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Influences on the Second Wave of Feminism

Throughout the history of our Country women have faced hardships that none others have. They have fought for equality and in some ways have been successful but because of others in this country with narrow minds, they have not been successful in all ways. Women took the path untraveled to arrive where we are today. They stood up like others would refuse to do, they took a stand when no others would, they kept fighting when others did not. Women not only have been fighting for equality and respect, but they also stepped forward when the country needed them. When the world was rocked by WWII women were there to take on the responsibilities to help push the country forward. During WWII (number) women worked jobs that beforehand had been dominated by men. However after the war, when the country and factories no longer needed women’s work they were let go, to only go back into the realm in which they were before. During the 1950’s women took a large step back into the domestic sphere. Women were again viewed as they were during the 1950’s, being only worthy as a mother and wife and influenced to stay only in the household. As women began to notice again that they were treated unfairly and with no respect in this domestic role they again began to stand up and try and make a change. But the path was dusty and it took a long time for the women to finally begin to make a change. The actions taken by men and women during the 50’s very much affected the feminist fight. It would take years to undo the views and reputations accompying women during the 50’s. Women have made a stand in this country that no minority can compare to. They had a rollercoaster fight but there were always those who kept fighting. Women are still fighting for equality and no one knows when this fight will truly be won, but one can only hope it is soon.

In the late 1930’s the world was rocked by World War Two. There were wars being fought throughout the world, affecting those countries both directly and indirectly involved. During the beginning years of WWII the United States wanted to take middle ground, while still supporting their allies. To do this President Roosevelt decided to create a plan that would “furnish the British great material support”. The plan would be called Lend-Lease, and it required factories across America to produce a great amount of war weaponry.

By 1941 when America entered in the war there was still a need for a mass amount of war machinery. “car factories, steel mills, and other industrial plants all over the country had begun signing contracts with the government to produce various types of war machinery. Many of these factories had to find more workers, however the majority of workers they would target for hire were now part of the war fight and were not able to work in the factories. Many factories were at a loss of workers and did not know who to hire. The only logical solution for the factories and government to produce the amount of machinery needed was to start recruiting women to work in the factories. In 1942 President Roosevelt addressed the issue of recruiting women into the workforce stating in a speech, “In some communities employers dislike to hire women. In others are reluctant to hire Negroes. We can no longer afford to indulge such prejudice.” This was when the country first came to the conclusion that women were truly needed to work in the factories. With the hiring of women many shifts occurred economically and culturally. Women were able to become financially independent, wear clothes that were not previously thought to be appropriate for women, and prove to men they were capable of working jobs that’s were once were predominantly men’s jobs. These changes had a great effect on the society in America.

When the idea of women joining the work force became a reality many men and even women forcefully objected this notion. In early 1943, a Gallup poll found only 30 percent of all husbands gave unqualified support to the idea of their wives working industrial war jobs. Many of these men were concerned that with their wives entering the work force, their households and families would fall apart. “About the only way to surmount these hurdles quickly and effectively, and get on with the work at hand, was for everyone to agree in principle that women working was a temporary fix for wartime, not a permanent change in American society.” The impact on society was huge; for the first time, women all over the country were taking the initiative to apply for jobs they never would have dreamed of working just a few years before. Although women were taking on these new roles, the majority of the population only supported it with the understanding that it was indeed a temporary change necessary for victory in the war. Once the majority of the nation came to this conclusion, women flooded the factories.

When the women entered the work force they began to feel a sense of accomplishment they had never felt before. Aside from gaining a feeling of responsibility, many women also gained financial independence. Polly Crow was one of these women, during the war Polly took a job at Jefferson Boat and Machine Company in Anderson, Indiana. In 1944 she wrote a letter to her husband who was fighting overseas. In one line of the letter she said, “Opened my first little checking account too and it’s a grand and glorious feeling to write a check all your own and not have to ask for one.” Women all over the country were feeling the benefits of working and being financially independent. Before the war women had never had to opportunity to be financially independent. Women had always depended on their husbands financially, never having opportunities to open checking accounts or be responsible for money. Many women even would have to ask their husbands for money any time they needed money, they had never had the chance to have their own money with which they could do whatever they chose. During the war women were making more money than they could have imagined making, and the money was their own. It was a sense of achievement many had never felt before.

