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The controversy and radicalism of the second wave of feminism

History of feminism The ancient world There is scant evidence of early organized protest against such circumscribed status. For most of recorded history, only isolated voices spoke out against the inferior status of women, presaging the arguments to come.

Reformers and revolutionaries

In late 14th- and early 15th-century France, the first feminist philosopher, Christine de Pisanchallenged prevailing attitudes toward women with a bold call for female education. The defense of women had become a literary subgenre by the end of the 16th century, when Il merito delle donne 1600; The Worth of Womena feminist broadside by another Venetian author, Moderata Fonte, was published posthumously.

Defenders of the status quo painted women as superficial and inherently immoral, while the emerging feminists produced long lists of women of courage and accomplishment and proclaimed that women would be the intellectual equals of men if they were given equal access to education.

After a series of satiric pieces mocking women was published, the first feminist pamphleteer in England, writing as Jane Anger, responded with Jane Anger, Her Protection for Women 1589.

This volley of opinion continued for more than a century, until another English author, Mary Astell, issued a more reasoned rejoinder in A Serious Proposal to the Ladies 1694, 1697. The two-volume work suggested that women inclined neither toward marriage nor a religious vocation should set up secular convents where they might live, study, and teach.

Influence of the Enlightenment The feminist voices of the Renaissance never coalesced into a coherent philosophy or movement. This happened only with the Enlightenmentwhen women began to demand that the new reformist rhetoric about libertyequality, and natural rights be applied to both sexes.

Initially, Enlightenment philosophers focused on the inequities of social class and caste to the exclusion of gender. Swiss-born French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseaufor example, portrayed women as silly and frivolous creatures, born to be subordinate to men.

In addition, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizenwhich defined French citizenship after the the controversy and radicalism of the second wave of feminism of 1789, pointedly failed to address the legal status of women. Female intellectuals of the Enlightenment were quick to point out this lack of inclusivity and the limited scope of reformist rhetoric.

Challenging the notion that women exist only to please men, she proposed that women and men be given equal opportunities in education, work, and politics. Women, she wrote, are as naturally rational as men. If they are silly, it is only because society trains them to be irrelevant. The Age of Enlightenment turned into an era of political ferment marked by revolutions in France, Germany, and Italy and the rise of abolitionism. In the United States, feminist activism took root when female abolitionists sought to apply the concepts of freedom and equality to their own social and political situations.

Their work brought them in contact with female abolitionists in England who were reaching the same conclusions.

By the mid-19th century, issues surrounding feminism had added to the tumult of social changewith ideas being exchanged across Europe and North America. Library of Congress, Washington, D. Instead, she promoted abolitionism and a land-distribution program for other former slaves. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! Concern in the United States turned to the pending Civil War, while in Europe the reformism of the 1840s gave way to the repression of the late 1850s.

When the feminist movement rebounded, it became focused on a single issue, woman suffragea goal that would dominate international feminism for almost 70 years. Civil War, American feminists assumed that woman suffrage would be included in the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.

Constitution, which prohibited disfranchisement on the basis of race. Yet leading abolitionists refused to support such inclusion, which prompted Stanton and Susan B. Anthonya temperance activist, to form the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. At first they based their demand for the vote on the Enlightenment principle of natural lawregularly invoking the concept of inalienable rights granted to all Americans by the Declaration of Independence.

By 1900, however, the American passion for such principles as equality had been dampened by a flood of Eastern European immigrants and the growth of urban slums. Suffragist leaders, reflecting that shift in attitude, began appealing for the vote not on the principle of justice or on the common humanity of men and women but on racist and nativist grounds. As early as 1894, Carrie Chapman Catt declared that the votes of literate, American-born, middle-class women would balance the votes of foreigners: Anthony, however, ceded no ground.

It was not until a different kind of radical, Alice Paulreignited the woman suffrage movement in the United States by copying English activists. Like the Americans, British suffragists, led by the National Union of Woman Suffrage Societies, had initially approached their struggle politely, with ladylike lobbying. But in 1903 a dissident faction led by Emmeline Pankhurst began a series of boycottsbombings, and pickets. In 1920 American feminism claimed its first major triumph with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

The postsuffrage era Once the crucial goal of suffrage had been achieved, the feminist movement virtually collapsed in both Europe and the United States. Lacking an ideology beyond the achievement of the vote, feminism fractured into a dozen splinter groups: Each of these groups offered some civic contribution, but none was specifically feminist in nature. Infighting began because many feminists were not looking for strict equality; they were fighting for laws that would directly benefit women.

Paul, however, argued that protective legislation—such as laws mandating maximum eight-hour shifts for female factory workers—actually closed the door of opportunity on women by imposing costly rules on employers, who would then be inclined to hire fewer women. Could women be freed from discrimination without damaging the welfare and the controversy and radicalism of the second wave of feminism apparatus so many needed?

What was the goal of the feminist movement—to create full equality, or to respond to the needs of women? And if the price of equality was the absence of protection, how many women really wanted equality?

  • Congressional debateThe reintroduction of the Equal Rights Amendment in Congress spurred intense debate in 1983;
  • Ironically, sexist attitudes had pervaded 1960s radical politics, with some women being exploited or treated unequally within those movements;
  • The conflicts between women in developed and developing nations played out most vividly at international conferences.

The debate was not limited to the United States. Women members of trade unions, however, defended the need for laws that would help them. This philosophical dispute was confined to relatively rarefied circles. Throughout the United States, as across Europe, Americans believed that women had achieved their liberation. Women were voting, although in small numbers and almost exactly like their male counterparts.

