Friday, March 8, 2013

Free Females (Part 2)

Feminine Mystique

Along with the civil rights movement, women began to speak out against unfair social practices in the country.  Betty Friedan, a Midwestern house-wife, asserted that women could be more than dish-washing baby-makers if they desired.  She declared that there was widespread unhappiness among women. 

Friedan’s book “The Feminine Mystique” riveted national attention on the idea that women could want more than a husband, children and home.  She wanted to be more than beautiful, charming and sweet.  She wanted to use her mind.

Fuse for a sexual bombshell
The Pill

At the same time, a new technology emerged that changed the nature of sexual politics.  Birth control that could guarantee women would not get pregnant from any sexual encounter.  This new tool enabling freedom became widely available.  For the first time in human history, women could have sex without life changing consequences.

The sexual revolution can be directly tied to this new reproductive instrument.  Young women no longer had to remain virgins until marriage, when they became servants to the home.  While many women still maintained the old ways, numerous others began to experiment with new found sexual freedom.

The Pill can be seen as an earthquake that sent shock waves of change through society.  Sexual freedom gave way to desire for more freedom in other areas of women’s lives.

Freedom expressed anew
Women began to protest their lack of opportunity.  Burning their bras and girdles as objects of subjection by men, they declared themselves equal and expected more.

Paralleling other civil rights movements of the day, African Americans and women marched, protested and spoke out against prevailing social customs that kept them unequal. 

Equality in education, the right to compete for jobs, and the right to participate in athletics were embraced by these new feminist liberals.  The Civil Rights Act made it law that women could not be discriminated against because of their gender. 

A high point of the liberal feminist movement happened when President Jimmy Carter signed into law that women could serve their country as soldiers.  Not only could women vote and work in their country, they could defend it too.

Onward female soldiers, marching in to war
Women even won the right to control their sexual reproduction through abortion with the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.  Declaring the rational that personal liberty made the choice to have an abortion one a doctor and patient should make, liberal women now believed that true sexual freedom was at hand.

Women even tried to pass another amendment to the constitution, known as the Equal Rights Amendment, seeking women’s equality as a fundamental right of the nation.  This effort failed narrowly because of a growing conservative backlash.

Counter revolutionaries in action
Reagan Revolution

A large number of women were very happy being wives and homemakers.  Often citing biblical references, they deemed women’s liberation from men as un-natural and against God’s law.

Abortion was viewed by conservative women and men as murder.  The anti-abortion issue became a major focal points used by Ronald Reagan to win southern states back to conservative causes. 

The counter revolution declared that women who stayed at home had valid lives.  They desired recognition for their efforts as mothers and wives.  Feeling belittled, they used their power of free speech and the ballot box to push back on the more radical elements of feminism.

Societal Change

Although the politics changed away from liberal feminism, society’s adoption of it did not. 

Wearing shoulder pads, pin striped suits, and scarves knotted like ties, women entered the business world in huge numbers.  Many more opened paths in blue collar trades which had been the sole domain of men for centuries.

Hear them roar
Sexual harassment of women began to become taboo.  Men were expected to compete fairly with women and treat them with respect as human beings.  Violence against women was outlawed.  Rape began being profiled as an evil and no longer allowed to be called ‘a women’s fault’.

Media and culture continued to evolve towards equality for women.  Advertising directed at women surged as they became more economically independent.  Programming focused on things that effected women gained great popularity.

Divorce, while often tragic, allowed women to escape men who tried to keep them subjugated or even abused.

Today, more women than men achieve college degrees.  While women still make less than men for equal effort, they are at last able to compete as they desire.

Celebrate Freedom and Equality

I will not declare that women are treated equally now.  Nor will I state that men are either.  There are still many issues to work out between the sexes.

Until technology allows men to have babies, reproductive will remain a contention between men and women.  Until technology permits every conception to be a choice and not an accident, a struggle for rights will continue.

The physical division between men and women may always cause some imbalances.  I hope that this will not always be the case.

It seems only fair that we strive for equality.  It seems only kind that we attempt to treat each other with respect.  It seems only just that we search for the best potential lives for all citizens.

To all the women I know and all that read this, I wish you a happy International Women’s Day.  Hopefully, some day, we will not need it anymore.

Free Females (Part 1)

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