Women not only began to have money in their own name but the fashion and style of dress for many women changed also. Before women began working in factories they would primarily wear dresses and very feminine styles of clothes. However many jobs that women began to work required women to wear clothes where they could work physically harder than they ever had before, in most cases this resulted in women discontinuing to wear dresses to work. LoRay Tewalt worked in an aircraft plant in California during the war, and she was one of many who changed her normal attire during the war. “I had never had a pair of slacks…When I found out we had to wear slacks, I bought two outfits and alternated them…I just about gave up dresses during the war,” she once said. Although wearing pants and dresses are articles of clothing, it was an important change and step forward in the eyes of women.

Before the war women were influenced to wear dresses at all times, and looked down upon if they wore pants. Society felt that a women wearing pants was going against the women’s ideal of femininity. It was thought that if a woman wore pants she was trying to be masculine and take on a man’s role which was a very negative thought. During the war women did have more freedom than ever before to wear what they please, however it seemed to change right as the war ended. The shift of the style of fashion seemed to go back to its roots after the war; again with the ideal that women were to wear dresses and other attire that would accentuate their feminine features. This step forward was short lived however thankfully the step forward in confidence was not.

The Second World War was also the first time in history women began to work side by side with men. These opportunities gave women the chance to prove to men that they were capable of working the same jobs as them. Women began to work physically difficult jobs and as a surprise to men, were completing them just as well as men. Shipbuilding was one specific job that had a long history as an all-male occupation. Katie Grant was one of thousands of women who worked in the shipbuilding industry. She worked as a welder at the Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond, California. When addressing her new job, Katie said, “I took classes on how to weld. I had leather gloves, leather pants, a big hood, goggles and a leather jacket…They put me forty feet down in the bottom of the ship to be a tacker…I liked it pretty good.” Katie, along with many others, worked jobs that which never before had been occupied by women. Before the war no physical jobs were ever considered suitable for women. Majority of the women who worked before the war worked clerical or waitress jobs, all of which were very low paying. The fact that women were able to work higher paying jobs and jobs that had previously been dominated by men gave women a new feeling of accomplishment. Women felt strong and confident that they, too, could work these difficult jobs and help their country in a time of need.

The shifts that came with women entering the work force not only affected the country but also affected women thoughts, morals and personal lives. Just as with the ratification of the 19th amendment, WWII helped women emerge into the public sphere. Before women were able to vote, women were supposed to remain out of the public eye, and stay in the home completing their domestic duties. Men feared that with women obtaining the vote they would venture into the public eye, disrupting the household, and taking away the women’s opportunity to care for her family and children. During the 19th century men would try to imply that the right to vote would “demoralize and degrade [women] from their high sphere and noble destiny…” With the women’s noble destiny and high sphere being the home and out of the public sphere. This view was very much the same as many views concerning women entering the work force during WWII. People across the country still shared the belief that women were to stay in the home, in a private and domestic sphere. There was worry that with women obtaining jobs, it would disrupt the American family, just as men had believed so many years before, concerning women’s right to vote. As women began to vote the country began to realize that families were not disrupted and that women voting was not an issue that needed to be as feared as it had been in the past. The country, although slowly, began to come to terms with the fact that women were capable of being part of the public sphere.

With the new roles women had during WWII women entered the public sphere even more so as when they gained the vote. Even though men did not want this to happen it was a necessity in order to win the war. With these new roles came much responsibility and caused women to gain more self confidence. Women started to feel like they could truly accomplish things they never thought possible before. Barbara Walls was just one woman who felt a new vast amount of self confidence. After working for a year during the war Barbara went on to attend NYU and get an English degree. When reflecting the influence that factory work had on her Barbara said, “That job was just a reinforcement of the idea that I could do anything. I went and did something I never thought of…The war job made that possible.” The traditional boundaries of a woman’s life were undone during WWII. Women were able to vote and represent themselves. They were also able to go to work and know they had done a job well done. This very much affected the mental ideas of women, they were finally becoming closer in society to men, which they had been fighting for, for so long.