Next, World War II largely obliterated feminist activism on any continent. This turn of events angered many women, but few were willing to mount any organized protest. In the United States the difficulties of the preceding 15 years were followed by a new culture of domesticity. Women began marrying younger and having more children than they had in the 1920s. Such television programs as Father Knows Best and Ozzie and Harriet reflected what many observers called an idyllic suburban life.

By 1960 the percentage of employed female professionals was down compared with figures for 1930.

Women's movement

Yet the roots of the new rebellion were buried in the frustrations of college-educated mothers whose discontent impelled their daughters in a new direction. If first-wave feminists were inspired by the abolition movement, their great-granddaughters were swept into feminism by the civil rights movementthe attendant discussion of principles such as equality and justiceand the revolutionary ferment caused by protests against the Vietnam War.

Its report, issued in 1963, firmly supported the nuclear family and preparing women for motherhood. But it also documented a national pattern of employment discrimination, unequal pay, legal inequality, and meagre support services for working women that needed to be corrected through legislative guarantees of equal pay for equal work, equal job opportunities, and expanded child-care services.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 offered the first guarantee, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was amended to bar employers from discriminating on the basis of sex. Dissension and debate Mainstream groups such as the National Organization for Women NOW launched a campaign for legal equitywhile ad hoc groups staged sit-ins and marches for any number of reasons—from assailing college curricula that lacked female authors to promoting the use of the word Ms.

Health collectives and rape crisis centres were established. Protective labour laws were overturned. Employers found to have discriminated against female workers were required to compensate with back pay. Excluded from male-dominated occupations for decades, women began finding jobs as pilots, construction workers, soldiers, bankers, and bus drivers.

Shulamith Firestonea founder of the New York Radical Feminists, published The Dialectic of Sex in the same year, insisting that love disadvantaged women by creating intimate shackles between them and the men they loved—men who were also their oppressors.

One year later, Germaine Greeran Australian living in London, published The Female Eunuchin which she argued that the sexual repression of women cuts them off from the creative energy they need to be independent and self-fulfilled.

Any attempt to create a coherent, all-encompassing feminist ideology was doomed. While most could agree on the questions that needed to be asked about the origins of gender distinctions, the nature of power, or the roots of sexual violence, the answers to those questions were bogged down by ideological hairsplitting, name-calling, and mutual recrimination.

Even the term liberation could mean different things to different people. Feminism became a river of competing eddies and currents. And separatist feminists, including many lesbian feminists, preached that women could not possibly liberate themselves without at least a period of separation from men. Ultimately, three major streams of thought surfaced.

The first was liberalor mainstream, feminism, which focused its energy on concrete and pragmatic change at an institutional and governmental level. The controversy and radicalism of the second wave of feminism goal was to integrate women more thoroughly into the controversy and radicalism of the second wave of feminism power structure and to give women equal access to positions men had traditionally dominated.

While aiming for strict equality to be evidenced by such measures as an equal number of women and men in positions of power, or an equal amount of money spent on male and female student athletesthese liberal feminist groups nonetheless supported the modern equivalent of protective legislation such as special workplace benefits for mothers.

In contrast to the pragmatic approach taken by liberal feminism, radical feminism aimed to reshape society and restructure its institutions, which they saw as inherently patriarchal. They strove to supplant hierarchical and traditional power relationships they saw as reflecting a male bias, and they sought to develop nonhierarchical and antiauthoritarian approaches to politics and organization.

The race factor Like first-wave feminism, the second wave was largely defined and led by educated middle-class white women who built the movement primarily around their own concerns.

This created an ambivalent, if not contentiousrelationship with women of other classes and races. The campaign against employment and wage discrimination helped bridge the gap between the movement and white labour union women. But the relationship of feminism to African American women always posed greater challenges.

White feminists defined gender as the principal source of their exclusion from full participation in American life; black women were forced to confront the interplay between racism and sexism and to figure out how to make black men think about gender issues while making white women think about racial issues.

The call by white feminists for unity and solidarity was based on their assumption that women constituted a gender-based class or caste that was unified by common oppression. Many black women had difficulty seeing white women as their feminist sisters; in the eyes of many African Americans, after all, white women were as much the oppressor as white men.

Yet some black women, especially middle-class black women, also insisted that it was fundamentally different to be black and female than to be black and male. During the first conference of the National Black Feminist Organization, held in New York City in 1973, black women activists acknowledged that many of the goals central to the mainstream feminist movement—day care, abortion, maternity leave, violence—were critical to African American women as well.

On specific issues, then, African American feminists and white feminists built an effective working relationship. The globalization of feminism By the end of the 20th century, European and American feminists had begun to interact with the nascent feminist movements of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. As this happened, women in developed countries, especially intellectuals, were horrified to discover that women in some countries were required to wear veils in public or to endure forced marriage, female infanticidewidow burning, or female genital cutting FGC.

Many Western feminists soon perceived themselves as saviours of Third World women, little realizing that their perceptions of and solutions to social problems were often at odds with the real lives and concerns of women in these regions. In many parts of Africa, for example, the status of women had begun to erode significantly only with the arrival of European colonialism.

In those regions, then, the notion that patriarchy was the chief problem—rather than European imperialism—seemed absurd. The conflicts between women in developed and developing nations played out most vividly at international conferences. Equality, Development and Peace, in Copenhagen, women from less-developed nations complained that the veil and FGC had been chosen as conference priorities without consulting the women most concerned. It seemed that their counterparts in the West were not listening to them.