The Second Wave of Feminism

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The Second Wave of feminism, also known as the Women’s Movement, gave women greater personal freedoms, such as the right to work outside of the home, political freedoms, family, and reproductive rights. The second wave also drew attention to domestic violence and rape in relationships/marriages. Even though the years of The Second Wave Movement is often argued about, it is said that the second wave officially started in 1963 and ended in the early 1980s. The Women’s Movement was influenced by the first wave of feminism, which gave women the right to vote, and by the ending of World War 2.

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During WW2, women went to work in factories while the men were away at war. Being that the women enjoyed working, they were upset to learn that they would have to return to their homes to work now that the men had come back. The women had also learned that they made less than the men did while they were working. It is said that the second wave was started by Betty Friedan’s book called The Feminine Mystique, others believe the second wave was started by the Committee for the Status of Women (CSW). CSW found that women were not treated equally while they were working through the war. They started The Equal Pay Act in 1963, which made it illegal to pay women less than men for doing the same job. The Second Wave of feminism was one of the most influential feminist movements.

There are two separate groups of feminists, the radical feminists, and the socialist feminists. “The equal-rights feminists were largely white, older in age, and most came from affluent backgrounds. Radical feminists were made up younger white, affluent women, and minority women of all ages who were active in the Civil Rights movement as well.” (Altaweel) Radical feminists oppose patriarchy rather than men. Radical feminist wanted abortions to be legalized and they broke traditional gender roles. Radical feminist also saw pornography as a dangerous practice that can potentially lead to harm. Socialists wanted to form a more equal society. They also wanted to help people in poverty and stop racism and sexism.

The second wave of feminism gave women greater personal freedoms such as the right to work and equal pay for women that could work. Women could work outside of the home, it was frowned upon because it was unusual in the 1900s, however, they would not be treated equally. Women would receive less pay than men. During World War 2, women had to take the place of men as workers while they were away at war. During this time, “new work benefits became available to women, including maternity leave, daycare, and counseling” (Altaweel). When the war was over, women were expected to return to their jobs in their homes raising children and maintaining the upkeep of their house. However, women wanted to work. They began looking for jobs, but most places would not hire them because of their gender. With the help of The 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title VII states that discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, or national origin is prohibited. This includes firing, hiring, promotions, pay, vacation time, disability leave, etc. Even though this law was taken into effect in 1964, many businesses did not enforce it until after the end of the second wave of feminism. Also, before the second wave of feminism began, unmarried women were unable to get a credit card from a bank and married women had to have their husband’s as a cosigner to get a card. Many Ivy League colleges also would not allow women into their colleges before the second wave began, even if they had the grades to get into the college. Yale and Princeton did not accept women until 1969 and Havard didn’t begin to allow women into their university until 1977.

The second wave of feminism also granted women more political rights than just voting. The second wave allowed women to be on juries. Few states allowed women to be a part of a jury, Utah was one of the states that allowed women to be a part of a jury. As for the rest of the states, they said that women are too fragile to hear the gruesome details of crimes committed. It was also said that women “ were considered the center of the home, which was their primary responsibility as caregivers.” (Mclaughlin) Women were deemed as too sympathetic to judge someone harshly. Women were allowed to serve on juries in all fifty states in 1973

The second wave also gave women more reproductive rights. Between the years of 1960 and 1964, the birth rate skyrocketed. Women wanted to gain their rights to work equally with men, but with babies, it would be hard to work and watch the kids. The FDA approved the usage of birth control in 1960, but it could only be used for severe menstrual distress. The birth control pill was approved for use as a contraceptive in 1960. Birth control pills began failing and many women ended up conceiving an unwanted child. Norma McCorvey, also known as Jane Roe, sued Henry Wade, the District Attorney of Dallas County, Texas because Texas prohibited abortion unless it was to save the mother’s life. Jane Roe resided in Texas, but she wanted to terminate her pregnancy. She tried to get the state of Texas’ permission to have an abortion by falsely calling rape, but it did not work because there was not a police report on hand to prove that she was raped. When Roe took her issue to the Supreme Court, she won the debate and in 1972, the Supreme Court deemed all laws banning abortions as unconstitutional. Abortions could be done until the baby could survive outside of the womb without the mother.

Attention was drawn to domestic violence during the second wave, many women’s shelters were created specifically for victims of domestic violence. Support groups for women and children who underwent domestic violence. The rate of domestically violent household raised significantly during the second wave of feminism because men felt like women were trying to “test male masculinity and dominance” by working. Men were supposed to be the one to support their families while the women stayed home with the children. Eventually, women decided that they were tired of being treated poorly. Many females were afraid to leave their abuser out of fear that they would be harmed if they tried to leave. The financial status of the women also played a part as to why they did not leave their abusers. Women were unable to work during this time period, so typically they did not have very much money. Another reason as to why they did not leave was because divorces were very uncommon in the 1960s, therefore the women had to come together to decide how they would help each other. Meetings for domestic violence survivors became more common throughout the United States. Shelters were placed all around the United States for women and children that left their abuser.

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The Second Wave of Feminism. (2019, Nov 28). Retrieved from