Goals of second wave feminism

Feminism 101: The second wave

The second wave of feminism began in 1960, and ended when the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) failed passage in 1982, which grants equal rights under the law regardless of sex. Two feminist authors, Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan, primarily influenced the second wave with their respective, bold assertions that “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” and that middle-class women were disillusioned with the isolation of domestic life. Although de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex was written in 1948, her influence upon Friedan and American feminists is great. Her work inspired Friedan to take a closer look at her own life and the lives of American women, which resulted in The Feminine Mystique in 1963.

The second wave was fueled by different goals than the first wave. Second wave feminists were focused on achieving sexual freedom, legalized abortion and birth control, equal pay for equal work, and an end to domestic violence, marital rape and sexual harassment. This wave worked through consciousness-raising groups and thrived on the bonds of sisterhood. It brought what was previously viewed as personal issues that should not be discussed outside of the home (or even at all) to the forefront of the public sphere and united women on the common assertion that “The Personal Is Political!”

A common misconception that arose during the second wave is the myth of feminists as bra burners, when, in fact, this event never took place. The myth began when a New York Post reporter compared the 1968 Miss America pageant protest to men burning draft cards. Although no bras were ever actually burned in the “Freedom Trashcan, ” the belief that the second wave torched their brassieres has continued to haunt feminists for the past 43 years.

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