I got hold of Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique in the mid-Seventies, during my early teens, and I wore out my copy. I could tell straight off that some chapters were ridiculous: Housekeeping could not, for instance, become a “Comfortable Concentration Camp.” But such excesses seemed part of the book’s friendly thematic drive. Here was someone—the only person I knew of, in fact—seconding my dream of joining the first generation of women at a fully open Harvard. I did go on to do that, and I’ve always known that my bread is buttered on the side of Friedan’s Second Wave feminism.

But the Third Wave, which had already sloshed in when I arrived in Cambridge, never inspired anything in me but suspicion and irritation. Even though I’ve been living with the movement for thirty years as a print junkie, today I had to look on Wikipedia to try to make sense...

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