Tag Archives: Betty Frieden

1890-current: Early Feminism in Europe

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 Early feminist (1890) Florence Fenwick Miller (1854-1935) Midwife and English Journalist describes women as in legal slavery with man made laws having women endure sex, marriage and childbirth with no choice or voice in the matter. http://www.enotes.com/topics/feminism/critical-essays/women-16th-17th-18th-centuries

Jenni Murray of BBC History describes the conditions in show,  The 20th Century in Britain: The Women’s Hour,  as neither rich nor poor women had the choice of mates, endured beatings and abuse with no voice in their predicaments. She refers to Millicent Fawcett and Elizabeth Garret as the feminists who advanced education and an opening in the medical profession for women through brave stands by a few women who risked their lives to take the stands that gave ground to other women. It was through the actions of the Women’s Social and Political Union 1903 and the work of Emmeline Pankhurst that the so called War by Women had more women take notice of and make demands for fair treatment and opportunity for education for women. In 1919, she notes, it was Nancy Astor who would be the first women in British Parliament, and in 1929 it was Margaret Bondfield who would be the first woman Cabinet Member. Just as in the US, the war called on the women to take the men’s jobs during the war.   But in 1944, the men returned and the women were sent back to their homes. In 1944,  the Education Act,  limited the number of girls who could be in school. It would be 1950 before girls were given equal access to education. In 1968, with the advent of Betty Friedan, the second wave of feminism came with it, the repeal of the Education Act in 1968.

Murray notes that Linda Grant, author of Sexing in the Millineum made note of the sexual revolution of the 60’s,  which she credited as providing women with the right to say yes.

Englishwoman Germaine Greer wrote The Female Eunich in 1970. Very much like the feminists of the United States, it provided the first aspect of sexuality as perceived by women, and not men. 1970 also was the time of the first British Conference at Oxford on The Women’s Liberation Movement. Parallel to the activities of feminists in the US, Barbara Casette, Secretary of State for Employment, was effective in rallying for the Equal Pay Bill.  It was enacted in 1975 together with the Sexual Discrimination Act.

Similar also is the path of feminism that showed up in England as it did in the United States. Murray comments on the discordant and changing relationships that showed up between women as well as with their men,  in their homes and at the workplace. She points to the position of many women after the 1980’s, even with the gains and the social change underway, being “I’m not a feminist, but…”

It is remarkable how the beginning of the new roles and aspirations for women at home, in their own personal choices and at work had that affect and that feminism took quite a hit as the gears begin to provide new ground for how women lived their lives, both in the United States and in England. In France, it would be the 1975 Veil Law that ended the ban on Birth Control of 1920. In 1994, only 5% of the women in France between the ages of 20-49 did not use contraceptives according to Wikipedia.

The correlation between access to birth control and termination of pregancy and political power and access to education and equal pay seems to correspond for women’s rights in Europe. In Germany, Anita Augspurg was the first university woman student to graduate from a university in 1919 in the Weimar period where equality in education became available to middle and upper class women-until the age of 15 where they then had education at home. The Advanced Women’s rights in making education available to women in Czechoslovakia, Ireland, Lithuania and the Soviet Union was in evidence prior to World War II, as it was in Germany. But the Nazi Era reverted those standards calling for German women to be restricted to their roles as supporters to their husbands and children, as well as their country. 500,000 volunteers made up of women took on the jobs of men and 400,000 women were nurses and aids in hospitals during the war Wikipedia reports.

But by 1987, Betty Friedan again introduced to a whole new generation of young German women feminism. The impact resulted in an antipatriarchy terrorist group Rote Zora of women from 1974-1995 who were responsible for 45 bombings and arson attacks. The strides back to increasing access to women to education and access to being employed, as well as their limited 10% representation in the work place leadership gave stronger ground to the Womens Rights effort. Alice Schwazer became in 1977 and remains a voice for issues of feminism today in the EMMA magazine. The Green Party was established in 1980 and serves to promote equality and human rights in Germany. It is notable that in 2013, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a woman in power and leadership, opposed the European Union proposal to introduce more representation of women in executive board positions, and roles of leadership for women in jobs.

