'Anger Boiled Up, and Betty Friedan Was There': 'Feminine Mystique' at 50

There have been losses and gains for women in politics lately. Hillary Clinton sought the nomination for president, but lost. There are more women in the Senate, but Obama is criticized for the lack of women in the Cabinet. How do you think women will be represented in politics in the next 50 years?

There certainly will be a woman president. People say, "Well, if it's not Hilary who will it be?" But it's not like there are 25 guys out there that you can put your finger on right now and say, "Oh yes, the president of the future, that's him!" That stuff doesn't come up until it's time to pick somebody. Hilary didn't lose because she was a woman—she lost because she didn't organize well in the primaries. But she could've won—people were ready. Her great contribution was that she got the voting public ready for a woman president. Americans are very flexible. As soon as they think something is normal, it's fine. When I as a kid, the idea of a woman doing the evening news as an anchor was unthinkable. And you look out now, and there's Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer and other women.

Where do you see women making strides in the government?

The problem is in the stream of supply. When you look at statehouses, we're not having the success we might've had. It's difficult for a women with young children to become a national class politician—the amount of time that it takes is just extraordinary, so women tend to come in later rather than earlier into political careers. But women in the Senate keep saying, "We're really different from the men in that we do talk to each other. We reach across party lines. We go out to dinner together. We hang out. We're capable of doing the kind of politics that voters say they want, but aren't getting from the guys who are currently in office." That's exciting. If they can pull that off, that's huge.

The Feminine Mystique was able to reach a broad audience, but today's media landscape is more fractured. Do you think something today could have the same kind of impact?

It's not just breaking books that are harder to produce now, it's TV shows—you don't anymore have TV shows everybody watches. The audience for everything is so much more narrow than it used to be because there's so much more stuff out there. I'm not sure the next big thing will be a book. There are a lot of great women bloggers. Maybe it'll be something else entirely. The great story of my generation is that everything changed. It was amazing. It created this platform that exists for this generation that they can leap off of and do whatever. It's exactly true in terms of books and media and journalism. People in journalism now are going to create a whole new structure. This generation has created a whole new way of talking and communicating. I have no idea how it's going to work out—I leave it entirely to you!

This interview was condensed and edited for clarity and length.

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Hope Reese is a writer and editor based in Louisville, Kentucky. She writes for The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, and The Paris Review. She also hosts a radio podcast for IdeaFestival. Her website is hopereese.com.

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