The experiences that women had during WWII very much impacted the second wave of feminism. However, the responsibilities that women took on during the war seemed to be forgotten at wars end. During the war women learned that the issue of childcare was a very important issue that had not been addressed before. The war was the first time a mass amount of mothers worked and at the same time had to hold all the responsibilities of a mother. During the war the government too came to this realization and decided to help these working mothers. “In 1942 Congress passed a bill called the Lanham Act, which provided government funds for the establishment of child care centers in communities most affected by increased war production.” This act however did not hold for long, a few years later, women again were left with the responsibilities of being the sole caregiver of their children, a role that was all but easy. After the funding for the Lanham act was cut off many realized the government was only willing to provide childcare when they needed women in the work force. This angered many women, and sparked a new issue in the feminist movement.

National Organization for Women (NOW) emerged in the forefront in the second wave of feminism. The organization felt that childcare was a very important issue that needed to be addressed by the government. NOW felt that the fact that women were assigned almost all child-rearing responsibilities “put women at a disadvantage in employment and political participation because they shouldered a burden that men did not.” NOW was a strong advocate for universal childcare and in 1969 published Why Feminists Want Child Care, in this it was stated, “NOW believes that the care and welfare of children is incumbent on society and parents,” NOW saw the burdens that came forth on women during WWII in accordance with caring for their children and working and knew something needed to be done. Child care was a very important issue during the second wave of feminism, and it was rooted from the experiences mothers had during WWII. The war did not only influence women to begin fighting and demanding universal child care, but also influenced women to start fighting for equal pay.

The experiences women had during the war brought “equal pay” in addition to childcare to the forefront of the women’s fight for equality. During the war women began to work jobs identical to jobs worked by men. With this, women soon came to notice that they were being paid significantly less than the men they were working with. Factories had no justification for paying women less, and the only way some factories were able find their own “appropriate” excuse was to give jobs different titles. For instance “in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, women were called ‘helper trainees’ and men were called ‘mechanical learners’ for the same job. But helper trainees made less money.” The fact that they were paid less for doing identical jobs as men angered many women. Women who had joined unions during this time with the belief that the unions would fight for what women wanted in the work place. However in many cases unions did not fight for what women wanted with the concern that if they did, the unions would lose their male support and members. During the 1960’s when women again began really taking a stand for their rights they knew that equal pay was a very important issue. Women had encountered first hand receiving less pay for jobs identical to men, and brought this issue as a leading force for women’s fight for equal rights.

During the Second World War women took advantage of opportunities they had never been offered before. However sadly it seemed that as soon as the war was over women went back into the domestic sphere and the opportunities to hold factory jobs seemed to be taken way from under them. Women were fired with no justification, causing them to go back into the home, as it was before the war, with no job in addition to the job of being a mother. Not only did the loss of jobs push women back into the home, but after the war ended many Anglo-Americans moved to suburbs in hopes of attaining the American dream of home ownership in a rural setting. Federal government made it possible for many Americans to move to news developed suburbs away from cities, by providing low income families with loans. Many of these suburbs were located quite far from cities, with limited jobs in these areas. Women seemed to have no control in the fact that they were pushed back into the private sphere upon wars end.

As the war ended women did not have the option to continue working the jobs that they did during the war. The promise from the beginning of the war, that factory jobs were temporary until the men came home was being fulfilled. As men came home from the war women were expected to step aside and give factory jobs back to men. The society and men thought that women should return to their “rightful” sphere, which was the home, because there was now no more need for them in the factories. Charlcia Neuman was one of the women whose job was taken away from her when the war ended. She had been work since 1942 as a riveter at Vultee Aircraft near Los Angeles. She was laid off in September of 1945, “I just got a slip of paper saying that I wouldn’t be needed again…The idea was for the women to go back home.” Women all over the country were also getting these pink slips. Women losing their jobs took their opportunity to work away from them and with no choice women were forcefully pushed back into the private sphere once again. At this same time, the government started offering loans to low income families so as to populate new developed suburban areas.

