No Longer a Second Sex: A Brief Look at Second-Wave Feminism

Being the second part in a series on different feminisms. The first part was: ‘First Wave Feminism: The Movement That is Taken For Granted’

Second-wave feminism, sometimes referred to as Women’s Liberation, was the continued advocacy of women’s rights from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. The activism of the second wave of feminism could be said to be a direct continuation of the work of the first wave. Amongst the things advocated for were equal pay, equal hiring opportunities and rights to contraception and abortions. They also advocated for divorce, a right to property in the case of a divorce, and the right not to have an incident of rape by their husband or partner be considered legal.

The second wave of feminism was inspired by and inspired such books as The Feminine Mystique, such publications as Ms. Magazine and such organizations as the National Organization of Women.

This wave shows a growth in theory and feminist academia, as well as a carving out of women’s spaces (from The Feminist Women’s Health Center, The Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective and Virago Press, a British feminist press to the first Haven House, The American Coalition of Labor Union Women and countless organizations for women of color – The North American Indian Women’s Association, Comision Femenil Mexican Nacional, The Mexican-American Women’s National Association, The National Association of Cuban-American Women, The National Black Feminist Organization and many more).

However, it can be questioned how successful some of the political successes of this time period were. Roe V. Wade, Griswold V. Connecticut and Eisenstadt V. Baird were all successes in the courts that advanced the rights of women to have control and say-so over their own bodies while Schultz V. Wheaton Glass Co. and Pittsburgh Press Co. V. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations were cases that fought for the equal employment opportunities of women.

But even by the most specific estimates (estimating by comparing a woman in one position to a man in the same position) still leaves women earning 6.6 cents less than men (AAUW), which suggests a lack of success (but not necessarily failure) from the passage of the Equal Pay Act, even fifty years later. Other estimates suggest American women only earn 77 cents to every dollar an American male makes (NWLC), while African American women working full time, year round were paid only 64 cents, Hispanic women only 55 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-hispanic men and Asian women working full time, year round were paid only 78 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men (Wal-Mart V. Dukes: New Hurdles For Women Employees – Fact Sheet by NWLC).

Further 2010 data shows that white women earned 78.1 percent compared to white men, African American women earned 89.9 percent compared to black men, Hispanic women earned 91.3 percent compared to Hispanic men, and Asian women earned 79.7 percent compared to Asian men (AmericanProgress.Org).

Overall, amongst men and women, African Americans earned only 58.7 percent of what white non-Hispanics earned, while Hispanics earned only 69.2 percent of what white, non-Hispanics earned (

All that isn’t to say that the second wave of feminism wasn’t successful, the things it did for women in twenty years was impressive, opening up colleges and fair education to women, opening up job opportunities in everything from the military to sports and electing women to public office, even having during this time Barbara Charline Jordan, a Congresswoman from Texas, who was the first African-American woman keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention.

Michelle Arrow, an Australian Professor, sums up the hopes and goals of the second wave of feminism, as well as feminism since then by having said, “One project of second wave feminism was to create ‘positive’ images of women, to act as a counterweight to the dominant images circulating in popular culture and to raise women’s consciousness of their oppressions.”

The second wave of feminism also started an important conversation still ongoing today that was to be the end of it. With the founding of New York Radical Women by Shulamith Firestone and Pam Allen and the protest of the 1968 Miss America Pageant led by Robin Morgan, the conversation on sex, sexuality and pornography was brought to the forefront of feminism.

Some Second Wave Feminists of Interest:

Betty Friedan – See The Feminine Mystique

Gloria Steinem and Letty Cottin Pogrebin – See Ms. Magazine

Kate Millett – See Sexual Politics

Shulamith Firestone – See The Dialectic of Sex ; Redstockings

Germaine Greer – See The Female Eunuch

Sheila Rowbotham – See Women’s Liberation and the New Politics

Juliet Mitchell – See Woman’s Estate

Susan Brownmiller – See Against Our Will ; In Our Time ; Femininity

Susan Griffin – See Pornography and Silence

Alice S. Rossi – See Equality Between the Sexes: An Immodest Proposal

Valerie Solanas – See SCUM Manifesto

Mary Daly – See The Church and the Second Sex

Toni Cade Bambara – See The Black Woman

Marsha Rowe and Rosie Boycott – See Spare Rib

Nawal El-Saadawi – See Women and Sex

Categories: feminism, Jessica Fisher | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “No Longer a Second Sex: A Brief Look at Second-Wave Feminism

  1. Pingback: Today’s Feminism: A Brief Look at Third-Wave Feminism | Being Feminist

  2. Pingback: Suffragette - The Early Feminists - Cultural Weekly

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