A Synopsis of The Second Feminist Wave


A Synopsis of The Second Feminist Wave

The 1960s to the late 1980s are typically used to define the Second Wave of feminism. It was a response to women taking up domestic and parenting responsibilities again after the Second World War. Women were sacked from their jobs and replaced by men when the men who had to leave the workforce to join the armed forces had returned.

In the 1960s, most of the 38% of American women who were employed worked as teachers, nurses, or secretaries. Women were supposed to resume their tranquil lives as obedient, submissive wives. It was estimated that housewives worked 55 hours a week on household duties. Women didn't want to return to these roles after working and being free of male authority during the war, which led to the Second Wave of feminism.

Initially concentrated in the United States of America, this movement later spread to other Western nations. The Second Wave concentrated more on both public and private inequalities, whereas the First Wave was primarily centred on the suffragette campaign for the right to vote.

The movement put rape, reproductive rights, domestic abuse, and workplace safety at the forefront, and there was a broad effort to change the demeaning and inferior representation of women in popular culture to one that is more uplifting and accurate. Women developed their own pop culture, and the trend was popularised by feminism in movies, music, books, and even dining establishments.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, a notable feminist book praised for its courage in defying traditional norms about the image of women, is credited with sparking this movement. The Second Sex, written by Simone de Beauvoir and initially published in 1949 in Paris, served as an inspiration for Friedan.

This book was hailed as groundbreaking and went down in feminism history as a significant text. In The Feminine Mystique, the general dissatisfaction of American women in the 1960s and 1970s was explored as "the problem that has no name."

Friedan emphasises how the education system and the advertising business are to blame for limiting women to domestic and menial work, which results in a loss of identity and uniqueness. Women all around the United States of America who read this book were affected by it. As a result, the Second Wave of feminism began, attracting thousands more white middle-class women to the cause.

Through legislative measures, this stage was also defined. A crucial step toward allowing women to pursue occupations rather than being coerced into family life was taken in 1961 when the Food and Drug Administration authorised an oral contraceptive pill that became commercially available.

A Presidential Commission on the Status of Women was also established by the Kennedy administration, and Eleanor Roosevelt, a former first lady, served as its chair. In order to support women, the commission on gender inequality suggested paid maternity leave, access to education, and excellent childcare. In 1961, 50,000 women were organised by a group called Women Strike for Peace to demonstrate against nuclear weapons and contaminated milk.

By founding local, state, and federal feminist organisations, women became more actively involved in demonstrations and campaigning for equality. Greater sex equality was attained by legislation like the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The feminist movement was also advanced by Supreme Court decisions like Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded in 1966, and Friedan was elected as its first president. The mission of NOW was stated in its founding document, which called for the elimination of all obstacles to "equal and economic advancement" and "the actual equality for all women."

There was vehement opposition to the NOW's attempt, led by Friedan, to compel additional employment options for women. The opposition claimed that middle-class white women needed jobs more than African American men, who at the time faced severe discrimination on the part of the white populace. Friedan resigned from her position as president in 1969 as a result.

Following the foundation of NOW, the campaign achieved numerous court triumphs. Women now have full Affirmative Action rights according to a 1967 Executive Order. A 1968 ruling outlawed sex-specific job postings, significantly reducing the exclusion of women from the workforce.

Greater educational equality was made possible by the Women's Educational Equity Act of 1972 and 1974. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 were also significant improvements, and Title X of 1970 addressed health and family planning.

The enactment of no-fault divorce in 1993, along with the outlawing of marital rape in all states, significantly lessened the dependence of wives on their husbands and allowed them the means to lead happier lives. In 1975, a rule requiring military academies to allow women was passed and the image of women as just “domestic goddesses” was transformed.

Impressive as they were, many people thought the goal of female independence had been accomplished. The Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution was a huge letdown because it needed the ratification of 38 states in order to be put into effect.

During this phase, other aspirational and resourceful female leaders like Friedan emerged. When women began to read Gloria Steinem's articles against the Playboy Club and its chauvinist components, she rose to prominence as a feminist leader. She was a fervent supporter of both government daycare financing and the legalisation of abortion.

There are other feminists who, like Friedan and Steinem, preceded the Second Wave. In her book Sexual Politics in 1969, feminist author Kate Millet described how patriarchy infiltrated sexual discourse and contributed to gender inequality. According to her, discrimination started with gender and spread to include colour and class.

Carol Hanisch was a different author who made an influence that is still felt today. In her essay, The Personal is Political, she made the case that women's political relevance extends to even the most private parts of life, such as housekeeping and gender roles, and that these issues ought to be discussed in public. Today, the phrase "The Personal is Political" is frequently chanted at rallies and protests in support of women's rights.

The Second Wave can be summarised as a time when women were fighting for equality and were generally united in their efforts. It also saw the development of many feminisms. There was a strong emphasis on radical feminism, which called for the total abolition of male supremacy and the rejection of all gender norms.

After the Second World War, socialist feminism emerged as another type of feminism. Like Marxism, it recognised the oppressive aspects of capitalism and the link between racial and gender inequality. In contrast to radical feminism, it did not view gender as the sole cause of all forms of oppression. The concept of ecofeminism was well known. It connected women's rights and freedom with environmental justice and care.

The Second Wave had its flaws while being a tremendously successful movement that included numerous legislative and cultural triumphs resulting in greater equality. The fight against racism was underway at the time in the United States. The feminist movement noticed that women of colour were underrepresented.

White women from the middle class who were prominent feminists produced feminist theories based on their own struggles. Despite the fact that the movement included a sizable number of black, Latina, Asian, and Native American participants, they felt overlooked and left out of the story. The main white feminists' agendas frequently conflicted with their own.

Many women believed it was inappropriate to talk about gender equality without also considering racial inequity. Women of colour were inspired to create their own organisations to reflect their interests in the movement as a result of the divide between white and POC feminists. The Third Women's World Alliance is one such group.

The feminist movement differs greatly from that in the USA in India. The nationalist fight for freedom had a tight relationship with the gender equality movement in India. Male reformers who worked to preserve the rights of women during the 19th century achieved significant strides by campaigning for legal protections against societal ills including child marriage and sati.

A growing desire to leave behind the prejudice practised by the British was connected to a rise in awareness of the subjugation of women and their social standing. The All India Women's Conference and the National Federation for Indian Women are two examples of the women's organisations that grew in pre-Independent India throughout the 20th century to empower women.

Women took part in the war for liberation, and independence offered them freedom from imperialism and their subordinate position in society. While the feminist movements in the West and India both campaigned for equality as their ultimate aim, the issues they faced and the roadblocks they encountered were very different.

The Second Wave had shortcomings even though it greatly contributed to the expansion of the feminist movement. Intersectional feminism is a product of Second Wave racial discrimination issues. According to Merriam-Webster, intersectionality is "the complicated, cumulative way in which the impacts of several forms of discrimination combine, overlap, or intersect."

In terms of feminism, it refers to taking into account the discrepancies in sexism and discrimination experienced by other races and ethnicities and making feminism not exclusive but inclusive equality. The Second Wave was crucial to the feminism movement and helped mainstream women in many areas, but it wasn't without its flaws. What form the movement takes next will be determined by what we learn from these.

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