chapter  2
26 Pages

The Personal as Political: The Legacy of Betty Friedan

Somewhere around 1974, when I was twenty years old, the favorite aunt of an older man I was dating gave me her personal copy of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. Joyce was a middle-class, college-educated, suburban housewife who did not work outside the home, just like the women Friedan had interviewed. I was a sophomore in college, preparing to be a journalist, like Friedan, and currently enrolled in a sociology class on changing sex roles in America. (One of the guest speakers in the class was a self-described "househusband.") I skimmed a few pages and put The Feminine Mystique on my bookshelf. It was not required reading for the sociology course or for any course I completed subsequently nor did it factor into my graduate studies or in any research I conducted thereafter. So I do not claim to be among the thousands of women who say-like Anna Quindlen writes in her introduction to the 2001 edition of The Feminine Mystique-that the book "changed my life."