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Betty Friedan started a revolution — and we’re still not there yet

Middle age is not generous to females. A man in his sixth decade can, like Alec Baldwin just this week did, proudly announce imminent parenthood with one's yoga instructor spouse. He can be a George Clooney, appearing on magazine covers looking like the guy every guy wants to be. But for women, it's different. As Tina Fey once said, "The definition of 'crazy' … is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore." And that would generally be sometime soon after 30. But Betty Freidan's groundbreaking "Feminine Mystique," which turns 50 this week, is celebrating its milestone by getting a fresh shower of attention -- showing both just how remarkably it's aged and how stunningly topical it still is.

Friedan's book was a wallop of a tome, a peek behind the placid façade of the happy homemaker and into the dark heart of a seemingly enviable segment of American womanhood. Educated women, with their nice families and pretty homes, Friedan revealed, weren't fulfilled by staying at home and waxing their floors. They needed more. And by starting the conversation about that need, by making it OK for women to want something else, Friedan helped start a revolution.

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