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Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

The State of Feminism 50 Years Later

Where is feminism now?Is feminism is dead and dated? It is according to the Kathleen Parker at the Washington Post. At the turn of the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique,’ critics have continued their analysis of feminism and its relevance to the modern woman. In its inception, the feminist movement began primarily in middle class white America. The movement’s biggest criticism has been that “Friedan didn’t tackle any of the legal obstacles to women’s equality. Nor did she pay attention to women of color or members of the working class.”

In this post-modern world where women work, head-up corporations, attend college in record numbers, what does feminism look like? For the Black woman, it incorporates class oppression, racism, and, of course, sexism. The basis of Black feminism is the notion that any form of feminism that seeks to overcome sexism and class oppression, while ignoring race is discriminatory to many people, not just women.

It’s hard to imagine a world where women are not allowed to vote, struggle to enroll in college due to discriminatory practices, or are denied basic equalities that men enjoy. Because of that, feminism seems to be an outdated idea that is useless at best, tension-inducing at worst. Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post writes, “Revolutions are like children — eager and hopeful in the beginning; then, like teenagers, suddenly riotous and unruly. They have their own ideas about things and pick up friends who are bad influences. Sometimes they need to be spanked. Fine, okay, a timeout.”

However, all movements undergo a transformation as they mature and feminism is no exception. At this point, the term ‘feminism’ is thrown around as a buzz word more than anything. That’s partially because the intent of Friedman’s ‘Mystique’ has never been fully understood. As well, uniting women across various socio-economic and racial barriers in the struggle for equal The Feminine Mystique 50 years laterrights has never been the expressed goal. It seems that the middle-to-upper middle class, white woman’s movement was never meant to include the poor, the racially diverse or the uneducated. This could be a false notion, but it’s a pervasive one nonetheless. Thus, the struggle for respect between stay-at-home-moms versus working women, and women who desire marriage and family above bursting the glass ceiling remains.

We have women entertainers, like Beyonce, being either heralded as the new face of feminism or being torn apart for being too sexy; apparently a contradiction to true feminism. Who will be the new face of feminism is yet to be seen, but one thing remain true. As is stands, 50 years into the movement we still have the same questions about womanhood, motherhood, the working woman and feminism. Feminism, like the civil rights or gay rights movement, needs an overhaul, a foundation and a goal that more than just women can aspire to and advance.

Comments

  1. This is an alarmingly under researched article. Davis says "In this post-modern world where women work, head-up corporations, attend college in record numbers, what does feminism look like?" implying that equality has been reached. The Catalyst reports that 4.2% of CEOs in Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 positions are women. Bloomberg reports that 28% of Fortune 500 companies have no women at all in C-suite (CEO, COO, and CFO) positions. If equality has been reached, why are these statistics so low?
    As for implying that feminists are only interested in the advancement of "middle-to-upper middle class, white women," that may have been the goal of Friedan’s the ‘The Feminine Mystique'. However, feminism has branched out into varying brands for virtually every economic, religious, and creed system out there. It is not hard to argue that Muslim Feminists or Marxist Feminists do not share the agenda found in ‘The Feminine Mystique'.
    Davis also brings up Beyonce as a possible "new face of feminism" even though she does not fall into the categories of white, middle-class, or upper-middle-class. If Beyonce, of all people, is a recognizable symbol of feminism in 2013, hasn't feminism evolved for the better in the last 50 years since ‘The Feminine Mystique' was published?

  2. Monique Davis says:

    I agree that it has evolved. But like any movement that marches on, the central focus seems to be unhinged at this moment. We have Beyonce has a possible face of feminism, true. However, there's so much debate about what it means for feminism if Beyonce is its representative. I think that's, in part, because the direction of the movement is more unclear now than it has ever been. That's precisely because feminism's splintered sects haven't figured to how to unite for a few central causes; and that's not including global feminism, just the movement here in the United States because equality for women in the U.S. means something vastly different than equality for women in Egypt or the Ukraine or Ghana. You are right, though…there are various sects of feminism that do not coincide with Friedan's 'Mystique.' The direction and goals of post modern feminism, however, needs to be defined so that gains can continue being made; especially in the wake of issues like birth control and abortion being targeted heavily by the political & religious right in this country. So while it has evolved and I do acknowledge that, it's very much a work in progress. We'll be doing more in-depth pieces that touch on some of the issues you've mentioned (especially the women as heads of corporations stats you listed).

    • You're right. The direction varies from group to group. However the central focus is and has always been to empower women and gain equality. There are different ideas on how to do that and that's one reason why there are so many types of feminism.
      I appreciate the feedback!

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