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Part Two History of Second Wave Feminism

While Maggie May was writing her “Womankind” column for UNO’s Gateway Newspaper, the United States was in the midst of what is now known as the Second Wave Feminism Movement. Specific concerns of American women from the early 60s to the late 70s were discussed in Maggie’s articles, including better wages for female workers and the idea that the sexual revolution was harming, rather than helping women at that time. For example, Ms. Magazine featured a “Then and Now” in their Fall 2007 issue of women’s occupations and salaries in the 70s versus 2007. In 1972, women earned 59 cents for every dollar men earned whereas in 2007 women earned 77 cents for every dollar men earned. Also, that same year, women owned 4.6% of businesses as sole or majority owners, whereas they owned 40% in 2006, signifying a major jump (Ms. Magazine). Feminism and its waves have each had specific rights or issues for which were fought, but ultimately it has always stemmed from the concept of equality between the sexes. An overview of Feminism and its waves is necessary when discussing issues of this caliber and to better understand Maggie May and her Womankind articles.

In United States history, there have thus far been three Women’s Liberation Movements. The First Wave arguably began in 1792 with the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman and lasted until the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 (fig. 1), a seventy-two year struggle that finally granted women the right to vote.

Suffragettes supporting Woodrow Wilson’s views on giving the women the vote.

Feminism became hushed as the United States saw two World Wars, but rose again upon the arrival of the Vietnam War. The Second Wave occurred from the 1960s to the crusade for the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982. The Third began in 1992, eventually winding down before the arrival of the new millennium (Head). The Third Wave saw the birth of gender bending, the riot grrrl feminist punk rock movement, and discrimination-fighting artists the Guerilla Girls, who wore gorilla masks to hide their identities. It has been argued though that the origins of Feminism have dated back much further than the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; whether it was Aspasia in the mid-400s B.C.E Greece or Eve herself in the proverbial Garden of Eden, women throughout history have tested the boundaries instilled in society concerning the ideas of male dominance and superiority over the sexes.

A common misconception is that the Second Wave began with the protest and alleged bra-burnings of the Miss America pageant in 1968, but there is no doubt to this researcher that the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was ultimately the beginning of the movement itself: “This book [The Feminine Mystique] explored the dissatisfaction that many upper and middle class women felt at their limited options in life. Many reported feeling restless and unhappy, although they could not exactly identify the source of these feelings. The publication of this book forced many women to look more closely at their own lives, and it soon became a bestseller” (West). After the passage of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination in the workplace based on sex, religion, race, and national organization, the National Organization for Women (NOW) formed in 1966, and in five short years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 50,000 sex discrimination complaints (Eisenberg and Ruthsdotter).

The concept of equality in the workplace and its blurred existence along with the sexual revolution simultaneously occurring in the country sparked uproar in feminists and housewives alike. After years of women coming together, the Women’s Liberation Movement finally broke into the national spotlight with the Miss America Pageant protest in 1968. Friedan, along with Gloria Steinem, became the forerunners for women’s liberation in the 60s and 70s, inspiring many other women to take action in helping better the lives of their fellow daughters, sisters, mothers, and most importantly, themselves.

 

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Part Three Women's Liberation in the News

The media’s portrayal of the Second Wave Liberation Movement definitely had an impact on Maggie May. Although national news stayed unbiased and careful to solely cover the facts, local Midwest news was not so careful, painting Feminism in a negative and downright insulting light. May most likely felt anger or disappointment by the local media’s representation of Feminism and took to properly and objectively covering the movement herself. An extremely common misconception about Feminism in its entirety is that its proponents are angry, bitter housewives too busy to tend to the children between ritual bra-burnings. In fact, the concept of burning brassieres in itself is truly and utterly false. On September 7, 1968, nearly four hundred protesting women gathered outside the Atlantic City Convention Center, where that year’s Miss America Pageant commenced. According to PBS’s American Experience:

One of the protest’s