After the war the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration guaranteed housing loans with low down payments and low interest rates to millions of families with limited incomes. The vast number of families trying to obtain a home increased the demand for housing. Developers responded to this by building a multitude of small identical houses in rural areas that were not previously developed areas. As many families moved to these suburban areas the women came to learn that once again they were pushed to be solely domestic figures. Many mothers had the burden of more domestic duties placed upon them with moving to the rural areas. It seemed that husbands were gone for longer amounts of time because of the time they had to spend commuting to cities for their jobs. Schools, stores and train stations were also further away from the suburban areas so the mothers found that they spend much more time transporting their children around. It was at this time that the “station wagon” became the main means of transportation for the suburban middle class families. The “American Dream” that so many families wanted to come true for their own families seemed to be one of the forces that push women back into the private and domestic sphere after the war. With the returning role of head of the domestic household again and ideal was created “defining” the way a woman was to be.

During the 1950’s the definition of a woman again, as it was in the 19th century, was to be a mother and wife above all else. All over the country there were comments, commercials, handbooks, magazines and all else you could think of, teaching a woman how to be a better mother or housewife. Both media and society implied to women that they were to be dependent on her husband and obey his every word. It was thought that women were to stay in the home so as to be the perfect role model for their children. Psychologists found the causes of both schizophrenia and male homosexuality I overbearing mothers. The ideal woman during the 1950’s was; a stay at home mother who put both her children and husband above herself.

All over the country there were outside influences on women, pushing them to be a “better” housewife. One specific example of an ad was a 1950’s Kellogg’s PEP vitamins, picturing a housewife with her husband hugging her from behind. It shows the mother smiling and looking to the sky, while wearing an apron and holding a duster. Her husband is looking into her eyes and is saying “So the harder a wife works the cuter she looks!” There is a smaller picture in the corner showing a conversation between the husband and wife. The husband asks his wife how she thrives on “cooking, cleaning and dusting” and her response is “Vitamins darling! I always get my vitamins.” Although this is just an ad for vitamins it had a much greater affect on how women were “supposed” to be. There were similar ads across America, picturing women as the domestic housewife married to the working husband. In almost all the ads women were pictured cleaning, cooking and doing other housework. The media during the 50’s pressured women to be, a hard working housewife.

In addition to being the “perfect” housewife, during the 1950’s there was much pressure on women to be the “perfect” mothers. In 1947 Marynia Farnham, a female psychoanalyst, and Ferdinand Lundberg, a male sociologist, published Modern Women: The Lost Sex. The book was an explanation to what they perceived to be a women’s confusion and despair in present-day American culture. They blamed the confusion and despair on women’s rejection of their essential domestic role and their desire to compete with men in the public spheres of business and politics. The authors thought that a women’s fundamental role was to be a wife and a mother and that in order to be a good mother and a good role model for her children, she was not to try and strive or a job outside the home. The book stated, “If, however, the mother is beset by distaste for her role, strives for accomplishment outside her home and can only grudgingly give attention to her children…then, no matter how much or little of it she betrays, the child cannot escape the confused impression that the mother is without love, is not a satisfactory model.” This implied to women and men all over the world that a woman was in no way near a sufficient mother is she wanted experiences outside her home.

The authors also stated that when the two spheres (domestic and public) are combined, “it is inevitable that one or the other will become of secondary concern and, this being the case, it is certain that the home will that that position.” Farnham and Lundberg believed that there was no job that a woman could attain that would not take precedence over all other concerns, and in a woman’s life the other concern would be her home and family. The fact that an established psychoanalyst and sociologists were making these claims concerning women very much affected society’s view on women. With the book, it gave many people in the country reinforcement to their beliefs that a woman’s role was in the home. And all other roles would take away from a women’s level of competence to be a good and caring mother and wife.

Women being pushed back into the domestic and private sphere took a huge negative toll on the lives of the wives and mothers. Women began to come forward and talk with other women about issues they were starting to have. Many women were becoming depressed however with no knowledge of it actually being depression, and with no thoughts to why they were feeling the way they were. Being pushed into these spheres also caused women to notice that they did not have true freedom even in the household. Wives were taught that one was to have sex with her husband and grant him any sexual favors whenever he wanted. Society influenced women that sex was only to pleasure men and that if you were a women and wanted sex then something was wrong with you. In addition to having sex whenever a husband wished, sex before marriage was very much looked down upon. Women began to notice that society felt there should be consequences if a woman were to become pregnant before marriage. These consequences brought the issue of sexual freedom and birth control to women because they began to realize how the ideal of the society with these issues negatively affected women across the nation.

