The term “feminism”as a synonym for female emancipation was frequently used in the strugglefor the female rights since XIX century. In the1920s, in Europe and the United States, the feminist movement of the firstwave, having achieved laws providing the voting rights, allowing women to studyin universities and work outside the home, found their tasks fulfilled, and theactivity of female organizations was gradually stopped, and was restored onlyafter the World War II.
The peak of Western feminism as a social and politicalmovement falls on the 1960-1970th. In these “revolutionary” years,student and anti-war demonstrations, the struggle of racial and ethnic groupsfor civil rights, and other protests determined the political climate (Rhodes). In thepublic mind, gender relations seemed to be equally harmonious. However, women, who previously were forced to take male positions during the war, to work in hazardous conditions at factories, could nowreturn to the usual “natural” work and were forced to find the satisfaction in the traditional domestic environment. In thiscase, they had to no longer care about their ambitions and rights in the publicsphere.
Thus, the return of the feminist movement became one of the mostunexpected events in 1960th.Western Feminism in1960-1980th The publication in 1949 of thebook by the French writer and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir “The SecondSex” caused a radical change in the consciousness of contemporary women.The work, with the volume of a thousand pages, was immediately sold in a hugequantity in Europe (the book was translated into 30 languages). Allowing manygenerations of women to see their destiny and place in the world from adifferent point of view, for many decades de Beauvoir became the source ofinspiration for intellectual Europe. In this book, based on philosophical,psychological, anthropological, historical, literary and vital material, deBeauvoir for the first time tries to comprehend the problem of female existencein the modern world.
These ideological searches are undoubtedly connected withthe philosophical position of the writer, the theory of existentialism ofJean-Paul Sartre, placing in the center of human existence the problem offreedom of choice and responsibility of the individual for his own life.Unlike previous feministtheories, Simone de Beauvoir sees the causes of the dependent position of womennot in biological differences, or legal and socio-economic inequalities, but inthe historically formed notion of femininity in culture and society. Exploringmythology, literature, different national traditions and values, the system ofeducation of girls, family models, the author showed that the main obstacle tofreedom of women is the idea of a female being known in the society as”secondary”. The author states that the main reason for the situationis the adoption by women themselves of the role of the “second sex”that is significant only in relation to a man. This phenomenon of dependence inthe female identity does not allow a woman to be responsible for her own lifeand to claim the realization of personal ambitions outside the family sphere.The book did not only reject the myth of “the special nature ofwomen”, but also gave an impulse to a new understanding of womenemancipation. Simone de Beauvoir asked women not to be afraid to start the pathof self-realization, independence and the free acquisition of “trueexistence”. In fifteen years after the publication of the book, theseideas became the slogans and caused a new wave of mass feminist movement.
Since its appearance, the”Women Revolution” was heterogeneous in its ideological concepts,methods of struggle and forms of collective activity. Among the variety ofideas, theories and organizations, there can be distinguished two mostinfluential and well-known trends in feminism: the liberal and the radical.The Liberal FeminismIn 1963, the book “TheFeminine Mystique” was published in the United States, and influenced the moodsand self-awareness of millions of American women. “The Feminine Mystique” byjournalist Betty Friedan became a world bestseller and a classic text ofliberal feminism.
It showed the atmosphere of the “consumer paradise”of educated American women from the middle class. In the late 1950s, numerousfemale magazines, advertising, and the television stated that middle-classwomen could achieve a “female American dream”: a prosperous andcaring husband, healthy children, a suburban house, a car, beautiful clothesthat can be worn at parties and charitable meetings (Thompson). BettyFriedan, a graduate psychologist, and mother of three children carried outhundreds of interviews with the housewives and found that their lives werecharacterized by the inner dissatisfaction and a sense of their personalinsignificance. The reasons for such feelings could be provided neither for thepopular psychoanalysts, nor for the husbands, nor for the women themselves.Having written a book on thebasis of these confessions, Friedan tried to determine the causes ofdisappointments and discontent, visualizing the problem that did not have aname before. Trying to follow the patterns of “true” femininity andfulfill the “natural destiny” of mother and wife prescribed by thesociety, the middle-class Americans refused professional career and anyparticipation in public life.
As a result, they gradually turned intoinfantile, dependent individuals, unable to understand their capabilities anddesires. The traditional beliefs were supported by Freud’s theory with his ideaof natural female passivity, magazines, advertisements, and television. “TheFeminine Mystique” actually showed the drama of a female personality, the dramaof suppression of intellect, professional and social interests (Thompson). Whenvoluntarily following the established gender stereotypes, women foundthemselves, according to the definition of Friedan, in a “cozyconcentration camp” of family life, discovering that consumer goods, husband,and children are not able to free themselves of the feeling of emptiness. Thebook touched the feelings of a large group of housewives.
In the 1960s, theseideas seemed revolutionary to them. Women realized that they had to askthemselves without a false sense of guilt; who they were and what they wantedfrom life. They did not have to feel selfish or neurotic if they had anypersonal tasks not related to husband and children.During the Second World War,millions of women in the United States and Europe came to work in variousindustries, taking the positions of men, who had left for the front. Posters ofthe war years urged them to believe in their strength, that they could doeverything. Girls from the middle class, seeing for themselves new perspectives,wanted to obtain higher education. But the post-war situation of the”national harmony” in the Western world required the restoration ofthe traditional system of sharing the roles of “breadwinners” and”keeper of the hearth.
