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Betty Friedan

  • 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.

  • The feminine mystique has succeeded in burying millions of American women alive.

  • It is easier to live through someone else than to become complete yourself.

  • Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffered Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night — she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — 'Is this all?'

  • Protectiveness has often muffled the sound of doors closing against women ...

  • ... 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,
    • in Christian Science Monitor ()
  • ... neither woman nor man lives by work, or love, alone ... The human self defines itself and grows through love and work: all psychology before and after Freud boils down to that.

  • ... life lived only for oneself does not truly satisfy men or women. There is a hunger in Americans today for larger purposes beyond the self. That is the reason for the religious revival and the new resonance of 'family.'

  • Just as darkness is sometimes defined as the absence of light, so age is defined as the absence of youth.

  • Why the increasing emphasis by professional age experts and the media on — and public acceptance of — the nursing home as the locus of age when, in fact, more than ninety percent of those over sixty-five continue to live in the community?

  • I have discovered that there is a crucial difference between society's image of old people and 'us' as we know and feel ourselves to be.

  • ... the new mystique is that women can have it all. There's a whole new generation of women today, flogging themselves to compete for success according to the male model — in a work world structured for men with wives to handle the details of life.

    • Betty Friedan,
    • in Sherry Suib Cohen, Tender Power ()
  • [Feminist:] One who believes in the liberation of that which has been suppressed as female in a man.

    • Betty Friedan
  • 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.

  • Men, also, have in them enormous capacities that they have to repress and fear in themselves, living up to this obsolete and brutal man-eating, bear-killing, Ernest Hemingway, crewcut Prussian sadistic, napalm all the children in Vietnam, bang-bang you're dead, image of masculinity, the image of all powerful masculine superiority that is absolute.

    • Betty Friedan,
    • speech, "Judge Carswell and the 'Sex Plus' Doctrine" ()
  • To do the work that you are capable of doing is the mark of maturity.

  • A woman has got to be able to say, and not feel guilty, 'Who am I, and what do I want out of life?'

  • 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.

  • We need to break through the age mystique by continuing to grow, solving problems, making social changes. We need to see our age as an uncharted adventure.

Betty Friedan, U.S. feminist theorist, writer, founder of NOW

(1921 - 2006)

Full name: Betty Naomi Goldstein Friedan.