How the Swinging 60s and the Second Wave of Feminism Has Affected Our Modern Day Lives
Because I love a history lesson, I’ve decided to shed some light on the Four Waves of Feminism in order to adore, honour and praise the women who have fought for equality throughout history. I honestly believe that being honoured in a sex-positive women’s blog, advocating for women to masturbate more often and explore themselves, is EXACTLY what the Second Wave Feminists would have wanted.
The Second Wave of Feminism: Social, Reproductive and Workplace Inequalities
The Second Wave of Feminism began in the ‘Swinging 60s’ in the United States and lasted until the 1980s. It quickly gained attention from other countries in the western world, where it too was embraced by various groups and individuals.
The Second Wave of Feminism mainly focused on the patriarchy and the male-dominated institutions and cultural practices that were commonplace in everyday life. Part of the idea of ‘patriarchy’ its oppression of women is multi-faceted. It employed itself through inequalities at a legal level, but also within the home and the workplace.
‘An archaic tradition whereby virgin females wore white… an early form of arranged marriage’.
It is no surprise then, that the Royal Debutantes Ball was abolished in 1958 by Queen Elizabeth herself, marking the end of an archaic tradition whereby virgin females wore white and were ‘introduced’ into polite and gentile society so that eligible men could begin to court them. Debutantes were not expected to have ambitions of a career. In fact this was most definitely discouraged.
It was a system controlled by the aristocracy and the elite: ‘the man’. The tradition has been described as an early form of arranged marriage and it’s no wonder it’s abolishment came just as the Swinging 60s were really finding their dancing feet. Out with the waltz and in with rock’n’roll… and mini-skirts.
A prominent feature of the Second Wave was the publication of the book The Feminine Mystique whereby Betty Friedan challenged the widely shared belief in the 1950s that "fulfillment as a woman had only one definition for American women after 1949—the housewife-mother.”
And while many feminists had already held the same beliefs as Freidan, it was the book that helped the Second Wave gain traction. Once the book had found its way into the hands of housewives, the fire was fuelled and women were ready to take action on issues of social injustice and they were quite successful.
The Miss America Beauty Pageant
A major event during the course of the Second Wave of Feminism was the 1968 Atlantic City Miss America Beauty Pageant.
Contrary to popular belief, female protesters did not gather to burn their bras en masse outside the pageant. They did however, hold an organised and authorised protest where they waved items such as Playboy magazines, stiletto heels, make-up and bras, items which they believed to be a male-centric and symbols that represented the objectification of women.
The rumour that they burned their own bras was spread maliciously by a misogynistic columnist who stated:
“If the average American female gave up all her beauty products she would look like Tiny Tim and there would be no reason for the American male to have anything to do with her at all”.
To which I’m sure most American Women at the time would have answered “I’m OK with that.”
The Equal Pay Act of 1963
‘Women were born to be homemakers, mothers and wives.’
The Second Wave of Feminism saw The Equal Pay Act of 1963, the right for all women to use birth control and have access to education. It was a period that focused on changing the way that society viewed women and changing the mentality that women were born to be homemakers, mothers, and wives.
This really was the most significant outcome of the Second Wave of Feminism. Young women were, for the first time, growing up without fear of pregnancy, without fear of sex before marriage, with the freedom to access education, healthcare and orchestrate their own careers. Women were no longer the property of their husbands or their fathers.
They belonged to themselves!
It was however, around this time when some critics began to sabotage the Second Wave and the movement by changing the way history viewed the feminists from this era, referring to them as:
“hairy-legged shrews who cared only about petty bullshit like bras instead of real problems”.
Women who were advocates of this wave of feminism were thought of as unattractive, unhappy, unsociable and down right man haters. And so came the end of the Second Wave of Feminism at the end of the 1980s.
The Third Wave of Feminism: 1990s - 2010…. Girl Power!
But as new beginnings are often disguised as painful endings, enter my next installment of the happymash Feminism Series: Wave Three of the Modern Feminism Movement. I like to think of this movement as The Spice Girls’ Feminism Wave, however I think that this is because I was 10 years of age in 1996. Girl Power!