Second-wave feminism

The "second-wave" of the Women's Movement, Feminist Movement, or the Women's Liberation Movement in the United States refers to a period of feminist activity which began during the early 1960s and lasted throughout the late 1970s.

Whereas first-wave feminism focused mainly on overturning legal (de jure) obstacles to equality (i.e. voting rights, property rights), second-wave feminism addressed a wide range of issues: unofficial (de facto) inequalities, official legal inequalities, sexuality, family, the workplace, and, perhaps most controversially, reproductive rights.[1] It also tried and failed to add the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution. Many feminists view the second-wave feminist era as ending with the intra-feminism disputes of the Feminist Sex Wars, over issues such as sexuality and pornography.[2][3][4][5][6]


[edit] Overview

The second wave of feminism came as a response to the late 1940s post-war boom, an era not only characterised by an unprecedented economic growth, a baby boom, suburban expansion and the triumph of capitalism, but also an era marked by a consistent effort to re-establish pre-war patriarchal social trends. This fact was clearly illustrated by the media of the time; for example television shows such as Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver idealised domesticity, placing women in a closed sphere where they were only expected to fulfill the roles of housewives and mothers.[7]

Although not popularised until 20 years later, in her work The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir examined, as early as 1949, the notion of women being perceived as "other" in the patriarchal society. She went on to conclude that male-centered ideology was being further accepted as a norm and enforced simply by the ongoing development of myths, and that the fact that women are capable of getting pregnant, lactating, and menstruating is in no way a valid cause or explanation to place them as the "second sex."[8]

Furthermore, Cynthia Fuchs Epstein notes that in 1963 Betty Friedan explicitly objected to the mainstream media image of women, stating that placing women at home limited their possibilities, horizons, and was a mere waste of talent and potential. The perfect nuclear family image depicted and strongly marketed at the time, she wrote, did not reflect happiness and was rather degrading for women.[9]

Though it is widely accepted that the movement lasted from the 1960s into the late 1970s, the exact years of the movement are more difficult to pinpoint and are often disputed. The movement is usually believed to have begun in 1963, when "Mother of the Movement" Betty Friedan published her bestseller, The Feminine Mystique and President John F. Kennedy's Presidential Commission on the Status of Women released its report on gender inequality. The report, which revealed great discrimination against women in American life, along with Friedan's book, which spoke to the discontent of many women (especially housewives), led to the formation of many local, state, and federal government women's groups as well as many independent women's liberation organizations. Friedan was referencing a "movement" as early as 1964.[10]

The movement grew with legal victories such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court ruling of 1965 and in 1966 Friedan joined other women and men to found the National Organization for Women.

Amongst the most significant legal victories of the movement after the formation of NOW were a 1967 Executive Order extending full Affirmative Action rights to women, Title IX and the Women's Educational Equity Act (1972 and 1975, educational equality), Title X (1970, health and family planning), the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (1974), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, the illegalization of marital rape and the legalization of no-fault divorce in all states, a 1975 law requiring the U.S. Military Academies to admit women, and many Supreme Court cases, perhaps most notably, Reed v. Reed of 1971 and Roe v. Wade of 1973. However, the changing of the social attitudes towards women is usually considered the greatest success of the women's movement.

By the early 1980s, it was largely perceived that women had met their goals and succeeded in changing social attitudes towards gender roles, repealing oppressive laws that were based on sex, integrating the boys' clubs such as Military academies, the United States armed forces, NASA, single-sex colleges, men's clubs, and the Supreme Court, and illegalizing gender discrimination. In 1982 the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution failed, only three states short of ratification, but due to the successes of the movement, however, many women felt they no longer needed an ERA[citation needed].

The movement was largely successful, with the ERA viewed as the only major failure of Women's Liberation. Despite the failure of the ERA, however, efforts to ratify it have continued. Twenty-one states have ERAs in their state constitutions. Furthermore, many women's groups are still active and are major political forces. Today, more women earn bachelor's degrees than men,[11] half of the Ivy League presidents are women, the numbers of women in government and traditionally male-dominated fields have dramatically increased, and in 2009 women were expected to pass men in the American workforce.[12] Feminists have often claimed that a significant wage gap exists between the sexes; however, recent labor studies show that not only has the raw gap declined dramatically in recent years,[citation needed] but the discrepancy can be almost fully explained by workplace choices between the genders.[citation needed] These choices include entering different career fields as well as temporarily exiting the workplace to raise a family, although feminists differ on whether these choices themselves reflect sexism.

