In order to discuss whether a new wave of feminism is currently going on, and whether or not this can or cannot exist with a backlash to the previous wave of feminism, it is important to look at this previous wave of feminism in its relation to the so called third wave, and the backlash that resulted from it. From examining the political and media backlash, from President Regan and benefit cuts to films such as Fatal Attraction, I will look at its effects on feminism and where, or if, it stands in relation to a new wave of feminism, epitomised –according to Astrid Henry- in the hit television series Sex and the City.
The second wave of feminism was concerned with political action and gaining women’s rights. At a time when there was very little equality between the sexes, both in the home and the working world, women campaigned to be allowed the same basic rights as men. Instead of following the traditional route of domesticity and motherhood, women campaigned to get equal rights for women in the working world and to have their voice recognised. However, in the 1980s, a backlash directed at that which women had been fighting for emerged in society, brought on by the media and politics. This backlash is vital to the formation of the third wave of feminism. As Cathryn Bailey points out, a ‘wave’ is something that happens in succession, and is both similar and different from the other occurrences . She argues that waves often overlap, and that this is the case with second and third wave feminism, which make the backlash directly relevant to the two cases.
Susan Faludi writes that the backlash has demonstrated women as depressed, lonely and miserable because of the freedom they have achieved. She argues that, according to feminist backlash, ‘it must be all that equality that’s causing all that pain. Women are unhappy precisely because they are free.’ The second wave of feminism, which according to general backlash consensus of the time, has provided women with the equality that they so desired, but they have not been left satisfied. No, the women’s movement has in fact ‘proved women’s own worst enemy’ , and because of their own overwhelming desire to have a career and be free, they have been left without a man, the one thing that they really desire, upon which their happiness rests – men.
Faludi’s argument is that this belief that women are now simply unsatisfied with what they have achieved, is male backlash to women beginning to have a voice. Her case is convincing, with her overwhelming arguments that demonstrate the ever present inequality of women. She discloses in ‘minute and often chilling detail the reverses suffered by women’ . There are indeed many right wing critics of Faludi, but her overwhelming facts override critics and it is hard not to be swayed by her argument that something undeniable has happened to the work of the second wave feminists.
Politically, Faludi chronicles the injustices set out by the conservatives an John Major, but even more so by American President Ronal Regan, and those who worked under him. Indeed, a sheriff from California claimed the that women’s liberty was to blame for them committing more crimes, and a commission suggested that women, now having won their liberty, have more opportunity to be raped. Indeed, one of the main things attributed to the failure of feminism by those involved in the backlash was the destabilisation of family life and family values. Single women cannot cope on their own. However, as Faludi brings to our attention, there is no mention of the lack of funding and benefit cuts put in place, or the lack of childcare programmes.
This backlash was also...