” In the 1950th, the military slogans askingwomen to help the country were replaced by public assurances that”feminine” women do not need a professional career, higher education,creativity, and, even participation in politics (Thompson). Just like ahundred years ago, the same arguments about the natural incapacity andunpreparedness of women for professional employment sounded in the societytrying to return women to the “natural destiny” of mother and wife.Three years after thepublication of the book “The Feminine Mystique”, in 1966, in the United States,there was established the National Organization for Women, the president ofwhich was Betty Friedan. In the year of its foundation, the organization had300 participants, but in ten years there were 250 thousand members (Thompson). Theorganization became one of the influential political forces of America. Theliberal-feminist movement for rights of women, with its centralized formalstructures, clearly established rules, and a successful program of actions hada significant impact on the legislative and executive powers in the country.Focusing on reforming of the existing system of power, feminists implemented the traditional methods for political culture of the United States. Theywere filing lawsuits and lobbying bills.
The courts werefilled with dozens of thousands of applications for setting upthe lawsuits against employers on the basis of aviolation of the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis ofsex. By the early 1970s, hundreds of higher education institutions were involved in the trials concerningviolations of the labor rights of women. The interests of women were protected by female organizations,that caused the success in implementing newlaws.
The companies were forced to pay significant monetary penalties forcompensation of material and moral damage and take women to work by the court decision. Publishers were subjected to penalties whenindicating “men are required” for a specific position.The new organizationconsidered its main task to be the adoption of a legislative prohibition ofdiscrimination based on sex in all spheres of economic activity. Following theconcept of classical liberalism, the gender equality was treated as providingequal rights to men and women. Accordingly to the point of view of theorganization, any reference in legal documents to the “difference betweenmen and women,” as the representatives of liberal feminism believed,ensured the established civil, public inferiority of women, leaving theequality only in the private sphere. The term “difference” was excluded from the political rhetoric ofliberal feminists for a whole decade.In addition to the prohibitionof direct discrimination, feminists demanded the reform of nearly all spheres of professional activity: obtaining loans from the bank, renting accommodations, opening their ownbusinesses, accessing the education in prestigiousprofessional university schools and faculties, etc. The decade of female political activism ledto a significant increase in the number of women among high-paid employees suchas lawyers, doctors, managers.
Thus, it is possible to state that the liberalfeminism had a positive impact on the protection of the rights of women. The Radical FeminismIn the middle of 1960th, alongwith the liberal feminist movement, there appeared groups of youngintellectuals, talking about women’s emancipation from more radical positions.A new influential trend of feminism was formed in the context of powerful youthprotest. The criticism of the new radicals was exposed tototalitarian features of the industrial civilization. Instead of the”elite democracy”, students demanded a fair democracy for all membersof the society.Since the early 1960s, theAmerican female students were actively participating in mass universityspeeches, sit-ins, protest marches against segregation in the South, and theVietnam War. But they were not satisfied with the role assigned to them in theyouth movement. Young women realized their complete detachment from decision-makingin the organizations.
Very quickly young female activistsfigured out that if they wanted to put the problemof female rights and freedoms on the agenda of youth meetings facedmisunderstanding and mockery on the part of the male participants of the protestmovement. The female students started creating their own groups, which hadneither a strict formal structure (Mackay). In the informal discussions, women received the opportunity to talk about theirproblems, experiences, desires, and ambitions, which formerly hidden or evennot realized. The main thing that happened inside these groups was theliberation from the slavish inner complex of inferiority, lack ofself-confidence, the transformation of the sense of a life of young women. The male power, in theunderstanding of the supporters of female liberation, extended not only topolitics and the economy but also affected the private life of women. Men couldnot reform the system, which gives them privileges by themselves, so theliberal compromise program on legislative reform could not solve thefundamental task of liberation from dependence and oppression. Only therevolutionary struggle of women could abolish the patriarchal system.
The feminist issue became one of the primary topics in the media. The audience, intrigued or enraged by the activity of youngfeminists, was involved in a nationwide discussion on topics that werepreviously untouched. The previous stage of the movement for equal rights ofwomen did not cause such a discussion in the country.
The reforms proposed byfemale liberal organizations of the 1960th fit into the democratic framework ofthe United States, while the radicalism of the “liberation” groupsthreatened to destroy the entire system of traditional cultural values, socialinstitutions, and policies. In 1971, Gloria Steinem started to publish afeminist magazine “Ms”. Insteadof the accepted language norms “miss” or “Mrs”, indicatinga family status, the new neutral rule “ms” was used to support theemancipation of the female consciousness (Mackay).
Theenormous popularity of this magazine demonstrated the significance and successof the “revolution” that began. The magazine showed solidarity withthe popular concepts of the sexual revolution and considered the forced marriageand the pressure of the society towards the creation of a traditional family tobe the main instrument of suppression of personality. The new term”sexism” used by the magazine denoted any discriminatory acts basedon sex.Conclusion Feminism is a social andpolitical movement the main goal of which is to provide women with full civilrights. In a broad sense, it reflected the desire to achieve equality of women and men in all spheres of the social life. In the narrow sense, it is a female movement aiming to eliminate thediscrimination against women and to provide their equal rights to men. Themovement appeared in the XVIII century; however, it was particularlyintensified since the late 1960s.
The most famous branch of the feministmovement was the radical feminism, the emergence of which dates back to the1960s. Radical feminism states that patriarchy was one ofthe forms of oppressionof women by men. As a result of the protest movements, in the 1980s, feminismbecame an integral part of a democratic social and political system and statepolicy. At the same period, the social activity of women in other regionsbegins to rise. The supporters of Asian, African, Latin American, Islamic andmany other areas agree that the problems of gender inequality do not have asimple explanation and easy solution. In a situation of dependence andoppression, the class, ethnic, racial, and religious differences may be moreimportant to them.
There is no universal feminist concept for all cultures andsocial groups. But it necessary to state that the liberation of from all forms of discrimination all over theglobe requires the unification of efforts of alldemocratic powers.