Free Feminist Movement: Impact Of The 1960s Essay Sample

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Women, Feminism, Women's Rights, Gender Equality, Politics, Social Issues, Movement, United States

Pages: 2

Words: 550

Published: 2020/11/05

Like many types of discrimination, gender discrimination is an act, procedure, or policy that hinders and/or denies individuals equal treatment predicated primarily on their membership in a socially constructed and fictive category such as gender. Such prejudices have very little to do with the existence of women. Rather, they are primarily concerned with power, as men want to preserve their historical advantages and hegemony (Puaca, 2014). Discrimination against women in the workplace is the most likely setting for such prejudicial behaviors to occur as a result of its public nature. Feminism has functioned as an critical tool and mechanism to break down the intrinsic inequality in patriarchal societies such as the United States. Feminists view gender as a social construct and a biological fiction that nonetheless has real, material consequences. The etiology of the fight for women's rights in the United States stems from the middle of the nineteenth century when women sought to gain the right to vote, economic agency as wage earners, and reproductive autonomy and sexual freedom. It laid the foundation not only for the birth control movement but also for women's enfranchisement through the passage of the nineteenth amendment in 1920. After a relatively successful first-wave feminist movement, beginning in the 1960s, a second-wave addressed various issues such as workplace discrimination, reproductive autonomy, and political agency which could not be rectified solely through legal means. Feminists took advantage of the political landscape in the 1960s and 1970s by deploying grassroots tactics to push for political change and chafe against patriarchal strictures (Zeitz, 2008, p. 675). Various media forums such newspapers elucidate how second-wave feminism during the 1960s profoundly affected the trajectory of the feminist movement, which resulted in women carving out a bigger role for themselves in the public arena.
Second-wave feminism during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s addressed various types of discrimination women faced both inside and outside of the workplace. It played a formative role in transforming gender roles and expectations by opening up avenues for women in the public sphere that they traditionally lacked access to. Adler (1976) observed that women indeed garnered a sense of autonomy as they were able to work and earn wages in order to support themselves, albeit at a much lower compensation rate than their male counterparts (Adler, 1976), Nonetheless, the second-wave of the ongoing feminist movement emerged to the fore of the American consciousness as a result of the return of the cult of domesticity in the aftermath of World War II, which various television shows such as Leave It to Beaver! and I Love Lucy demonstrate (Dubois & Dumenil, 2005, p. 593). Various strands of this second-wave feminism sought to attain political and economic equality in various ways. Although women during the 1960s and 1970s vis-à-vis the feminist movement chafed against inherent sexism in political and economic institutions, the conservative, anti-feminist movement and the strong cultural backlash so explicit in various media outlets restricted the extent they could push for true equality. Adler (1976) penned a newspaper article that examined how women in public who assumed traditionally male occupations were discursively framed as criminals. Nonetheless, women's activities during the 1960s and 1970s fundamentally shifted women's political and cultural role in the United States, sparking debates about gender, sex and family in public discourses and political circles.
The fight for reproductive rights brought feminism to the center of U.S. politics during this tumultuous epoch. Beginning in 1967, a litany of states began to liberalize their abortion laws by decriminalizing women who sought to terminate their unwanted pregnancies through backdoor means. The landmark Supreme Court decision entitled Roe v. Wade in 1954 legalized abortion nationally, forcing all states to decriminalize abortion and grant women reproductive agency and autonomy. Although a watershed movement in women's reproductive rights, many states effectively rewrote their laws by inserting loopholes in the federal law that restrict abortion in many diverse ways and limited women's access to birth control (Dubois & Dumenil, 2005, p. 649). Although various Supreme Court cases sought to overturn the seminal court decision, by 1973, it became apparent that abortion law reform as manifested in Roe v. Wade would remain codified and untouchable (Kay, 2000, p. 2059). Beyond having access to birth control and abortion, feminists widened the scope of reproductive rights by launching campaigns against forced sterilization, which mainly affected non-white women. Public health officials wanted to control who could give birth and who could not. Often, poor, subaltern women were the main targets in order to alleviate the strain their children would have on the welfare system. One poster shows subaltern women standing together under the slogan "STOPPED FORCED STERILIZATION"—written both in English and in Spanish--which suggests that minority women began voicing their political grievances during this epoch by participating in the feminist movement (Dubois & Dumenil, 2005, p. 648). Thus, feminism during the 1960s and 1970s helped women develop a framework to view their own lives and exercise a degree of political and economic agency by pushing for political and social changes. These changes would profoundly impact their role and place in American society for many generations to come.
Women's rights and the feminist movement throughout U.S. history has always functioned on a trajectory whereby women gained rights but quickly lost their gains once cultural conservatism dominated public sentiments and discourses. Equality in the workplace as well as equal access to educational opportunities became significant issues for women during the 1960s and 1970s. Moreover, reproductive rights and the Equal Rights Amendment brought feminism into the national spotlight. Indeed, the gains women made during the 1960s prompted some observers to speculate whether or not they would eventually dismantle male hegemony in order for equality between men and women to materialize (Luce, 1976). Thus, the gains made during the 1960s unequivocally inspired a sense of optimism in women and social observers alike. Although women secured a degree of reproductive autonomy and political agency, the women’s rights social movement suffered from a cultural backlash. The failures of the second-wave feminist movement during the 1960s and 1970s rendered “feminism” a pejorative term that would not retain any potency or currency for over three decades.


Adler, F. (1976). Women and crime: Exercising the right to go wrong. The Washington Post. Retrieved February 9, 2-15 from
DuBois, E.C. & Dumenil, L. (2005). Through women's eyes: an American history with documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's.
Kay, H.H. (2000). From the second sex to the joint venture: An overview of women's rights AND family law in the United States during the twentieth century."California Law Review , 88(6), 2017-2093.
Luce, C.B. (1974). The 21st century woman—free at last? Los Angeles Times, retrieved February 9, 2015 from
Puaca, L. (2014). Searching for scientific womanpower: Technocratic feminism and the politics of national security, 1940-1980. North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press.
Zeitz, J. (2008). Rejecting the center: Radical grassroots politics in the 1970s--second wave feminism as a case study. Journal of Contemporary History, 43(4), 673-688. .

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"Free Feminist Movement: Impact Of The 1960s Essay Sample," Free Essay Examples -, 05-Nov-2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 28-May-2022].
Free Feminist Movement: Impact Of The 1960s Essay Sample. Free Essay Examples - Published Nov 05, 2020. Accessed May 28, 2022.

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