It could be that Women’s Rights where education and equality represent  feminism, but it could also be the measure of access to birth control and women’s right to choose is the measure of the advance and practice of Women’s Rights. Nations and countries giving access to birth control and right to abortion correlate with those seeking equality in education, jobs and equal pay for equal work.   To give women the right to choose is to give them the power to determine their lives, it’s individualistic, solitary, personal. The current issues of the 1000 state bills in the United States attacking women’s right to choose to terminate their unwanted pregnancies, and to disempower Roe VS Wade is to reduce the power of women in the world. What is the continuum of women’s right to choose and their representation in roles of leadership and power in our government, in our universities and in our industries is a relevant question which is beyond this discussion, but surely to be considered.

The Atlantic Magazine, August 5, 2013 featured Emily Matchvar’s gives a comprehensive look at abortion policies in Western Europe and other countries. For women in Germany, the first trimester only is available to women to end their pregnancies. In the Netherlands, there is a 5 day waiting period for women with a 24 week limit. In Belgium, abortion was illegal until 1990, but now a state of extreme distress must be proven for a woman to gain an abortion. Finland, up to 13 weeks is necessary and with that proof that there are adverse conditions such as poverty or already have 4 children. In Denmark, there is a 12 week limitation. But in Israel, Matchvar points out in this article, that although  93% of the American Jews support abortion rights in all cases, the law is that it is illegal for a married woman 17-40 to have an abortion unless rape, incest or infant malfunction is proven. If unmarried, the woman may plead her case, have an ultrasound and take counseling. In Russia, Eukrane and Poland, there is a restriction to 12 weeks, but every attempt to make difficult if not impossible making the choice to abort is presented to a woman seeking an abortion.

Emily Matchvar in the Atlantic article takes the position that the governments that seek to increase their population and advance their nation seek to restrict choice to women and limit access if not directly prohibit it accordingly. Not personal, not up to the individual, but a national need to be answered by women giving birth to children.   Another perspective can be related to the result of silencing the voice of women, enforcing a limitation of choice by women and strengthening further the male voice and perspective as the director of women’s  and the country’s fate. Certainly any woman who has experienced pregnancy, childbirth, early infant care and the years up to school age is aware of the fact that the hormones, the perspective and the free range of movement is greatly inhibited during this vulnerable time. Further,  the years of child care, the significant first 3-5 years are the most vulnerable for the child, and most essential to their well being. The disadvantage of income loss, babysitter costs, and distraction of focus and energy are all costs endured that make for less time and energy to make other demands on life. Not to mention the 18-20 years of parenting that is the current requirement.

Feminism, like democracy, are messy propositions. The initial work of feminism to have recognition of the need for equal opportunity, access and reward required a revision still working itself out with outcomes that are still representing a challenge to societies engaged in the process. “I’m not a feminist, but…” the alternative is devastating and limiting to all the world.  I’m not a feminist is an apology for making noise, causing problems, speaking out and taking actions that disrupt the status quo.   Feminism is not an ideal to reach, it’s organic and in the past fifty years world wide has hugely impacted and altered the history of the world. Intricate and requiring the integrity of assimilation with costs that are not expected that come with the changes, such as role identity and the complexity of divisive and discordant views of the value of the changes as they occur.

Interesting throughout reviewing this level of investigation into how and what impacted women in Europe, Betty Freidan’s name appears over and over again. Her work translated in different countries resonated with women.   Individually, personally they experienced in her words a potential for how they wanted to live as human beings. The work is underway, it is uneven, and the future is uncertain.

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1970-new power to choose

 

Women choosing their own sexual lives was the process which engaged the generation of the 60’s produced the dynamic of some women who saw the opening to choose  their roles and behavior in what would be considered a new level of consciousness, a view of feminism and the potential for equality in the bedroom and in their world.  Not all women for sure, and there certainly was a significant difference in how women viewed themselves relative to the culture in which they lived, worked and raised their families.  But the thread of new views on who women were and what the basis for sexuality might be about for women was changing.

