American Second Wave Feminism

Topics: Feminism, Feminist theory, Second-wave feminism Pages: 10 (3267 words) Published: October 27, 2013
In America’s rebellious teenage years, also known as the 1960’s, a new era of personal expression and freedom was shaped as a spiteful reaction to the Vietnam War. In the midst of the cultural phenomenon that was the emerging counterculture of the 1960’s, a minority group was emerging for a second time. In fact, its label of a minority was arguable. Although females contributed to about half of America’s population, they struggled with their small voices and inability to be heard. After the major milestone marking the passage of the women’s suffrage amendment during first wave feminism in the 1920’s, women lived through forty years of weakened determination. Finally in December of 1961, the President’s Commission on the Status of Women was founded. In 1963, John F. Kennedy and Eleanor Roosevelt as chair of the commission investigated questions regarding women’s equality in education, workplace, and under the law. The results proved the evidence of inequality seen by every female of that time. Rallied by the formation of the commission, the women came together to resolve the equality gaps between men and women. While first-wave feminism worked towards major goals such as suffrage and overturning legal obstacles to legal gender equality, second-wave feminists introduced new, broadened ideas including publishing of ideas, organization formations, equality within the law, formations of rallies, abortion and sexuality rights, and the expansion of feminist pop culture. With the new technology available in the sixties, feminists were able to spread these ideas and gain numbers and influence quickly. Soon, the women’s civil rights movement was an army of poets, artists, authors, speakers, and petitioners, all working to organize the most powerful and successful feminist movement in history. Ultimately, the counterculture’s most powerful subdivision was the young, bra-burning, rioting women of the 1960’s who created a wave stronger than any America had seen before – their impact forever changing the way females participated in society and trailblazing the way for feminists of the future.

Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963, and immediately became a best seller, and laid the groundwork for the new movement. Many believe that the book was the initial catalyst of the second-wave. In 1957, Freidan conducted a survey in preparation from her 15th reunion at Smith College. The results showed how unhappy women were as housewives. Freidan followed up with more interviews, finding that many other suburban housewives were just as unhappy. When no magazines were willing to publish her results, she began drafting The Feminine Mystique. She referred to the mistreatment of women as the “problem that has no name”, bringing light to the issue that not many had recognized before. She determined that post-WWII society had stay at home moms and married women in a place that they were more than discontent with. In the book, Freidan talks extensively about psychology and the minds of American women. Having a degree in psychology, Friedan criticized Sigmund Freud. Freud’s had been very influential during that time. She notes that Freud saw women as childlike and as destined to be housewives. She also discusses overlooked issues such as the change in women's education from the 1940s to the early 1960s, in which many women's schools concentrated on non-challenging classes that focused mostly on marriage, family, and other subjects deemed suitable for women. Educators influenced by functionalism felt that too much education would spoil women's femininity and capacity for sexual fulfillment. Friedan says that this change in education set back girls’ emotional development at a young age, because they never had to face the painful identity crisis and subsequent maturation that comes from dealing with many adult challenges. In the final chapter, Freidan tells many stories of women that challenged the feminine mystique,...

Bibliography: Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. 50th ed. New York: W. W. Norton &
Company, 2013.
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McBride, Alex. "Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)." PBS. Last modified December
NWHM. "Gloria Steinem (1934-)." National Women’s History Museum. Accessed May 6,
Accessed May 6, 2013.
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