[edit] View on popular culture

This wave of feminism helped to educate women and allowed them to see their personal lives as politicized and reflective of the sexist structure of power seen throughout society. –One project of second wave feminism was to create –positive– images of women, to act as a counterweight to the dominant images circulating in popular culture and to raise women–s consciousness of their oppressions.(Arrow. Michelle. 2007).

Feminists during the movement viewed popular culture as just another example of gender inequality, and tried to prove the idea that woman are shown false images of how they should act and the roles they should play. They believed that the mass media was influencing women to act in certain ways. Artist Helen Reddy–s song –I Am Woman– played a large role in popular culture and became a feminist anthem; Reddy came to be known as a "feminist poster girl" or a "feminist icon".[13] Throughout second wave feminism other organizations started to form, such as NOW (founded in 1966), NARAL,etc.

[edit] Timeline of key events

[edit] The rise of the second-wave

[edit] 1953

[edit] Late 1950s

  • Awareness rises that many women are disgruntled by their status in society and their inability to hold successful careers or achieve equality.

[edit] 1960

[edit] 1961

[edit] 1963

  • The Commission's report finds discrimination against women in every aspect of American life and outlines plans to achieve equality. Specific recommendations for women in the workplace include fair hiring practices, paid maternity leave, and affordable childcare.
  • Twenty years after it is first proposed, the Equal Pay Act establishes equality of pay for men and women performing equal work. However, it does not cover domestics, agricultural workers, executives, administrators or professionals.
  • Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique is published, becomes a best-seller, and lays the groundwork for the feminist movement.
  • Alice Rossi presents "Equality Between the Sexes: An Immodest Proposal" at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences conference.

[edit] 1964

[edit] 1965

  • Casey Hayden and Mary King circulate a memo about sexism in Civil Rights Movement.
  • The Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut strikes down the only remaining state law banning the use of contraceptives by married couples.
  • The case Weeks v. Southern Belle marks a major triumph in the fight against restrictive labor laws and company regulations on the hours and conditions of women–s work, opening many previously male-only jobs to women.
  • The "Woman Question" is raised for the first time at a Students for Democratic Society (SDS) conference.
  • EEOC commissioners are appointed to enforce the Civil Rights Act. Among them there is only one woman, Aileen Hernandez, a future president of NOW.

[edit] 1966

[edit] 1967

[edit] From Miss America protests to revolution

[edit] 1968

[edit] 1969

  • The radical organization, Redstockings, organizes.
  • Members of Redstockings disrupt a hearing on abortion laws of the New York Legislature when the panel of witnesses turns out to be 14 men and a nun. The groups demands repeal, not reform, of abortion laws.
  • Redstockings popularizes slogans such as "Sisterhood is Powerful", and "The Personal is Political" which become buzzwords of the feminist movement.
  • California adopts a "no fault" divorce law which allows couples to divorce by mutual consent. It is the first state to do so; by 1985 every state has adopted a similar law. Legislation is also passed regarding equal division of common property.

[edit] Sisterhood is Powerful

A Women's Liberation march in Washington, D.C., 1970

[edit] 1970

[edit] 1971

  • "I Am Woman," a song which became an enduring anthem for the women–s liberation movement, was published.
  • Every president has published a proclamation for Women's Equality Day since 1971 when legislation was first introduced in Congress by Bella Abzug. This resolution was passed designating August 26 of each year as Women's Equality Day:
The full text of resolution reads:
Joint Resolution of Congress, 1971 Designating August 26 of each year as Women's Equality Day
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex; and
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and
WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26 of each year is designated as "Women's Equality Day," and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women's rights took place.

