The second wave feminism started in the 1960s and lasted to the late 1990s (LeGates 2001, 328). Though it is hard to identify the exact date this movements started, many identify Betty Friedan as the initiator of the movement in the United States through her publication The Feminine Mystique in 1963 (Gamble, 2001, 25). The then president John F Kennedy is believed to have also contributed to the initiation of the movement in his Presidential Commission on the Status of Women that reported gender inequality as a national crisis (LeGates 2001, 328). Both Friedan publication and the Presidential report highlighted massive discrimination against women in American culture and dissatisfaction about domestication of majority of American women (LeGates 2001, 328). This information influenced the American civilians, states, and Federal government to form various women groups and organizations that independently campaigned for liberation of women. As early as 1964 the movement was significantly active and was referred the second-wave feminism. Large feminist groups such as The National Organization of Women emerged in 1966 and spearheaded active campaigns on gender equality and reproductive rights and freedom and consciousness and awareness of feminism (O’Connor 2010, 72).
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The first-wave feminism occurred for several years before the Second World War with the objective of alleviating suffrage and the social and legal obstacles promoting gender disparity mainly the right to own property and vote. The success of the first-wave feminism enlightened and encouraged the women to pursue variety of issues affecting them namely sexuality, workplace discrimination, gender-based violence, rape crisis, family issues, amendments in the custody and divorce law, formal and de facto inequalities, and reproductive rights among others. The second-wave feminism was more intense and extensive than the first because the women at this time were increasingly becoming active members of the society (Daniels, 2009, 104). They were entering the professional labor and career field such as journalism, sports, law, health sector, military, politics, and advocacy. The second-wave feminism led to multiple positive changes in the legal and social economic environment.
Feminism has not enjoyed uninterrupted campaign because the anti-feminists have also successfully halted some of the critical activities of the second-wave feminism. It is also important to note that feminist agenda have always evolved because previous successes have always been the origin of newer problems that revolve around the issue of sexuality (Wilkins, 2004, 330). For instance, the second-wave feminism started because of great discontent against domestication of women as homemakers and objectifying women in sexual and romance perspectives. In the 1970s when feminisms was making progress against domestication and objectifying of women, other sexuality related issues emerged at professional, social, and household level. For example, many women were joining the professional and career world but they were paid less than their men counterparts in the same professional level or job group. During this time job vacancies were advertised and the description of qualifications and other requirement based on gender and this led to gender based manipulation of professional and career opportunities. This helped men to triumph in their profession and easily occupied higher positions where they became decision makers (Wilkins, 2004, 330; Dow 2003, 128). In this sense, career women became the professional subject of their male counterparts and this led to the transfer of domesticated gender issues to the professional arena and problems like workplace sexual harassment increased. In this instance, sexism became a major issue affecting women that led to renewed anti-sexism campaigns in the 1970s.
In the 1990s, feminism was integrated computer technology that was increasing dominating the society, which led to the birth of cyberfeminism (Daniels, 2009, 101). It is believed to have started in 1991, when feminists (individuals, groups, theorists) started identifying themselves with the term. The concern of cyberfeminists was to establish feminism on the online platform. Cyberfeminists have different goals, which have led to existence of varied feminism with different feminist school of thought (Daniels, 2009, 102). Cyberfeminists believed that the widespread acceptance of computer technology and internet would help the women to detach their ill-gendered bodies and embrace equality and equal potentials in the cyberspace (Daniels, 2009, 103). However, this has not succeeded as expected. In fact, cyberfeminism has surged and is no longer popular. This is because, feminism is subsiding and many women find it unattractive. Many have already concluded that the current surge in feminism is due to the achievement of feminism goals and is no longer needed thus we are in the post feminism era.
Sexuality has been the center stage of feminism. It influenced the emergency of feminism and then challenged the achievement of feminist goals in the current post-feminism era. This is because change of gender centered on sexuality would partially succeed in achieving the interpersonal equalities between men and women since they are biologically different and thus express different natural characteristics and needs (Wilkins, 2004, 329). The social cultural view is that sexuality and romance as being the same thing inspite of the fact they are disjointed in a number of things that include romantic ties, justification of sexual behaviors, socio-cultural reliance, and sexual relationship. Each social cultural explanation of each of these factors play negative role against feminism. Therefore, centering feminism on sexuality entangled the campaign with heterosexual romance that led to counter-productivity and the socio-cultural view of sexuality and romance increased during the campaign (O’Barr, 2006; Wilkins, 2004, 329). As a result, the main issues of feminist interest were left unchallenged due to the focus on sexuality. In other words, focusing on sexuality as the framework for achieving positive change caused diversion from other factors that could spearhead the achievement of gender equality. For instance, if feminism is centered on aspect of psychology and morals grounds, much progress would have been achieved. The commercial sector has also played significant roles against feminism. For example, the media is known for oversimplifying feminism (Dow 2003, 134). Miss America is one of feminist commercial event that the media promote in a manner that portrays refutation of feminist achievements since it objectify and exploit the contestants (Dow 2003, 127-160; O’Barr, 2006). Through such commercial activities women have independently chosen feminine careers such as modeling or beauty pageant that they use to establish their own oppression and depoliticization of anti-sexism feminist agenda (post-feminism), which has reduced the feminism activities to calls for limitations in their commercialization (Hoerl and Kelly. 2010, 362).
Despite the negative influence of sexuality, feminism has triumph is fighting for gender equality and reproductive rights of women. The achievement of most of the goals has made most of the women see feminism as irrelevant since they either have succeeded or are succeeding in life without the influence of feminism, which is one of the characteristics of post-feminism era. Feminist struggles led to emergence of intensive debates on some social issues such as unplanned pregnancies, abortion, post-nuclear family women, nuclear family with single pregnant woman or mother, and childcare (Hoerl and Kelly. 2010, 362). These post-feminism issues are associated with challenges and dilemma the present women face on issues related to personal decisions on reproductive health and family life. For example, the issue of unplanned pregnancies and abortion are currently divided into pro-choice and pro-life campaigns. The present women are at higher risk of divorce and unplanned pregnancy, which exposes them to challenges of single parenthood. This indicates that the second-wave feminism achieved its anti-sexism goals but this does not mean women are no facing sexuality related problems. In this regard, post-feminism should not be used to mean the generation without women and sexuality problems but should only signify the achievement of second-wave feminism to eliminate sexism in the professional or formal sector. Therefore, feminism should be a continuous process that should focus on identifying newer problems facing women and thus evolve their agendas since the problem of women and sexuality keeps on evolving.
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