It was a cry of anguish from a particular group of women that had the education and the means to then go out and change their own situations — and the country.

This history is important when we write about women’s issues like the Violence Against Women Act, or the raping of women by male athletes, or whether women can have both children and a career. Sure, feminism wasn’t, and isn’t, perfect. Of course, women are still only one-fifth of the Senate and make up less than 5 percent of CEOs at S&P 500 companies. Yes, we still have a long way to go.

But without heroes like Betty Friedan and books like The Feminine Mystique, the situation would have been much, much worse. We are right to celebrate her and her book, and we should be careful about always making feminism seem irrelevant, or into a scapegoat for social problems. We owe feminism. A lot.

 

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Jennifer Vanasco is a is a news editor at WNYC and the former editor in chief of MTV Network's LGBT news site 365gay.com. She writes about social minorities, national politics, and culture. Her award-winning newspaper column on gay and women's issues ran for 15 years.