As women began to feel symptoms that mirrored depression they did not know who to turn to. When they would turn to their peers the only conclusion that would come forth would be that the other women were also having these feelings however no one who why or what it was. However in 1963 Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, in it addressing the issue that some many women found at hand. Freidan came to the conclusion and documented that there was a pervasive unhappiness among American middle-class women, she dubbed this “the problem with no name”. She defined this problem “as a relentless and dissatisfaction with full-time homemaking, especially among women who had attended elite colleges and had envisioned broader lives for themselves.”

Women across the country did know what was happening to them, with the media and society imprinting their minds with the definition of a perfect mother and wife, many women thought something was wrong with them. Some women would say “I feel empty somehow…incomplete.” Or she would say, “I feel as if I don’t exist.” Women were unhappy with their lives however thought asking for more freedom was not acceptable. Women all over the country during the 1950’s were suffering from depression however, had no idea. The impact of pushing women back into the private and domestic sphere took a great toll on the lives of these women however; sadly, it took many years for women to once again really feel a sense of individuality and happiness.

With this feeling of resentment of the home life and the dreaded roles of being the perfect mother was the not the only effect on women during the 1950’s. During the 1950’s there were many conservative views engrained in society. Women were to not have sex until marriage, and if they did they were looked down upon. However also during this time sex was not a topic that was generally talked about, or one that many girls were knowledgeable about. As girls became older they realized that in some cases they would have sex before marriage. However many did not know the consequences coming. There was very limited access to birth control and it was generally only married women to whom it would acceptable to supply it to.

Even as premarital sex became from frequent among youth there was still little access to sex education and little access to firms of birth control for these women. One women addressed pregnancies in high school and reactions to them, “you were shunned if you were pregnant…You were all supposed to be virgins and the ones that got pregnant it was like…oh, she was no good, she was promiscuous.” As young girls did become pregnant one solution society came up with was to isolate the girls until they gave birth and at this time take the child and give it up for adoption with no consent from the mother. The actions that people took in response to non-married women being pregnant hurt these women. Their lives were affected from that moment on. The memories of the way they were shunned and the way they were treated would never leave. The fact that these young women did not have access to birth control and were not “allowed” to be sexually active helped women realize that birth control and sexual freedom was something that was needed to be allowed to all men and women, married or unmarried. During the 1950’s men felt that they had the superiority to tell women how they were to act and what was and was not allowed. For hundreds of years men had been above women in society and men did not want this to change. However during WWII it was the first time in the history of our country that women took responsibilities that compared to men’s. Women proved that they could compete with men for physical jobs and take on roles they had never held before. It seems that with seeing this many men were concerned that they would lose their superiority in society so they felt it necessary to hold on the feminine ideal and keep women again in the private sphere and out of the public sphere.

As people look back upon the 1950’s many view it as an innocent and happy period in our nation’s history. However this is just what the time looked like from the exterior. On the inside women were not happy, they were treated unfairly and it was one of the bedrocks for the second wave of feminism. However just by looking one may not know this. From onlookers this was a time when people across the country finally reached the “American Dream”. Families moved to suburbs and got the white picket fence that is all too often associated with the “American Dream”. Families seemed to almost be like story book families. From the outside the families seemed perfect. Fathers were the ones who worked; mothers loved their roles and did everything in life so as to be a better mother and wife. The 1950’s is too often portrayed as a happy and innocent period. The fact that people are not knowledgeable with what people in this time wer truly feeling just goes to show our society focuses too much on how things appear to be, without really knowing how something was in reality. During the 1950’s the influences and effects of society on women very much set the tone for the second wave of feminism. Their experiences during this time helped women realize it was not how they truly wanted to live their lives. The issues concerning birth control was a main issue that women realized was of importance and should be addressed. Legalizing birth control was one important necessity that women felt was needed. So they fought to make this happen. Another experience women had during the 1950’s that affected the second wave of feminism, was the style of dress for women. During the 1950’s again women were thought to have to dress a certain way. Women either dressed very conservative and feminine, and were considered “good girls” or dressed more revealing, and were more promiscuous and were considered “bad girls”. Women did not have the freedom to dress as they please to truly reflect the person they were. By the way women dressed they were characterized into one of the two groups, there was no in between. With the experiences women had during the 1950’s involving sexual freedom pushed women to fight to legalize birth control. “If you wanted to get birth-control pills, you had to be flashing a diamond solitaire.” Unless you were married “Doctors really didn’t give them to you. Why would you need those? You shouldn’t be having sex anyways.” One women said when addressing the accessibility of birth control during the 1950’s and 1960’s. The way the women were treated concerning birth control caused women to start fighting for the right to legalize birth control across the nation. Women were fighting for access to birth control did not mean they were fighing to change the way premarital sex was viewed. Women merely wanted women to have the right to choose what to do with their own bodies. Women knew that premarital sex did exist and that in order to help these women not become pregnant when they did not want to, they had to have birth control accessible to both married and unmarried women.