Clitoral or vaginal orgasm had been challenged by Freud and Masters and Johnson in their 10,000 research recordings found there was no difference, and in fact measured the fact that women were capable of achieving many orgasms in a sexual encounter.  But for most women this type of information if you got it at all came from your doctor when a problem in fertility was the case.    Most women didn’t even discuss with each other the experience of their sexuality, and there was little available in terms of information for the public about women’s sexuality.  The emotional content of women in their sexual experience was not considered scientific based and was discounted within the realm of study.

All the more reason for the social groundwork conditions which had Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in 1963 become not only a best seller in this country but world wide has changed how women see themselves and their sexuality.  Women began talking with each other,  over the bridge tables, at the teas and church, found a vocabulary, found their voice around the rightness and validity of equality in the bedroom.  They were the choosers and not just the chosen and responsible for the choices they made, not without a few bruises and not without trial and error, but that was how women came through their ownership of their sexuality if that was the course they chose in the late 60’s, early ’70s and change the culture they did.

THE PILL AND THE HITE REPORT

In 1973,  Roe vs Wade offered the choice for women to  take or not take pregnancy to full term.  That same year, unmarried women were officially allowed to get birth control pills from their doctors.  Talk to you grandmother or even your mother, your aunt or any of the women who have lived through the civil rights act to current times.    A woman in the 1930’s in Brooklyn found her way to one of the first Margaret Sanger’s clinic.  Some women went to Juarez, or to a doctor known to be compassionate towards women with unintended pregnancies that they did not want to take to term.  Roe VS Wade like a bridge provided a certainty of choice that never existed before for women, away from being victims to their biology to conscious and responsible choice.  For many women, this would never be a dilemma; for others, the option to terminate would never be what they would consider with or without the religious structure or mandate.   But this did contribute, there’s no question to an increase in the interest in sexuality. There is not mistake to viewing the 70’s-80’s as the time of social and sexual experimentation with new game rules.

A shift of focus then to the new question of value and desire for women:  what pleased them and why.   And Cheryl Hite presented  her woman researched book called The Hite Report in 1976 detailing the practices of women in their daily sexual lives.  Sex for women was no longer perceived as fulfilling the biological function and responsibility for procreation or being a sexual partner to their husbands, the issue of pleasure and orgasm had taken the conversation to a new ground.

The Hite Report in 1976 gave a view of the  intimate experiences of women relative to their reported pleasure and gratification of orgasm and specific sexual activity, including masterbation.  Women began to talk to each other about their experiences, their expectations and their desires.  It stirred up questions women had never before been willing to reveal about their sexual lives.

John Bancroft work at the Kinsey Institute in the 40’s was the tip of the iceberg in bringing up the scientific question of what lay behind the behavior of women relative to their sexuality, as reported by Julia Heiman, current director of the Kinsey Institute.  But it would be the impact of the national conversation among women about their sex lives that was stimulated by the Hite Report that had the topic gain ground among women in the 70’s.  The  ladies bridge club tables in the late 60’s, early ’70’s and other ladies’ gatherings often provided the place and time for those discussions by women about women, the topic of orgasm had come into the conversation.  Not all women identified with the strident voice and emerging presence of the National Organization of Women, in fact NOW seemed remote and alien to many women across the country, but women were talking to each other now more than ever.

SEXOLOGIST EARLY STUDIES

Helen Singer Kaplan, a sexologist in the 70’s developed a study on the physical response of women measuring those responses in the release of serotonin, heart rate, dilation of the eyes and lubrication.  Her findings were that the emotional or cognizant awareness and the physiological response of women did not correspond .  That is, the biological physiological changes in the body that corresponded with desire for sex were apparent but were not detected or reported by the women as they occurred.  It was reported that the “split” -separation of feeling and physical response did not show up for men.  When there was biological physiological change in men, men were aware of the desire that came with those changes.  The obvious conclusion was that the evidence for physical response by men was observable and validated by erection.

