In a time of needed social stability and conformity in all aspects due to war and political turmoil, women were one of the most targeted groups that needed to be contained. The countries commitment to social and cultural norms called for women to remain domestic in nature, not to pursue educational or career-oriented goals, and remain subordinate to men (Baxandall 707). Even if women were as well educated, informed, opinionated and charming with their words as their male counterparts, they still were expected to be subordinate to them in all aspects of life. This level of constriction, along with a lack of rights, respect, and opportunities was a major driving force for the liberation of women and a wave of feminism (Baxandall 706).
Though the women’s liberation movement changed everything from everyday life to politics to familial life and cultural norms, a lot of the accomplishments made by this movement weren’t present until decades later when stigmas against women and government laws had been changed and took effect. But the larger than life changes made by these women (and men) were innumerable. In Baxandall and Gordon’s “The Women’s Liberation Movement,” they stated changes such as “the legalization of abortions, rape shield laws, affirmative action programs that aim to correct past discrimination,” (Baxandall 717). But also “changes in the way people live, dress, dream of their future, and make a living,” (Baxandall 717). “Women successfully fought their exclusion from medical research; diseases affecting women, such as breast and ovarian cancer,” (Baxandall 717). They made “violence against women…become a public political issue; made rape, incest, battering, and sexual harassment understood as crimes,” (Baxandall 717). All these things that are present and logical in our lives today were fought for and won by these women 40 and 50 years ago when they weren’t common sense to our society.
Where most backlash for these massive social changes was seen was by the conservative side of our culture – our republicans in office, our traditional religious groups, our right-wing companies and lobbyists, and our misogynists. They pulled together to fight back against the liberation of women and changes in the communities. The best ways they could do this was by using their money and influence and spreading misinformation about the movement to try and counteract how popular and supported feminism was and is (Baxandall 718). But what was obvious then, and still is now, is that equality IS popular, and people WILL support things that make sense like basic human rights, respect, and equal opportunities for all people, not just women (Baxandall 718).
Even though these incredible battles were fought and won with our grandmothers, the need for social change and cultural evolution never dies. Baxandall and Gordon go on to say, “Feminist groups continue to work on specific issues such as reproductive rights, rape, violence against women, sweatshops, sexism in the media, union organizing, and welfare rights,” (Baxandall 718). If it is not already clear in our everyday lives that women are still not socially equal to men, women only hold 17% of Congressional seats, 3% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women, women make 77% of what men earn and mothers make even less than that, and the statistics continue (Jank 28-31). Even though the social changes forged decades ago were thought to be “radical,” they need to continue to be for us to become equal in all ways to our male counterparts.
Baxandall, Rosalyn, and Gordon, Linda. “The Women’s Liberation Movement.” Women’s America: Refocusing the Past, pp. 706, 707, 717, 718., Oxford University Press, 2016.
Jank, Sharon, and Lindsay Owens. “Inequality in the United States.” Gender, pp. 28–31., web.stanford.edu/group/scspi/slides/Inequality_SlideDeck.pdf