The experiences concerning sex were not the only experiences that impacted the second wave of feminism. During the 1950’s there was much resistance to the way women dressed. “In 1947 Paris designer Christian Dior introduced the “New Look”. It featured long, full skirts, held out by crinoline petticoats, with a defined bosom and a tiny waist. Not since the Victorian era had women’s fashion been so confining.” Women’s dress also became more sexualized during this time. Girdles and padded bras were popular, breasts shaped by bras to pointed shapes resembling the tops of bombs. During the 1950’s women who wanted to be their own individual did not have the freedom to dress as they pleased. Women knew that this too was an issue that needed to be addressed. During the second of wave of feminism women began to make a stand that women should be able to dress the way they please. This was very similar to when in the 19th Century many feminists stopped wearing dresses. In both cases women were trying to prove the same point that women should have the freedom to dress as they please. The second wave of feminism stood up for a women’s right to choose how to dress.

The second wave of feminism was a great step forward for women. It helped women gain the independence they had always wanted. Women gained more with the second wave of feminism than they had ever accomplished before. By all means the first wave was the beginning step towards these accomplishments but it seemed like the second wave of feminism was the final battle. With the second wave of feminism there were governmental changes that were in favor of widening the rights given to women. There were changes in the lives of women going on during the second wave that were steps forward for them. One specific change was Title VII. Title VII was part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It created an agency (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, EEOC) that was to investigate complaints of racial or sexual discrimination in the work place. Another change that came forth with the second wave was women began to have more power and knowledge concerning their bodies. They began to have more freedom and individuality.

In 1964 women felt that finally some of their fighting may have significantly paid off. This was the year the EEOC was created. Women had faith in this agency that they would bring equality to the work environment and that maybe for once in history women would finally be equal with men under employment. However their wishes did not seem to be granted. As the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was being debated in congress, some felt that including women in the act would cause it to not be passed. Still during this time many people thought that blacks did not derserve the same rights as whites. As this Act began to seem like it would be passed many Southern politicians thought that they could find a way to stop it. They decided to add sexual discrimination into the act. They hoped that with the inclusion of women some northern politicians who would have accepted it with racial discrimination as the forefront would not accept it if women were included. The south hoped that including women would be enough to sway some of these men’s minds. However this was not the case. The act was passes and women were included in it. Women saw this as a great triumph but many men saw this as a “fluke” and did not want the EEOC to investigate sexual discrimination the work place. As a result the EEOC did not seem to investigate complaints to an equal extent. Racial complaints were addressed but it did not seem like sexual complaints were getting the attention that they deserved.

The director, of EEOC, Herman Edelsberg called Title VII, “as fluke…conceived out of wedlock. There are people on this commission who think that no man should be required to have a male secretary and I am one of them.” Women learned that even majority of the government viewed sexual discrimination as a joke. However this did not cause women to give up. Women still fought and demanded that the EEOC support women the way they needed to. Women knew this was indeed a step forward but had to prove to others that it was too. 1968 the EEOC finally barred segregated want ads , which was an important issue to women. Newspaper topic conferencing women had always been in a different part of the newspaper and women knew that, that was a form of segregation. Finally when women were successful in barring the ads, women seemed to gain more confidence that the law may be going the needed direction. Although the EEOC did not right away support women it seemed to change and women were happy with this. They seemed to appreciate any step forward no matter how small or how long it took. It was still a step forward and that’s all that mattered to women. Finally women were started to be viewed equal in the work force and sexual discrimination started to be addressed.

