The Feminist Movement as a Counterculture in the 1960s
The Civil Rights social movement easily became one of the biggest in American history. Social movements can be described as informal groups of people who focus on political or social issues and address them in a powerful way to attempt to make a change in society. The goal of a social movement is to change the immoral ways of society, but with every social change comes a new generation. A generation that lived before the change, a generation that lived during the change, and a generation that thrived from the movements results. The women’s rights movement that first began to stir in the 1840s was focused on giving women more equality in political, social, and economic statuses. (Foner) While women began to gain rights in the political world in the 1920s, they still suffered from the stereotype of gender roles in their homes. This is when the second wave of feminism came into play, women in the 1920s and 30s began to refuse the stereotypical norm of what a women should be, should act like, should fake. And once the 1960s began, women took society by storm. Grabbing the bull by the horns, like the women in The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace by Lynn Povich, a non-fiction book based on the lives of the women working at Newsweek in the 1960s, said “we didn’t want to over throw the system. We were proud to be part of a powerful and liberal institution like Newsweek; we wanted to transform it to make it better for women.” At the time, Newsweek would only hire women as researchers, never as actual writers. But as the fight for the feminism movement continued to grow throughout history to be seen as a counterculture, the women of the 60s (and the women who fought before them, the women who were too young fully understand but fought regardless) it was more than just a moment in history when women who were more than capable to do far more than research a story for another write, but to finally write stories themselves and receive full credit, cover stories no less. It was freedom because “we were women in transition, raised in one era and coming of age in another, very different time.” (Povich)
When the few available careers to women as teachers, nurses, and secretaries were no longer enough for the women of the 1960s, Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique catapulted their inner-most thoughts of stay-at-home moms across America; with quotes such as “each suburban wife struggles with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night- she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question– ‘Is this all?” and “we have gone on too long blaming or pitying the mothers who devour their children, who sow the seeds of progressive dehumanization, because they have never grown to full humanity themselves. If the mother is at fault, why isn’t it time to break the pattern by urging all these Sleeping Beauties to grow up and live their own lives?” Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, women felt as if their labor in the movement was looked down upon and discriminated against, just as whites were discriminating against blacks. But in 1964 when the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, national origin, and religion – its title VII protected women under the same law as well. The Feminine Mystique quickly became a best seller and forced women into realizing that homemaking stole them of the possibilities of their own individualism. As women jumped at the chance to work in industries while their husbands were off at work, some of them thrived – loving their new lives as laborers and money-makers. Until their husbands returned and not only expected their wives to return to their proper gender role but enforced them to.
Later in 1966, the National Organization for Women (NOW) focused on making women’s participation in all aspects of American life a possibility. NOW became “a groundswell of women, whose growth began among the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and the state commission was reinforced by labor union and civil rights activist had emerged to insist on women’s equal rights.” (DuBois) NOW played a large part within putting the women’s rights movement on the political map. The women’s movement knew it’s “influence is said to depend on understanding the rules and playing within them, being willing to make the appropriate compromises, and emphasizing what is possible, even at the cost of amending to abandoning fundamental demands.” NOW founded the Legal Defense of Education Form that defended women in court cases against sexism, mainly focused on higher education cases which continues to advocate in women cases today. (Clemens) By the early 1970s, NOW raised up to $300,000 in large metropolitan areas and college towns. Choosing these areas, women placed themselves in the mecca for media attention and in doing so NOW became more than just a lobby group, they grew to over 100,000 memberships.
One of the basic concepts of keeping women at home was to have them reproduce and then raise their children. When the women’s movement began to break out, women began to realize if they could choose when to have children, they could choose to work. Preventing pregnancy to have a career drove women to fight even more for what they believed could lead them to a more fulfilling life, having access to children’s facilities and care also became a focus behind the career-driven women. However, society was not as thrilled with the idea of preventing women’s reproduction, “to bring women’s reproduction under control was thus to promote women’s freedom.” (Granzow) The freedom to choose whether a woman wanted to be a mother or not, was an unthinkable power to give to women in the 1960s, seen as being a selfish choice. In 1960, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the birth control pill. Planned Parenthood gave a great deal of attention to fighting for abortions. The Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court case was the case of Estelle Griswold, president of Planned Parenthood Connecticut, she opened a birth control clinic in direct danger of Connecticut’s birth control bans. Griswold won the case and evidently lead to the legalization of birth control throughout America. Later in 1973, Planned Parenthood raised the awareness of abortion in Roe v. Wade when the Supreme Court repealed laws authorizing a woman to receive spousal or parental consent for abortions. In 1968, Planned Parenthood published “11 Million Teenagers,” which focused on teen pregnancy in America.
The women’s movement gave women around the world the opportunity to yell “girls rule” from the rooftops. Now more than ever, women are standing up for what they believe in, standing up for their right in the work place, standing up for their right to choose and to have choices. The women’s movement is as prevalent today as it has been throughout history, because the social movement involved out daughters, our mothers, our sisters, and our brothers.
Clemens, Elisabeth S. “Social Service Review.” Social Service Review, vol. 80, no. 2, 2006, pp. 360–362. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/381135.
DuBois, Ellen, Lynn Dumenil. Through Women’s Eyes, An American History. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2016, Print.
Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty!: an American History. W.W. Norton & Co., 2014.
Kara Granzow. “De-Constructing ‘Choice’: The Social Imperative and Women’s Use of the Birth Control Pill.” Culture, Health & Sexuality, vol. 9, no. 1, 2007, pp. 43–54. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/4005549.
Povich, Lynn. The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace. PublicAffairs, 2016
“Birth Control.” WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/ss/slideshow-birth-control-options.
“Creating a Feminist Revolution, NOW and Forever” https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=Phr6UF-zJB4
“National Organization for Women’s Logo.” National Organization for Women, now.org.
“The Good Girls Revolt Book Image.” Lynn Povich, http://www.lynnpovich.com/