[edit] Rise of an ERA and educational and professional equality

[edit] 1972

  • The Equal Rights Amendment is reintroduced into the U.S. Congress and is passed by Congress with few members voting against it; it is then sent to the states for ratification.

The amendment reads:

"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 this Land of the Free, it is right, and by nature it ought to be, that all men and all women are equal before the law.
Now, therefore, I, Gerald R. Ford, President of the United States of America, to remind all Americans that it is fitting and just to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment adopted by the Congress of the United States of America, in order to secure legal equality for all women and men, do hereby designate and proclaim August 26, 1975, as Women's Equality Day."

[edit] 1973

[edit] 1974

  • The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination in consumer credit practices on the basis of sex, race, marital status, religion, national origin, age, or receipt of public assistance.
  • In Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that employers cannot justify paying women lower wages because that is what they traditionally received under the "going market rate." A wage differential occurring "simply because men would not work at the low rates paid women" is unacceptable.
  • First Lady Betty Ford moves to the front of the feminist movement as she talks candidly about her pro-choice views and feminist stances. A moderate Republican, Mrs. Ford actively lobbies state legislatures to ratify the ERA, earining the ire of conservatives, who dubb her "No Lady".
  • Mexican-American Women's National Association is formed as a Latina feminist organization.
  • Over 1,000 colleges are now offering women's studies courses (with 80 having full programs) and 230 women's centers on college campuses provide support services for female students.
  • Elaine Noble becomes the first openly gay candidate elected to a state legislature. She was elected in Massachusetts.
  • Coalition of Labor Union Women founded.[15]

[edit] "Every layer of society"

[edit] 1975

  • Taylor v. Louisiana makes it illegal to exclude women from juries.[16]
  • The U.N. sponsors the First International Conference on Women in Mexico City.
  • For the first time, federal employees' salaries can be garnished for child support and alimony.
  • The National Right to Life PAC organized to stop women from obtaining abortions.
  • Phyllis Schlafly organizes her Eagle Forum as an alternative to "women's lib". The forum favors support of school prayer, law and order, and a strong national defense. It opposes busing, federally funded childcare, and abortion.
  • Tish Sommers, chair of NOW's Older Women Task Force, coins the phrase "displaced homemaker".
  • Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will, claiming the ubiquity of rape, is published. She later becomes one of TIME's "Women of the Year" (see below).
  • NOW sponsors "Alice Doesn't" Day, and asks women across the country to go on strike for one day.
  • Joan Little, who was raped by a guard while in jail, is acquitted of murdering her offender. The case establishes a precedent for killing as self-defense against rape.
  • In New York City, the first women's bank opens.
  • United States armed forces opens its military academies to women.[16]
  • Time declares: "[F]eminism has transcended the feminist movement. In 1975 the women's drive penetrated every layer of society, matured beyond ideology to a new status of general – and sometimes unconscious – acceptance." The Time Person of the Year award goes to American Women, celebrating the successes of the feminist movement.[17]

[edit] 1976

[edit] 1977

[edit] 1978

  • For the first time in the history of the United States, more women than men enter college.
  • The Oregon v. Rideout decision leads to many states allowing prosecution for marital and cohabitation rape.[18]
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans employment discrimination against pregnant women, stating a woman cannot be fired or denied a job or a promotion because she is or may become pregnant, nor can she be forced to take a pregnancy leave if she is willing and able to work.
  • ERA's deadline arrives with the ERA still three state short of ratification; Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman leads a successful bill to extend the ERA's deadline to 1982.

[edit] 1979

[edit] The 1980s and the decline of the second-wave

[edit] 1980

[edit] 1981

[edit] 1982

  • Canadian feminist groups succeed in having equality of the sexes enshrined as a core principle in the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • The ERA fails to be ratified, with only three more states needed to ratify it; Reagan establishes a commission to find ways to ensure equality without an ERA.[citation needed]

[edit] Post-feminism in the 1980s

[edit] Education

[edit] Title IX

[edit] Coeducation

One debate which developed in the United States during this time period revolved around the question of coeducation. Most men's colleges in the United States adopted coeducation, often by merging with women's colleges. In addition, some women's colleges adopted coeducation, while others maintained a single-sex student body.