The second wave of feminism brought many steps forward in women’s body and health issues that were before problematic. For all of history men thought they were the ones who knew all about a women’s body and that a women should only know when men chose to tell them. Women did not know about their reproductive systems or any health issues concerning their “private areas”. One woman talked about one visit to the doctor’s office, “On my next visit, Deb came with me. When I introduced her and told the doctor that she wanted to watch the examination, he said was against his ethics. When we questioned him further as to what he meant, he said, ‘Look, dear, I just can’t do it.’ I was stunned.” Even as women began asking questions doctors would not answer them saying that it was inappropriate. Women were kept in the dark concerning issues with their body and their health. The second wave of feminism helped women gain the knowledge of issues concerning their bodies. Never before had this been the case, it had always been that women did not need to know anything other than they were supposed to have children, society thought they did not need to know anything else concerning their bodies. After the 1950’s women were finally given the freedom to ask questions and know facts that had never known before. Women were finally taught things concerning their body and health, and finally it was acceptable to talk about this topic.

After WWII men knew that the nation was changing. Women began to have more personal responsibility and gain more independence. There was much resistance to this because women never before in history played a leading role in society. Just as the 19th century, men wanted women in the private sphere and did not want to accept the fact that women were leaving that sphere. There were also women across the nation who felt a women’s role was in the home and it was no appropriate for a woman to leave this sphere.

Rebecca Klatch was one of these women who were against leaving the domestic sphere. She argued that “in demanding social, economic, and political equality for women, feminists have undermined women’s traditional roles in American society.” She was one of many who believed that a woman’s role of wife and mother was what holds a family and larger society together. She said, “Feminism is a threat, then, because when women pursue self-interest, not only is the family neglected but also ultimately women become more like men…In short, the underlying fear expressed by this critique of feminism is the fear of a total masculinization of the world.” The country was still caught up upon the idea that a woman leaving the domestic sphere would ruin a family. People did not want to even think of the idea of a man working in the domestic sphere being the caregiver of the family.

In addition to the thought of it destroying the household some people still looked at the bible as a reason for women to stay in the domestic sphere. In 1980 a Reverend names Jerry Falwall addressed the issue of women’s equality, specifically talking about women wanted the Equal Rights Amendment. He like many in the 19th century wanted to focus on the idea that a woman in reality was above men. Falwall concluded that the ERA would “accomplish exactly the opposite of its outward claims. By mandating an absolute equality under the law, it will actually take away many of the special rights women not enjoy.” In addition to arguing this idea Falwall also stated the ERA was also a moral issue. “A definite violation of holy Scripture, ERA defies the mandate that ‘the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church’ (Ephesians 5:23),” Changing the construct of the ideal woman was something that many in society did not want to happen. Whether it was because it went against the bible, or because of the fear it would tear apart the family, it was still an issue many would need to learn to cope with. Women were emerging from the domestic sphere whether others agreed with it or not.

Although there have been many changes since the 1950’s the ideal women of that time still plays a role in our society. There are still many images in media picturing women as an ideal mother or housewife that are very similar to the 1950’s. There are also a number of magazines that are to help and teach women roles of being a mother. There are magazines such as Good Housekeeping; which is has health tips, stories, recipies, decorating ideas, all which still imply certain roles a women should complete, and, Better Home and Gardens; again including recipies, decorating ideas and other ways to improve your home. Both of these magazines are to teach women how to complete tasks in the home, which are very similar tasks to those that women were “required” to complete during the 1950’s. Another example of the way the 1950’s have affected out nation today is the many jokes that refer back to this time. Many people still make comments implying women are to be in the kitchen. To let the man hold the superior role in the family and to hold the high paying “important” roles. There are magnets, napkins, and calendars all inscribed with jokes that picture an ideal 1950’s housewife or husband saying comments implying a woman should stay in the home or wait on her husband hand and foot. It is sad but it seems like women will never truly gain the respect they deserve or need. Women have came a long way but are still looked down upon when they demand more respect and equality.

Women | Society


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