The Women’s Liberation Movement failed true feminism by creating a generation of women who deem themselves unworthy of a defense against sexual bullies.
We often talk about three waves of feminism, but I think there were actually three-and-a-half. The first two were necessary and appropriate; the next one-and-a-half were not. This post is about that “half a wave” that began in the 70s and still grinds on, not empowering women, but somehow dis-empowering them.
First Wave feminism was the 19th century push for women to have the vote. A subset of this was for women to have independent legal (and financial) standing separate from their fathers and husbands. I am very grateful for those First Wave feminists.
Second Wave feminism was the push from the 1960s and 1970s to give women equal pay for equal work and allow them equal opportunities for equal abilities. Had that been the standard in the 1950s, when my Mom was working at Bechtel as a draftswoman to support the family while my Dad was temporarily unemployed, she would have earned the same salary as the draftsman at the desk next to her. He earned more than she did, she was told, because “he had a family to support.” Because Second Wave feminists fought for these principles, I had the opportunity to get a law degree and millions of other women got the chance to learn and work to the full extent of their abilities and interests.
(This was not an entirely unmixed blessing. Many women found that they were supposed to be both Ward and June Cleaver. Other women found that they didn’t like being Ward Cleaver, but that social pressure kept them away from being June. Given the stresses on the Middle Class because women had these opportunities, it’s perhaps unsurprising that many in the post-Millennial generation are very conservative and dream of a world in which men work and women make a home for the family.)
Third Wave feminism is what we’re seeing on college campuses, with unpleasant seepage into American life outside of those campuses. This is the feminism that holds that women are equal to men only when they’re not better than men. This is the feminism that speaks of “toxic masculinity.” This is the feminism that proclaims every man a rapist and every woman an avatar of honesty. This is an ugly battle of the sexes that seeks not to temper men’s best qualities for the betterment of all, but to emasculate and degrade them. It’s ugly and damaging and evil.
But what about the famous Women’s Liberation Movement? Where’s that fit in? To me, the Women’s Liberation Movement is the “half” movement, the one that comes between and is also a part of both Second and Third Wave feminism. This was the empowerment phase of feminism. It was women: [Read more…]