History of Feminism - Waves of Feminism - Second Wave - Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, and The Rise of Women's Liberation

Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, and The Rise of Women's Liberation

In 1963, Betty Friedan published her exposé The Feminine Mystique, giving a voice to the discontent and disorientation many women felt in being shunted into homemaking positions after graduating from college. In the book, Friedan explored the roots of the change in women's roles from essential workforce during World War II to homebound housewife and mother after the war, and assessed the forces that drove this change in perception of women's roles.

Over the following decade, the phrase and concept "Women's Liberation" began to be discussed.

While people sometimes use the expression "Women's Liberation" to refer to feminism throughout history, the term is relatively recent. "Liberation" has been associated with women's aspirations since 1895, and appears in the context of "women's liberation" in The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir in 1949 which was translated to English in 1953. The phrase "women's liberation" was first used in 1964, and appeared in print in 1966, although the French equivalent, "libération des femmes", was in use as far back as 1911. "Women's liberation" was in use at the 1967 American Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) convention, which held a panel discussion on it. By 1968, although the term Women's Liberation Front appeared in "Ramparts" it was starting to refer to the whole women's movement. In Chicago, women disillusioned with the New Left were meeting separately in 1967, and publishing Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement by March 1968. When the Miss America Pageant was held in September, the media referred to the demonstrations as Women's Liberation, and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union was formed in 1969. Similar groups with similar titles appeared in many parts of the United States. Bra-burning (actually a fiction) became associated with the movement, and the media coined other terms such as "libber." Women's Liberation, compared to various rival terms for the new feminism which co-existed for a while, captured the popular imagination and has persisted, although today the older term Women's Movement is used just as frequently.

1960s' feminism — and its theory and activism — was informed and fueled by the social, cultural, and political climate of that decade. This was a time when there was an increasing entry of women into higher education, the establishment of academic women's studies courses and departments and feminist thinking in many other related fields such as politics, sociology, history and literature, and a time when there was increasing questioning of accepted standards and authority.

It also became increasingly evident, almost from the beginning, that the Women's Liberation movement consisted of multiple "feminisms" — due to the diverse origins from which groups had coalesced and intersected, and the complexity and contentiousness of the issues involved. Starting in the 1980s, one of the most vocal critics of the whole movement has been bell hooks, who comments on lack of voice by the most oppressed women, glossing over of race and class as inequalities, and failure to address the issues that divided women.

Read more about this topic:  History Of Feminism, Waves of Feminism, Second Wave

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