The Feminine Mystique


Betty Friedan

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Feminine Mystique can help.

The Feminine Mystique Terms


An outfit which consisted of “a tunic, a knee-length skirt” and “ankle-length pantaloons.” Women often wore bloomers when cleaning the house, but some feminists began to wear them in public, instead of wearing their usual… read analysis of Bloomers

The Career Woman

– Also referred to as “the New Woman,” the career woman was an independent, ambitious type who found fulfillment both in her work and in her romances. Friedan uses examples from short fiction… read analysis of The Career Woman

The Castration Complex

– According to Freudian theory, the moment in a boy’s psychosexual development when he notices the girl’s lack of a penis, which he had originally attributed to everyone, and equates her lack of a penis… read analysis of The Castration Complex

The Devouring Mother

Borne from Freud’s notion of penis envy, “the devouring mother” compensates for her lack of a penis by having a son, then devotes all of her energy toward his care and the satisfaction… read analysis of The Devouring Mother
Get the entire The Feminine Mystique LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Feminine Mystique PDF

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

A federal agency, founded July 2, 1965, one year after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, that enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. The EEOC hears complaints regarding discrimination on the basis of… read analysis of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)

A proposed amendment that declared “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” In 1972, the ERA passed Congress… read analysis of Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)


– The women who fought for suffrage (suffragists), equal political rights, and the right to own property from the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth centuries. In the twentieth-century, they fought against discrimination in education and… read analysis of Feminist

The Happy Housewife Heroine

Friedan uses this label to describe the image of the housewife created by women’s magazines, starting in 1942, though, the term could also describe the idealized image of housewives promoted by advertising firms. The “happy… read analysis of The Happy Housewife Heroine

The Housewife

Friedan focuses on the life of the American housewife after the Second World War. The American housewife was, presumably, a white, middle-class woman who lived in the suburbs. Some of them had graduated from… read analysis of The Housewife


– A name taken from the title of Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel of the same name to describe a passive, child-like woman who offers herself to men sexually while demanding nothing in return. In the… read analysis of Lolita

The National Organization for Women (NOW)

An American feminist organization founded in 1966 in response to the need to enforce Title VII. Betty Friedan served as the organization’s first president, but it was organized by Friedan, black lawyer and Civil… read analysis of The National Organization for Women (NOW)

Title VII

An amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that forbids discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin or ethnicity. read analysis of Title VII

The Woman Question

– A phrase used during the Victorian Era to refer to the changing position of women in society and what their new roles would be, as a result of social change and their growing political… read analysis of The Woman Question