But what could have been considered was the different standards about sexuality that are part of the education and experience of men and women as they enter puberty and adulthood.   Men have historically had more approval of overt expression of interest in sexuality than women.  Being aware of one’s own body and its desires for women is as recent as the social and political changes for women in the  past forty years of western society.

When you consider the amount of pressure on women up until the mid to late 1960’s to withhold themselves from sexual activity for a variety of reasons relative to their value and inclusion as “good women,”  their lack of recognition and experience of their sexual response makes sense.  The rules socially adhered to by the majority of men and women didn’t include women coming to know their own bodies, their own desires and responses.   The deal was to withhold their own pleasure and sexual activity until they married plain and simple.   The release of societal standards in the sexual revolution of the 60’s cannot be overstated.  The dramatic change from the mores that discouraged, limited women and even punished women relative to their expression of their sexual interest and appetite to expression to a NEW AGE;  fulfillment, orgasm and birth control ushered in a new age, political, economic and social perception would be transformed.

Around the world today, there are countries and nations that still punish women for any overt expression of their sexuality and  limit the women’s access to responsible care of themselves through the use of birth control.  So for women, it could be said, the late 60’s was the beginning of owning their own sexual lives and choices.  Today, incredulously,  in the halls of congress, there is an attempt to take women back to that societal and legal constraint limiting their choices.

But the evolvement of women to know their own desire and their own bodies is relatively new ground for women that brought on new studies.  Meridith Chivers of Queen’s University of Kingston, Ontario directed her research in 2009 to “Discovering What Ignites Desire for women,” in the Archives of Sexual Behavior Anthology.  Those studies and those of Lisa Diamond, a Sexologist at the University of Utah, also studied women’s desire in her sexuality study.  The Diamond  study revealed that women’s desire is more receptive to and dictated by need for intimacy and emotional connection.  She measured the oxytocin as a factor in asserting that female desire was reliant on estrogen- and the cause of desire for women.

Marta Meana, Professor at University of Nevada, also researched in her study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, and her findings were that it wasn’t the closeness or communication that created the oxytocin that released desire, but  that “being desired is the orgasm.”   Meana attributed that to narcissism.  Her study suggested that  sexual response was a “yearning for self love.”

Major studies would follow relevant to the measure  of how and under what conditions women experiencing their desire.  But what can be seen is that with the advent of the birth control pill, those questions were really new questions and they brought on new options and dilemmas.  That is, in the western world-while many countries continue to keep the conditions such that women are without the choice of birth control and are a victim to their sexuality.

There was considerable concern in the media and in society itself as women’s liberation and the choices to women about their sexuality became more accessible to women.  Life magazine did stories about what if women become just like men sexually, free to choose their sexual roles and desires. Newspaper articles about how women would be just like men if they didn’t have the concerns that had provided constraints on their sexual choices and behavior.  For some women, trying hard to achieve the a priori of what it was to be a successful woman, these choices to determine and manage fertility and sexuality, were considered by some as “unfeminine.”   For the women who did choose to use the new support of birth control, self determination and personal liberty and responsibility was their choice.  These women made their way thru  uncharted grounds in a life that looked entirely different from  their mothers, sometimes in opposition to their sisters, their colleagues and friends.  It was a risk some women took, and an individual one made by the women who led.

Change certainly did come as a result of the independence of women, and 2013 saw for the first time, the majority of women choosing not to marry to have a family.  Marriage,  as was predicted in the 1970’s, was impacted by the changes in sexual behavior.  The majority of Ph.D students are women, and women are primary breadwinners in 40% of the households with children.  It is the new world, and birth control availability seems to be the world women have chosen and will not allow to pass into the rough and tough political attacks on women’s rights that have been a large part of politics since 2011.

