Betty Friedan

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Men weren’t really the enemy — they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.

Betty Friedan (4 February 1921 - 4 February 2006) was a "second-wave" feminist best known for The Feminine Mystique, a critique of women's role as stay-at-home mothers.


  • Men weren’t really the enemy — they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.
    • As quoted by The Christian Science Monitor (1 April 1974) This has sometimes appeared paraphrased: "Man is not the enemy here, but the fellow victim."
  • We need to see men and women as equal partners, but it’s hard to think of movies that do that. When I talk to people, they think of movies of forty-five years ago! Hepburn and Tracy!
    • As quoted in People magazine (7-14 March 1994), p. 49

The Feminine Mystique (1963)

ISBN 0393322572
The problem lay buried, unspoken for many years in the minds of American women...
  • The problem lay buried, unspoken for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban housewife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night, she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — “Is this all?”
    • Opening lines, Ch. 1 "The Problem That Has No Name"
  • The suburban housewife — she was the dream image of the young American women and the envy, it was said, of women all over the world. The American housewife — freed by science and labor-saving appliances from the drudgery, the dangers of childbirth, and the illnesses of her grandmother ... had found true feminine fulfilment.
    • Ch. 1 "The Problem That Has No Name"
  • Strange new problems are being reported in the growing generations of children whose mothers were always there, driving them around, helping them with their homework — an inability to endure pain or discipline or pursue any self- sustained goal of any sort, a devastating boredom with life.
    • Ch. 1 "The Problem That Has No Name"
  • Instead of fulfilling the promise of infinite orgastic bliss, sex in the America of the feminine mystique is becoming a strangely joyless national compulsion, if not a contemptuous mockery.
  • Ch. 11 "The Sex-Seekers"
  • American housewives have not had their brains shot away, nor are they schizophrenic in the clinical sense. But if … the fundamental human drive is not the urge for pleasure or the satisfaction of biological needs, but the need to grow and to realize one’s full potential, their comfortable, empty, purposeless days are indeed cause for a nameless terror.
    • Ch 13 "The Forfeited Self"
  • The feminine mystique has succeeded in burying millions of American women alive.
    • Ch 13 "The Forfeited Self"
  • It is easier to live through someone else than to become complete yourself.
    • Ch. 14 "A New Life Plan for Women"
  • The problem that has no name (which is simply the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human capacities) is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease.
    • Ch. 14 "A New Life Plan for Women"
  • When women take their education and their abilities seriously and put them to use, ultimately they have to compete with men. It is better for a woman to compete impersonally in society, as men do, than to compete for dominance in her own home with her husband, compete with her neighbors for empty status, and so smother her son that he cannot compete at all.
    • Ch. 14 "A New Life Plan for Women"
  • A woman is handicapped by her sex, and handicaps society, either by slavishly copying the pattern of man’s advance in the professions, or by refusing to compete with man at all.
    • Ch. 14 "A New Life Plan for Women"

The Fountain of Age (1993)

  • What had really caused the women’s movement was the additional years of human life. At the turn of the century women’s life expectancy was forty-six; now it was nearly eighty. Our groping sense that we couldn’t live all those years in terms of motherhood alone was “the problem that had no name.” Realizing that it was not some freakish personal fault but our common problem as women had enabled us to take the first steps to change our lives.
    • Preface
  • If women’s role in life is limited solely to housewife/mother, it clearly ends when she can no longer bear more children and the children she has borne leave home.
    • Ch. 4


  • A girl should not expect special privileges because of her sex but neither should she adjust to prejudice and discrimination.
  • Aging is not "lost youth" but a new stage of opportunity and strength.
  • If divorce has increased by one thousand percent, don't blame the women's movement. Blame the obsolete sex roles on which our marriages were based.
  • No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor.
  • The only kind of work which permits an able woman to realize her abilities fully, to achieve identity in society in a life plan that can encompass marriage and motherhood, is the kind that was forbidden by the feminine mystique, the lifelong commitment to an art or science, to politics or profession.
  • The only way for a woman, as for a man, to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own. There is no other way.
  • When she stopped conforming to the conventional picture of femininity she finally began to enjoy being a woman.

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