Second wave feminist movement

Rereading the Second Wave: why feminism needs to respect its elders

Feminists protest the Miss World contest in 1970. Photo: Getty

All sex is rape. You should taste your own menstrual blood. E=mc2 is a sexist equation.

As an intellectual movement, Second Wave feminism has suffered more than most by being ground down into soundbites, its leaders flattened into caricatures. It is nothing less than an outrage that so little should remain of, say, Andrea Dworkin's legacy that her most famous utterance is something that she never actually wrote or argued. Her peers have similarly been crushed by a feminist movement whose primary method of moving forward often seems to be kicking against its foremothers.

If you talk to young feminists now, they often see the Second Wave as a relic of an antiquated age - homophobic, transphobic, anti-sex, concerned with the plight of middle-class white women to the exclusion of everyone else. They are partly right. The Second Wave is generally acknowledged to have begun with Betty Friedan's 1963 book, which suggested that American housewives were asking themselves "Is this all?". Friedan presented herself as one of these housewives, awakened to the feminist movement by her research - an image that was complicated by the later revelation that she had a long history of radical activism. Friedan knew that presenting herself as a political naif was a way to slip her disruptive message past her society's self-appointed moral guardians. (There is a lesson here for the modern feminist movement: our demand for "authenticity" is still as strong, and still as open to being undermined by inconvenient facts. )

Friedan's book was hugely influential in shaping the demands of the Second Wave feminists who followed her - the right to work outside the home, and to be paid for it at the same rate as men; the right to reproductive freedom, in the form of abortion and birth control; the demand that motherhood should not be seen as the uncomplicated pinnacle of a woman's achievement. But even within the Second Wave, other theorists had spotted the problem with what Friedan was asking. As bell hooks writes in 1984's From Margin to Center:

Friedan's famous phrase, "the problem that has no name, " often quoted to describe the condition of women in this society, actually referred to the plight of a select group of college-educated, middle- and upper-class, married white women - housewives bored with leisure, with the home, with children, with buying products, who wanted more out of life. Friedan concludes her first chapter by stating: "We can no longer ignore that voice within women that says: 'I want something more than my husband and my children and my house.'" That "more" she defined as careers.



During the 1960s Second Wave Feminist Movement, did feminists ever address the Vietnam draft as being sexist? | Yahoo Answers

Many feminists were against the draft but they never said it was sexist. Feminists believe that only men can be sexist and that there is only sexism towards females.

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