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1840 to 2014: What feminism calls for today

Journey for Women

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Where it all began

We have established that he beginning of women’s right all begins 72 years before the 19th Amendment was passed and the beginning of  women’s rights.  Two women in 1840, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott attended an AntiSlavery Convention in London.  Elizabeth Stanton’s husband was a participant in the  Antislavery Convention,  but the women were refused seating due to their sex.  Elizabeth Stanton, the only non Quaker,  prevailed and the women did gain entry.  Stanton and Mott then went home and  brought together women and men who identified  “18 injuries and usupations” toward women at the Weslayan Methodist Church in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848.  In attendance were 300 people with forty men.   The “Declaration of Sentiments,”  and nine resolutions proposed to reflect that “all men and all women were created equal, and should have equal rights and privileges”  All but one of the resolutions was agreed upon, but not woman suffrage.  It would be Frederick Douglas who would persuade the convention to accept the woman suffrage resolution .  (The National Portrait Gallery.)

Further we know that the Woman’s Rights Convention in Rochester, New York would follow days after the Seneca Falls Convention, and a year later Worchester, Massachusetts would host the convention.   This work  would be the continued work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and temperance worker Susan B. Anthony in 1851 that ultimately secured the vote for Women 72 years later in the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

Political entry and  inclusion of women in congress started in 1920 with Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman in congress who opened the doors to the women who followed.

With the right to vote, with women advancing in to property ownership and being elected into office, another impact to change was the birth control efforts in process.  As early as 1916, women could attend the Margaret Sanger Clinic in New York City for birth control use of diaphragms.    But it was Margaret Sanger in 1938 who demanded address from the public of the plight of women and children as free labor in factories and the farms, the comstockery abuse of women and children, as well as the fact that the bearing of many children broke women’s backs and spirits.   Sanger wrote many publications on birth control in response to the number of  women having unlimited pregnancies and children, often dying young.  Margaret Sanger‘s book arguing against “comstockery”  changed the course of history, though book store owners who carried it on their shelves had up to five years in jail as a possible consequence under the law of the times. She would become the first president of Planned Parenthood in 1940s.  Her work is the basis for the right for women to choose the use of their bodies, and Founder of Planned Parenthood remains the consistent address and support of women’s rights.

Women coming together, then and now, has been and remains the source of personal and political change for women.  In New York in the late 50’s, Bella Abzug and others began to openly question the economic and social status of women.  Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique delved into the area of women’s sexuality and  became a bestseller in  1963.    The distinction to her book and the stir it created was that it was unlike other work, such as  Freud and Masters and Johnson.  Science had only looked on women’s sexuality in terms of  dysfunctions-inability to fulfill the role of wife and mother.  The new questions for women and their sexuality was around their choices and their benefits relative to pleasure.  Books like Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and Cheryl Hite The Hite Report  stirred up for women a better knowledge who they were and what was available to them.  The link between sexual power seems to correspond with political power in the world.  Women became more willing to talk to each other about their issues, their intimate lives as well as their views on the world around them.

WOMENS GROUPS

The link between sexual liberation and political freedom was a personal and political experience unevenly spread around the country.  A change in consciousness allowed women to recognize the choices they had in determining their own lives.   The Women’s Movement of the 60’s as viewed by historians like Estelle Freedman and Ruth Rosen that was to become of public discourse was a “white woman’s movement.”  Women,  moving individually and collectively, often with a great deal of conflict and dissension among themselves and polarization of interests still had the courage to ask important questions of themselves and the world around them.

                                Accidental Feminism

When President Kennedy was elected, he acknowledged the work of 40 women who had helped him get elected in 1961 to a new government post: Commission on the Status of Women in 1961. President Kennedy is sometimes referred to as an “Accidental Feminist” because he was not known top be specifically interested in women’s rights.  His goal was not to spur on the goals of women’s rights, but to acknowledge the work of the women who had helped him get elected in his campaign of 1961. These women identified the “injuries of sex” for women in the workplace and in their homes and identified the measures of women’s rights to address those injuries.  These women would depart from the government position,  and bring their expertise, knowledge and abilities to the Woman’s Movement and  make headway for change for women, pushing for their inclusion in the civil rights act in congress.

