Commies Causing Bra Burning Essay

1639 words - 7 pages

The rise of feminism in the 1960s can be contributed to contradictions in economic labor incentives, conservative social constraints and women’s exclusion from reactionary movements. Whereas both before the war and during the war, American society taught, encouraged and reinforced women to enter the workforce, when men returned from WWII, the idea that women could continue to play prominent roles in the workplace shifted and societal norms replaced the riveter with the housewife. These housewives, sometimes college educated, grew to an ever larger population as the fifties progressed. Compounded with technology reducing the more traditional workload for the average housewife, women felt ...view middle of the document...

This societal expectation led to women’s exclusion from full time positions (Friedan herself switched to freelance writing), less promotions and sidetracked careers. Women became expected to marry at earlier and earlier ages and more and more aspired to being housewives. Women would attend college, attend lectures and receive real degrees, but the within the the majority, the intent became to find “Mrs.” Degrees, or a male partner that could support a family. This cultural centrality around women as only wives contradicted the need for self-fulfillment and self-actualization. As Friedan articulated the problem: “As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, .... she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question-- 'Is this all?’”. Beginning to ask these questions though, is how feminism rose. The american cultural ideal of dual spheres, men to the outside and external world and women to the internal and the home, had created a population of women not only willing to fight for their rights, but with the wherewithal to fight for it, particularly among the upper and middle classes.
Apart from pure housewives and among the lower and lower middle classes, women continued to make a historic increases in labor force participation. While the end of WWII left an overage of labor supply and the short recession after did not particularly help the economy, the 1950’s were a decade of solid economic growth and labor force increases as the U.S. government and economy expanded rapidly. As Evans notes, “throughout the fifties women from middle-income families entered the labor force faster than any other group in the population”. The contradiction to this is that their participation was limited to certain jobs and capped at certain levels, women were limited to clerical positions, being nurses or teachers. More than that, many faced widespread discrimination in the workplace, they were not promoted over men, they received lesser pay and were expected to coordinate child care on top of their work.
Moreover, little to none of these issues had not been taken on by any activist organization. Moderate conservatism and republicanism swept the country in the 1950’s. Due to the cold war, anti-communism purged the country of publicly communist sentiments, and seriously damaged to the old left. But in response to the anti-communist witch hunts and republicanisms of the era sprouted a reaction from young people. Youth of this era grew up learning to cherish the U.S. as a land of liberty and bastion of freedom, but were disillusioned and committed to change when they realized the racism and bigotry around them. What came up in it’s place was without outspoken communists, but in an ever larger contradiction, did not include women's rights into their efforts. Furthermore, women were mostly excluded or relegated to subservient roles in the fight for civil rights. For instance, groups like the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) relegated women’s rights to...

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