continue to be.


This book has been useful to my assignment in teaching me further about feminism. Particularly the history of it, and relation to women in the media. It is interesting to hear about women’s identity crisis and compare it to today. Similarly interesting to find out that in some respects women haven’t changed very much, but in others the circumstances have changed drastically. The freedom women have today for example.



Friedan, B. (1963) The Feminine Mystique. London: Lowe and Brydone Printers