We know from history that in 1964, the Civil Rights Bill  presented to congress had an addition at the last moment.    Historian Ruth Rosen reports the “unintended consequence” taken by House and Means Chair William K. Smith was to provide civil rights for women.  Smith wanted to see the Civil Rights Bill fail and at the last minute added women’s rights assuming that would kill the possibility of its passage.  However,  the Civil Rights Bill  prohibiting prejudice of racial or country of origin, or Sex passed.    the bill was changed right before the vote to “race, country of origin or sex.”   The Civil Rights Bill of 1963 passage of   Women’s Right’s, and affirmative action to give preference to those excluded from power and position were the groundwork for equality within the structure of the bill.

                                      Struggle with identity

In 19644% of women worked out of the home, and divorce was at a 4% level.  It was not  clear to many women across the country what the right direction was and each woman really had to choose to tune into the fledgling freedom of choice offered her, or hang on to the institutions and bureaucracies of identity and so shrugged and tolerated the new context of feminism that  arose in the Womens Movement.  There was disparity and conflict within the movement and many women did not identify with the women active and vocal in its demands for equality.  Trial and error, exploration was possible and many women were aware of and responded to the new ground available to them in the years to come.

                               Transformation

 The timeline of social, economic, political and sexual freedom that began over fifty years ago shows up today in the Pew Report of 2011.  In 1960, 11% of mothers went to work to support their families, and today it is 40%.  Women now make up 47% of the workforce.  These are mostly single mothers who support their families but there are also a significant number of mothers whose income is larger than their husbands, making them the primary earner in the family.   The “dramatic transformation we have seen in the family structure and family dynamics over the  past fifty years,” is described by Kim Parker, associate director with the Pew Social and Demographic Trends Project.  The trend is a result of the long term demographic changes, including higher rates of education with more women graduating from college than men and has its basis in the 1960’s women’s movement, it is reported.

The Pew study also reports that the economic decline in the past seven or eight years has resulted in fewer jobs in industries predominantly held by males, such as manufacturing, construction and labor jobs.  Corresponding to these changes is a record low marriage rate. 2012 was the first year that the married population was not the majority. Also in 201240% of all births were in single mother households without marriage.

The changes in how people organize themselves and the choices they make about  marriage and children is the world of today.   Women and men choose their lives by a different criteria than their parents or grandparents. Two million  Men choose to work at home and parent their children; women consider not a valid choice not to have children; same sex families as well as those who chose to live alone all have the range of options of their choosing available.  Equality of choice in family planning comes directly from Roe VS Wade and birth control.  Representation in election campaigns points to the active role and large impact of single women in political life.  All the more alarming that there are 1000 state bills in process in forty states that seek to reduce women’s right to choose, and even to give access to birth control.  The Affordable Healthcare Act political forum extends to employers seeking to not extend birth control accessibility to their employees.  The attempt to reduce women’s rights at this stage of development seems outrageous.  But it is real, and calls upon all human beings to be concerned.  Going back is not the direction most would choose.

                                  Call for leadership

There is an indication of an attempt to  revert the civil rights of women established over the past fifty years.  Voter’s rights of minorities is where civil rights are being attacked in another realm.   Historians Ruth Rosen and Estelle Freedman do not see a resurrection of a woman’s movement as the leadership that could respond to these attacks on equality and choice and power for women and minorities. Rather each of us, any of us, have an impact in our daily lives to be concerned and active citizens.  With the 24/7 news around us, we can grow numb and have the sense of inevitability take the energy of a response to the conditions around us.

Barefoot Frontrunners came from the stark recognition of the path along which human rights, women’s rights have evolved.  The first wave of feminism of the 20’s, the second wave in the 60’s had an impact, made a difference, opened the road for humanity to engage in the realm of feminism: equality, inclusion and transformation of roles and functions as individuals and as a society.  The voice of women has never been more needed as the world gets smaller and issues of any part of the world effect our world. The women who have been left behind, due to race and class and the economic and religious constraints within which they live, some feel we have to bring along to get along in the long run.  It will always be the barefoot frontrunners that widen the path, open the door and seek to empower those left behind.  It begins now, and every day.

“Sisters, bloody feet have worn smooth the path upon which you tread.”  Estelle Freedman No Turning Back-the History of Feminism and the Future of Women

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