The Feminine Mystique author and crusader for gender equality would have turned 95 today. She is known as a driver of second-wave feminism and was a staunch advocate for suburban housewives leaving the home to pursue paid work.
What you might forget, though, is that, for Friedan, men were never the adversaries of feminism. As Jane Howard wrote in the New Republic in 1974 after rereading Friedan’s book,
Men ... are not the enemy; they’re fellow victims. They are as much entrapped by false notions of what’s manly as women are by the compulsion to be, as the song has it, as soft and as sweet as a nursery.
Husbands, Friedan wrote, were negatively affected in their own way by their wives’ lack of opportunity. They were overworked, overstressed, and in bad health:
American women lately have been living much longer than men, walking through their leftover lives like living dead women. Perhaps men may live longer in America when women carry more of the burden of the battle of the world, instead of being a burden themselves.
Happy birthday, Betty Friedan. Read our full review of the 10th anniversary edition of The Feminine Mystique here.