[edit] Seven Sisters Colleges

Two of the Seven Sister colleges made transitions during and after the 1960s. The first, Radcliffe College, merged with Harvard University. Beginning in 1963, students at Radcliffe received Harvard diplomas signed by the presidents of Radcliffe and Harvard and joint commencement exercises began in 1970. The same year, several Harvard and Radcliffe dormitories began swapping students experimentally and in 1972 full co-residence was instituted. The departments of athletics of both schools merged shortly thereafter.

In 1977, Harvard and Radcliffe signed an agreement which put undergraduate women entirely in Harvard College. In 1999 Radcliffe College was dissolved and Harvard University assumed full responsibility over the affairs of female undergraduates. Radcliffe is now the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in Women's Studies at Harvard University. The second, Vassar College, declined an offer to merge with Yale University and instead became coeducational in 1969.

The remaining Seven Sisters decided against coeducation. Mount Holyoke College engaged in a lengthy debate under the presidency of David Truman over the issue of coeducation. On November 6, 1971, "after reviewing an exhaustive study on coeducation, the board of trustees decided unanimously that Mount Holyoke should remain a women's college, and a group of faculty was charged with recommending curricular changes that would support the decision."[19] Smith College also made a similar decision in 1971.[20]

In 1969, Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College (then all male) developed a system of sharing residential colleges. When Haverford became coeducational in 1980, Bryn Mawr discussed the possibly of coeducation as well, but decided against it.[21] In 1983, Columbia University began admitting women after a decade of failed negotiations with Barnard College for a merger along the lines of Harvard and Radcliffe (Barnard has been affiliated with Columbia since 1900, but it continues to be independently governed). Wellesley College also decided against coeducation during this time.

[edit] Mississippi University for Women

In 1982, in a 5–4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan that the Mississippi University for Women would be in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause if it denied admission to its nursing program on the basis of gender. Mississippi University for Women, the first public or government institution for women in the United States, changed its admissions policies and became coeducational after the ruling.[22]

In what was her first opinion written for the Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor stated, "In limited circumstances, a gender-based classification favoring one sex can be justified if it intentionally and directly assists members of the sex that is disproportionately burdened." She went on to point out that there are a disproportionate number of women who are nurses, and that denying admission to men "lends credibility to the old view that women, not men, should become nurses, and makes the assumption that nursing is a field for women a self-fulfilling prophecy."[23]

In the dissenting opinions, Justices Harry A. Blackmun, Warren E. Burger, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., and William H. Rehnquist suggested that the result of this ruling would be the elimination of publicly supported single-sex educational opportunities. This suggestion has proven to be accurate as there are no public women's colleges in the United States today and, as a result of United States v. Virginia, the last all-male public university in the United States, Virginia Military Institute, was required to admit women. The ruling did not require the university to change its name to reflect its coeducational status and it continues a tradition of academic and leadership development for women by providing liberal arts and professional education to women and men.[24]

[edit] Mills College

On May 3, 1990, the Trustees of Mills College announced that they had voted to admit male students.[25] This decision led to a two-week student and staff strike, accompanied by numerous displays of non-violent protests by the students.[26][27] At one point, nearly 300 students blockaded the administrative offices and boycotted classes.[28] On May 18, the Trustees met again to reconsider the decision,[29] leading finally to a reversal of the vote.[30]

[edit] Other colleges

Pembroke College merged with Brown University. Sarah Lawrence College declined an offer to merge with Princeton University, becoming coeducational in 1969.[citation needed] Connecticut College also adopted coeducation during the late 1960s.

[edit] Careers

ALSSA (Air Line Stewards and Stewardesses Association), now known as the Association of Flight Attendants fought a long battle to get equal rights in employment. Airline stewardesses were fired once they were married; since the average age of a woman getting married was 20, this did not provide a very long career for air stewardesses.[citation needed]

[edit] Media

Media representations of women have been much discussed by advocates of second-wave feminism. Some have argued that popular magazines during the 1960s represented a repressive force, imposing damaging images on vulnerable, impressionable American women[citation needed]. Many magazines defined the role of a housewife as exciting and creative and often featured articles on baking. Magazines also had positive influences on the movement, and published articles that encouraged women to live a fulfilled life. Reader's Digest, Ladies' Home Journal, Woman's Home Companion, and Life Magazine, are just some of the magazines that influenced women during the 1960–s. There were also a few African American magazines, such as Coronet, which featured articles on strong black women who balanced a career and a family.

