From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/books/betty-friedans-feminine-mystique-50-years-later.html
By JANET MASLIN
Published: February 18, 2013
On my first day of work at The New York Times, a young reporter spied me in the newsroom and rushed up to say hello. “Hey!” she said. “It’s another one of us!” We were both in our 20s at a time when young women at The Times were a novelty, and that big smile from Anna Quindlen was an amazingly generous icebreaker. That was that: friends for life.
Three and a half decades later I was embarrassed to tell Anna that I had never read “The Feminine Mystique,” which was published 50 years ago this Tuesday. It has now been reissued, with an introduction by the Times Op-Ed columnist Gail Collins and an afterword by Anna. Anna and I talk about books all the time; how had this one never come up in conversation?
She wasn’t surprised. She hears “The Feminine Mystique” name-dropped by people who, she can tell, haven’t read it at all.
“It is a cliché of our own time,” Betty Friedan wrote in her 1963 manifesto — which, yes, I have just finished reading — “that women spent half a century fighting for ‘rights,’ and the next half wondering whether they wanted them at all. ‘Rights’ have a dull sound to people who have grown up after they have been won.”
Among the many truisms in the book, that one leaps out at me most. Unlike friends who went to women’s colleges, I went to a coed campus and studied math; “The Feminine Mystique” was not required reading. By the time I became a journalist, Friedan’s sleepwalking housewives were so long gone that I could enter the professional world with a short memory and an undisguised advantage. The top editor who hired me in 1977 told me, perfectly nicely, that I was “the right age and the right sex.” He told Anna that if she hadn’t been female, she never would have gotten in the door.
Friedan wrote about the period between World War II and 1960, when women married young, abandoned their ambitions, had large families that fueled the baby boom, moved to the suburbs and valued femininity above all else. This was the era during which Adlai Stevenson, soon to make his second bid for president, told Smith College’s Class of 1955: “I think there is much you can do about our crisis in the humble role of housewife. I could wish you no better vocation than that.”
Read today, “The Feminine Mystique” is a fascinating mixture of antiquated attitudes (like that one) and others that have remained unchanged. Foisting sexual precocity on the very young goes way back, we find out; JonBenet Ramsey’s parents didn’t invent it. Remember that YouTube video of 7-year-old girls mimicking Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” dance moves? In Friedan’s day a newspaper ad for a child’s dress featured the tag line “She Too Can Join the Man-Trap Set.”