Quotes From Feminist Founder Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan
Betty Friedan. Photo by Susan Wood/Getty Images

Betty Friedan, the author of The Feminine Mystique, helped begin a new interest in women's rights, debunking the myth that all middle-class women were happy in the homemaker role. In 1966, Betty Friedan was one of the key founders of the National Organization for Women (NOW).

This is an informal collection assembled over many years. We regret that we are not able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

Selected Betty Friedan Quotations

"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."

"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."

"Man is not the enemy here, but the fellow victim."

"When she stopped conforming to the conventional picture of femininity she finally began to enjoy being a woman."

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

"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."

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

"A girl should not expect special privileges because of her sex but neither should she adjust to prejudice and discrimination."

"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."

"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, 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?'"

"No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor."

"Instead of fulfilling the promise of infinite orgasmic bliss, sex in the America of the feminine mystique is becoming a strangely joyless national compulsion, if not a contemptuous mockery."

"It is ridiculous to tell girls to be quiet when they enter a new field, or an old one, so the men will not notice they are there. A girl should not expect special privileges, because of her sex, but neither should she "adjust" to prejudice and discrimination."

"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."

"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."

"It isn't that I have stopped being a feminist, but women as a separate interest group are not my concern anymore."

"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."

"Aging will create the music of the coming century."

"You can show more of the reality of yourself instead of hiding behind a mask for fear of revealing too much."

"Aging is not "lost youth" but a new stage of opportunity and strength."

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

"It's a different stage of life, and if you are going to pretend it's youth, you are going to miss it. You are going to miss the surprises, the possibilities, and the evolution that we are just beginning to know about because there are n role models and there are no guideposts and there are no signs."

"As we approach the millennium, I find it astonishing that I have been part of a movement that in less than forty years has transformed American society -- so much so that young women today seem to find it impossible to believe that women were once not seen as equal to men, as persons in their own right."

"Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, an eminent historian who I am not sure considers herself a feminist at all, said recently that never in history had a group transformed their conditions in society so rapidly as in the modern American women's movement."

Quotes About Betty Friedan

Nicholas Lemann

"Feminism is diverse and contentious, but, in its current manifestation, it began with the work of a single person: Friedan."

Ellen Wilson, in response to Friedan's The Second Stage

"Friedan is really saying that feminists should embrace the current trend toward mindless sentimentality about family and abandon our abrasive habit of analyzing and criticizing it."

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Quotes From Feminist Founder Betty Friedan." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/betty-friedan-quotes-feminist-founder-3530045. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2020, August 26). Quotes From Feminist Founder Betty Friedan. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/betty-friedan-quotes-feminist-founder-3530045 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Quotes From Feminist Founder Betty Friedan." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/betty-friedan-quotes-feminist-founder-3530045 (accessed June 9, 2023).