[edit] Success

Through organizations such as NOW, WEAL and PCSW, discrimination in the work place on the basis of sex was made illegal. The impact of media allowed the spread of feminist ideals through articles, newspapers, television and books.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^
  2. ^ Duggan, Lisa; Hunter, Nan D. (1995). Sex wars: sexual dissent and political culture. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-91036-6. 
  3. ^ Hansen, Karen Tranberg; Philipson, Ilene J. (1990). Women, class, and the feminist imagination: a socialist-feminist reader. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 0-87722-630-X. 
  4. ^ Gerhard, Jane F. (2001). Desiring revolution: second-wave feminism and the rewriting of American sexual thought, 1920 to 1982. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11204-1. 
  5. ^ Leidholdt, Dorchen; Raymond, Janice G (1990). The Sexual liberals and the attack on feminism. New York: Pergamon Press. ISBN 0-08-037457-3. 
  6. ^ Vance, Carole S. Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality. Thorsons Publishers. ISBN 0-04-440593-6. 
  7. ^ Knuttila, Murray, 4th ed. 2008. Introducing Sociology: A Critical Approach. Oxford University Press.
  8. ^ Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 1949.
  9. ^ Epstein, Cynthia Fuchs. 1988. Deceptive Distinctions: Sex, Gender, and the Social Order. New Haven: Yale University Press
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Rampell, Catherine (February 6, 2009). "As Layoffs Surge, Women May Pass Men in Job Force". The New York Times. Retrieved April 6, 2010. 
  13. ^ Arrow. Michelle. 2007. It Has Become My Personal Anthem: –I Am Woman–, Popular Culture and 1970s Feminism. Australian Feminist Studies 22: 213-230
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^ "WOMEN OF THE YEAR: Great Changes, New Chances, Tough Choices". Time. January 5, 1976.,9171,947597,00.html. Retrieved April 6, 2010. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Mount Holyoke:A Detailed History". 
  20. ^ "Smith Tradition". 
  21. ^ "A Brief history of Bryn Mawr College". 
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^ "Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan", 458 U.S. 718 (1982)
  24. ^ MUW - Planning and Institutional Effectiveness
  25. ^ "Venerable School for Women Is Going Co-ed". 1990-05-04. 
  26. ^ "Mills Students Protesting Admission of Men". 1990-05-05. 
  27. ^ Bishop, Katherine (1990-05-06). "Disbelieving and Defiant, Students Vow: No Men". Retrieved April 6, 2010. 
  28. ^ "Protest Continues at College Over Decision to Admit Men". 1990-05-08. 
  29. ^ "College to Reconsider Decision to Admit Men". 1990-05-12. 
  30. ^ Bishop, Katherine (1990-05-19). "Women's College Rescinds Its Decision to Admit Men". Retrieved April 6, 2010. 

[edit] Further reading

  • Osgerby, Bill, Anna Gough-Yates, and Marianne Wells. Action TV: Tough Guys, Smooth Operators and Foxy Chicks. London: Routledge, 2001.
  • Press, Andrea L. Women Watching Television: Gender, Class, and Generation in the American Television Experience. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991.
  • ––– and Tery Strathman. "Work, Family, and Social Class in Television Images of Women: Prime-Time Television and the Construction of Postfeminism." Women and Language, 1993 Fall, 16:2, 7–15.
  • Roth, Benita. Separate Roads to Feminism: Black, Chicana, and White Feminist Movements in America's Second Wave. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • William, Chafe, The American Woman: Her Changing Social Economic, and Political Roles, 1920–1970, Oxford University 1972
  • M. Carden, The New Feminist Movement, New York 1974
  • F. Davis, Moving the Mountain: The Women's Movement in America since 1960

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