The second wave of feminism was a social, cultural, and political movement that took the world by storm in the 1960s. It was a period of profound change for women’s rights globally, signifying the emergence of a collective voice clamoring for equal rights and a platform for addressing gendered issues often sidelined by society.
A Shift into the Public Sphere
The 2nd wave feminism marked a significant departure from the first wave. While first-wave feminism centered primarily on securing legal rights like women’s suffrage, second-wave feminism broadened the debate, focusing on sexuality, family roles, workforce issues, and reproductive rights.
New Forms of Activism
What set 2nd wave feminism apart were the avant-garde methods of protest and activism employed by the women during this period. From sit-ins to public demonstrations, educational campaigns, and the openly expressive ‘bra burning’ events, women began to speak their mind boldly, creating an environment of resistance that signaled a breakage from the conventional norms of society.
During this era, powerful organizations like the National Organization for Women (NOW), Women’s Equity Action League (WEAL), and the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC) were born. These institutions championed women’s rights, addressing issues such as wage discrimination, sexual harassment, and the lack of job opportunities for women.
Empowerment through Literature
2nd wave feminism also brought forth a wave of feminist literature, empowering women on a cognitive level. With renowned authors like Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, and many others penning down their experiences, these narratives addressed the deep-seated prejudices and served as a mirror to society, prompting it to reflect and re-evaluate its views about women. They challenged the existing societal norms and proposed a new narrative for women to lead a life of their choice.
The Legal Victories
This era was also marked by major landmark legal victories such as the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. These acts made it illegal to discriminate against women in employment and payment, making them monumental victories for women’s rights.
Sexual Liberation and Birth Control
One of the most fiercely advocated rights during 2nd wave feminism was women’s sexual liberation. The women’s movement waged a tireless war to secure the rights to birth control and abortion, leading to the historic Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, which made abortion legal in the United States.
Closing Remarks: Lasting Legacy
The legacy of the 2nd wave feminism is still alive in our contemporary world. The conversations and changes initiated during this era have brought a lasting impact, significantly influencing our society, policy, law, and family dynamics. More than anything, it instilled an unshakeable belief and confidence among women that they, too, have an equal right to opportunities and decision making, both personally and professionally.
In essence, the 2nd wave feminism has been instrumental in shaping the course of history, bringing to light the importance of equal rights and justice for women, and demonstrating that women’s issues are human issues that need to be addressed with utmost priority.