Thereare many events that have shaped the American history theyinclude the civil war, the First and Second World Wars, as wellas the great depression and the Cold War among others. Feminism hasbeen a central issue in the history of the United States. The conceptof feminism entails an approach to gender equality and sex, which canbe regarded as multi-disciplinary. Feminism focuses on the use ofpolitical activism, as well as social theories to denounce thenegative aspects of society that have subjected women to suffering.The main aim of feminism is to ensure that the imbalances between themale and female gender are addressed. In the United States, politicalactivists associated with feminism have campaigned for issues such asdomestic violence, access to reproductive health rights for women,discrimination, sexual harassment, medical leave for women who givebirth, and equal remuneration in the workplace.This research highlights the issue of feminism in theUnited States. The paper will discuss the history of feminism, andconclude with the changes that America has witnessed as a result offeminism.
Backgroundinformation about Feminism in the United States
Therise of women suffrage movements in the United States date back to1848 when the first women rights movement was formed. However, theactivities of feminist movements became widespread during the late1860s. The establishment of National Woman Suffrage Associationin 1869 by Susan Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton marked the beginningof intense activities of women rights movements. The main objectiveof forming the organization was to achieve women voting rightsthrough emphasizing the need to amend the American constitution. Thefirst women suffrage law was passed the same year, and this allowedwomen to act as juries (Cull et al 436).
Thisperiod represented the rise of the first wave of feminism, which wasspearheaded by liberal feminists such as Mary Wollstonecraft, SusanAnthony, as well as Elizabeth Stanton. Based on the arguments ofthese feminists, women sought to have equal access to the privilegesand entitlements that men had. The theorists demanded that there wasa need to pass laws, which would give women an opportunity to haveequal opportunities and end the injustices that the society directedtowards women. The feminists of this era argued that women had beenexcluded from issues of national importance, and there was need toinclude them in certain matters so as to ensure their fullparticipation in the affairs of their society. Liberal feminists heldthat women should be accorded the right to make choices as wasthe case with men. According to this wave of feminism, equality waswhat women deserved to be accorded since their capabilities were thesame as those of men (Worell 470).
Liberalfeminists of the first feminist wave applied rational and criticalthinking as ways of solving the problems that women faced. Theyargued that, just like the American man, the women in the UnitedStates deserved to be accorded the right to self-fulfillment. Inaddition, the feminists posited that women should be grantedautonomy, and at the same time, their dignity ought to be upheld bymen (Worell 471). The Congressional Union was established 1913by Lucy Burns and Alice Paul, and the main objective of the union wasto ensure that women were given voting rights. Three years later, in1916, the first clinic to deal with issues of birth control wasopened by Margaret Sanger. Despite the fact that the clinic was shutdown, she was supported by the court and managed to open anotherclinic in 1923, which was located in New York. The opening of theclinic was instrumental to enhancing the reproductive health rightsof women in the United States as they could get information on safemethods of birth control (Hewitt 110).
In1919, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the federalwoman suffrage amendment. After the passing of the amendment, it waslater sent to the states for the purposes of ratification. During thesame year, the Department of Labor in the United States formed theWomen’s Bureau, which was tasked with ensuring that the workingconditions of women America were addressed. In 1920, the 19thamendment was passed, and this allowed women to vote. Since then, theAmerican woman managed to engage in political affairs of the nationby exercising the constitutional right of electing leaders of theirchoice. Having attained the right to vote, the American woman had theopportunity to have a say in both national and local politics of thenation (Buchanan 26).
Rankinwas elected to the Congress during the 1920s despite the fact thatshe was a woman. The tumultuous period that followed after the FirstWorld War hindered the ability of women leaders to address the socialissues that affected American women. Besides, the inability of theAmerican woman to vote as a bloc brought a lot of disunity amongwomen. As a result, women aspirants were defeated by women inelections. Nonetheless, the fact that women had attained the right tovote was a factor that contributed to their quest for equality withmen.
SecondWave of Feminism, which started during the 1960s, also determined theachievement of women rights. Through this movement, there was a lotof consciousness about the rights of women. The second wave offeminism had a close association to the civil rights movement, whichwas common during the 1950s. The main issues addressed in thismovement included equal privileges for women, as well as policiesthat discriminated women. The second wave was mostly dominated byradical feminists in 1960, the feminists managed to urge the Foodand Drug Administration to approve family planning pills. During theSecond Wave, the strategies employed to agitate for the rights ofwomen mostly encompassed protests. In addition, the radical feministsof this wave also employed the use of guerilla tactics to address theissue of women oppression (Buchanan 28).
Oneof the famous feminist group that emerged during the second wave wasthe New York Radical Feminists, which was involved in the pageantprotests in 1969. The feminists argued that women were paraded likecattle during beauty pageant competitions. With these protests, thewomen managed to pass messages of how women were oppressed anddegraded when paraded in beauty competitions. The womenprotesters used gender artifacts such as high heels, girdles,bras, as well as makeup to portray the extent to which the femalegender was oppressed by men (DeKeseredy and Barbara 48). Radicalfeminists based their arguments on the theoretical concepts ofpsychoanalysis and neo-Marxism. Scholars like Shulamith Firestone andJuliet Mitchell who wrote books in 1970 raised the argument thatpatriarchy was synonymous to a society that was dominated bybourgeois. They also argued that it was more important to focus onthe sexual differences between men and women rather than emphasize onthe racial and social class differences, which were being witnessedin society (Hewitt 115).
Second-wavefeminists also argued that women could be considered as people whobelonged to a certain class. This was fuelled by the argument thatwomen had some attachment to the institution of the family, and theyalso did a lot of work within the household that was not being paid.Radical feminists of the 1970s also objected the arguments made bySigmund Freud regarding the sexual frigidity of women, as well astheir natural dependency. The second wave sought to accord women theright to make crucial decisions about theirbodies (DeKeseredy and Barbara 48). As a result, women gainedawareness on the issue of family planning, which gave the ability todecide the number of children they could have. Other women rightsthat were being addressed by this movement was equal access toeducation by all women in the United States, as well as access tojobs that were considered male jobs (Cull et al 437).
Thequest for the liberation of women has been a debate that hasdominated the world politics for hundreds of years. The womensuffrage movements, which began during the 19th century, were vitalin addressing the issues affecting women. The formation of thesemovements helped to bargain for equal representation of women incrucial matters that affected them. The first achievement made by therights movements was the attainment of voting rights by women. Thistook place in 1920 when the 19th amendment was passed. From thisperiod, the United States experienced increased awareness among womenof all races. In the modern day America, a woman has the right toaccess reproductive health, take part in politics, as well as makecrucial decisions that affect their lives positively. In addition,women have taken up jobs that were previously dominated by men manywomen in the United States have also gained access to universityeducation.
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DeKeseredy,Walter S, and Barbara Perry. AdvancingCritical Criminology: Theory and Application.Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006. Print.
Hewitt,Nancy A. NoPermanent Waves: Recasting Histories of U.s. Feminism.New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 2010. Print.
Worell,Judith. Encyclopediaof Women and Gender: Sex Similarities and Differences and the Impactof Society on Gender.San Diego, Calif: Academic Press, 2001. Print.