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Second Wave Feminism - An Ongoing Movement

The fight for gender equality has changed over the years due to the accomplishments of feminist leaders that have challenged gendered landscapes that long denied women a rightful claim to the public sphere.

With new feminist movements on the rise along with increased use of media to broadcast social change, the term “feminism” is ubiquitous but has lost a single clear definition.

History of the second wave of feminism:

Second wave feminism was introduced in the late 1960s, when the fight extended beyond political rights to social and civil rights. The sense of inequality that started in the second wave was a product of the end of World War II, when women were displaced from the workforce to “make way” for men. With a soaring birth rate, large families demanded more time, and consequently, fewer women became employed. This stirred dissatisfaction among many suburban homemakers as they felt being occupied with domestic tasks as a wife and mother was a tradeoff to living a fulfilling life as a woman in the public sphere.

Media attention spread the message of second wave feminism nationwide. The second wave of feminism also created different feminist movements for women of colour and the LGBTQ community.

Radical Movements and Misconceptions formulated during the Second Wave:

Many controversies arose during the second wave with the formation of two major camps: reformers and radical members. Reformers committed themselves to equality by enforcing the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and raising awareness of employment discrimination. These groups lobbied for the passage of Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972, which worked to increase the access of sports to girls and women by ensuring more equal resources to women. The Title IX not only meant equal opportunities for women in sports, but it provided a form of protection of women from sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination during the federal funding process.

In contrast, the radical feminists dedicated themselves to overthrowing the entire patriarchal system to abolish male dominance. The execution of protests and anti-patriarchal messages conveyed by radical feminists in this wave attributed to many misinterpretations concerning the real mandate of feminism. These misconceptions directed many away from the real purpose of achieving equality to being female dominant, and even “man-hating.” Now, not only is it important to advocate for women’s rights, but it is essential to end the stigma surrounding the word “feminism.”

The Ongoing Fight of the Second Wave:

When evaluating the challenges women face in present day, many of the same social and civil rights issues are prominent that were addressed in the second wave. There is still progress to be made regarding gender pay discrepancies and women’s involvement in numerous industries. A Strategy article, “The Diversity Dilemma”, states that “A study by the 4As in early 2017 found that a third of women were discriminated against because of their gender, with one in four feeling they had lost opportunities to their male counterparts.”

We still live in a society where unconscious bias presents many challenges to women and minorities, prohibiting them from pursuing success in numerous industries. When Strategy gathered executives from across the agency and marketing industry to discuss diversity, many admit that there is a significant variance in female participation in comparison to males. Lisa Kimmel, president and CEO, Edelman Canada expressed that in 2011, women made up only 34% of senior levels at the firm and that when conducting a gender pay analysis on a global basis, they found a few regions with a couple of discrepancies. Edelman Canada has taken numerous steps towards closing the gender gap in their organization such as conducting diversity, inclusion, and unconscious bias training; however, there still needs to be significant progress made in the sales industry.

In conclusion, second wave feminism is indeed fluid, ongoing, and changing. The progression of feminism in newer movements does not mean that we should neglect the purpose and mandate of previous movements as the mandate of the second wave still needs to be accepted by many organizations and countries. Despite many misconceptions that arose during the time of second wave feminism, the second wave had a significant positive impact on the perception and treatment of women in society. It was a period of feminist activity which challenged many social constructs regarding gender roles and reshaped the workplace to be inclusive and diverse.


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