In January of 2017, over a million women from different age groups, races and religions came together to march in the roads and cross section of major United States cities of Chicago, Denver, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. The reason behind the march was not because these women were being “emotional” about the outcome of the 2016 election, but to raise their voice about their political rights as women. The idea of raising one’s voice, did not arise from the election, but in the early 1950’s. Women of the 1950’s were coming back to being housewives once again after working in factories throughout world war II. However, some women tasted the forbidden fruit of the work field and wanted to continued what they started; setting the stage for the women’s liberation movement.
The pre-movement of the 1950’s set the stage up for what was known as the “second-wave of Feminism” of the 1960s-1970s. Women during this time were beginning to feel the pressures of society weight down upon them as they were denied equal opportunities with minimal rights and respect. Women were met with discrimination, harassment, and prejudice as they went to universities and into the work force. During a time of cultural rebellion and political challenges, such as the civil rights, the movement could blossom. During that time, the Women’s movement was able to build a network among women’s organizations which included African Americans, and create the National Organization of Women or NOW in 1966. A year later, President Johnson passed an Executive order of prohibiting sex discrimination by federal contractors. The movement was able to in 1973, the legalization of abortion through the court case of Roe vs. Wade, the passing of federal guidelines against coercive sterilization, rape shield laws that encourage women to prosecute their attackers. The liberation movement was also able to change the way people lived, dressed, dream of their futures, and make a living. However, with these improvements in life there were also criticisms.
As the movement was in the full swing of political, economic, and social change, there were challenges from the onset of men and women themselves. Men did not understand why women needed economic independence to leave the comforts of home as their sole purpose in life was to take care of the household. The group itself had a dilemma with the diversity of women involved which lead to difficulties of keeping the women unified. Gaps in the groups tended to have no structure of how to keep them organized; Some women who were unsatisfied with the outcomes of the movement soon became hostile toward their leaders. And with such hostility, women soon became reluctant to assert leadership roles in their groups. By the end of the 1970’s the women’s liberation movement soon disbanded.
The women’s liberation movement was pushed forward by pioneers, who had to overcome challenges, just to reach success in a male dominated world. With the multiple accomplishments that they were able to succeed in, there is still challenges that remain. Today, Women are faced with a wage gap of 20 percent to that of men with the same education. Sex trafficking is another huge epidemic that is occurring throughout the United States. How are we as the leaders of this “third-wave of Feminism” take on these challenges? Women of the 21st century have only been able to live the way they do through the pioneers of a movement that started because they asked the question, “Is this it?”.
Kerber, Linda, et.al. Women’s America. 8th edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.