When Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was published in February 1963 — 50 years ago this month — it brought feminist ideology into the living rooms of dissatisfied housewives across the nation, igniting a women’s movement that revolutionized society.
From early victories such as the The Equal Pay Act, Roe v. Wade and Title IX to the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, new rights for women have been enshrined into law. Perhaps more importantly, attitudes have changed. Historian Stephanie Coontz notes, “In 1963, most Americans did not yet believe that gender equality was possible or even desirable…. By 1994, two-thirds of Americans rejected this notion.”
And yet, we’ve still got a long way to go. Women today earn only $0.77 for every dollar paid to men. Only 21 Fortune 500 CEOs are women. The U.S. is one of the only countries on the planet that doesn’t guarantee a single day of paid maternity leave.
In this edition of Group Think, we asked writers, sociologist, feminists and activists: What’s the state of women’s rights, satisfaction and happiness 50 years after the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique? What they share is both infuriating and inspiring.