Feminism Essay

Submitted By suzielouisetait
Words: 1445
Pages: 6

Feminism’s Work is Done

“The female doesn’t really expect a lot from life. She is here as someone’s keeper - her husband’s or her children’s.” [1]

The second wave of feminism began in the 1960’s and ended in 1982 when the Equal Rights Amendment failed to pass. After the Second World War, women were pushed out of their habitual routine of running kitchens and homes by the government and put into industries to work in offices and factories to help during the war. This led to a massive eye opening to these women who, after the war, were sacked from these jobs to make way for the soldiers returning home. After having this new perspective on life and then having it so quickly taken away from them, it is no surprise that women then wanted the right to the employment they had during the war. To put it into very basic terms, the boredom of housewives started second wave feminism.

Unlike first wave feminism, which focused on official inequalities, predominantly gaining women the right to vote, second wave feminism focused more on ‘unofficial inequalities’. Women wanted to understand their personal lives, achieve sexual freedom and be educated. Main objectives included legalising abortion and contraception, equal pay in the workplace and arguably most importantly, ending domestic violence, marital rape and sexual harassment. These issues had long been ignored and undermined by the government. This era of feminism was the era of feminist groups, sisterhood and raising awareness of the issues surrounding women’s roles in society, with the clear message that women should have control over their own lives.

Although there were/are many strands of feminism - Liberal, material, pop, fourth-world, lesbian, french, etc; British women tended to split between two strands of feminism… Radical and Socialist.

When asked to describe being a ‘radical’, a feminist who had been part of New York Radical Women, explained: “The dictionary says radical means root, coming from the Latin word for root. And this is what we meant by calling ourselves radical. We were interested in getting to the roots of problems in society.” [2] Radical feminism does exactly that, it seeks to locate the root cause of female oppression; This in in comparison to liberal feminists who believe the legal inequalities of women are of predominance. And in seeking for this root cause, they believe it stems from the male need to have dominance over the women. Main priority therefore, lies within eliminating patriarchy - not just in terms of men dominating women, but in all cases of one group undermining another, including with issues of race, social class and sexual orientation. The most notable radical feminist was Mary Daly. Famous for writing books such as The Church and the Second Sex, Mary was an American college professor who was constantly up for discipline procedures after refusing men into her women’s studies class, for fear it would stop her female students feeling free and open to discuss and debate. [8]

Socialist feminism is not dissimilar in it’s views to radical feminism. Like radical feminism, socialist focuses on all oppressed groups (based on race, sexual preference, etc) but believe in direct links between social structure and the oppression of women. They tried fiercely to end capitalism, arguing that the oppression of women would not end unless a capitalist economy ended - women must live along side men as their equals, not just in the workplace. One of the big advocates of socialist feminism is Alison Jagger, most well known in the second wave era for writing Love and Knowledge: Emotion in Feminist Epistemology, but has written around 10 books on feminist issues. [7]

Though there were many successes during this wave of feminism, there seems to be an undeniable consensus the second wave definitely failed. Looking at feminism now, it certainly isn’t at the forefront of importance when thinking about the issues of today. Netmums recently