The feminist movement is a social movement that aims for equal rights and status for women, allowing them the freedom to choose their own careers and path in life. The modern feminist movement has its roots in the campaigning of the suffragettes in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Giving women the right to vote was the first step towards a society where women were no longer considered second class citizens.
Women in the early 20th Century
After gaining the vote in the early 20th century there were still limits on women’s participation in the workplace because society still considered a woman’s place to be in the home. After World War II more women began to enter the workplace as the economy changed and more jobs were created that women were able to do, such as secretarial and office work. As more women began to work the inequalities present in society became more apparent and a modern movement came to prominence in Europe and America.
In 1963 American Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, a book that challenged the way in which women had been socially conditioned to accept that they were dependent on men. The Feminine Mystique directly challenged the notion that women should be passive, and highlighted the way in which women were taught that pleasing their man was more important than their own well being. In America women’s groups such as the National Organisation for Women were formed to campaign for equal rights for women, challenging laws that denied women their rights.
The effects of feminism
The feminist movement challenged stereotypes of women as irrational, weak, and unable to control their emotions as well as men. They also challenged the way in which women were portrayed as no more than objects of sexual desire for men. Some positive influences of the feminist movement include better levels of pay and an increasing number of women entering into positions of political power. However some believe that the greater career choices women have creates a conflict between their lives as mothers and their lives as career women. Many people still believe that a woman cannot have everything and must choose between a successful career or raising a family.
As the mass media grew over the second half of the 20th century, the portrayal of women on television and in newspapers became a particular subject of criticism and debate, and many women turn to cosmetic treatments like face lifts and laser hair removal to achieve what they believe is expected of them. With national newspapers like The Sun devoting a page to displaying the image of a topless woman, it is still possible to see how society holds on to the idea that women are there to be looked at and not listened to. Despite all the progress that the women’s liberation movement has made over the years, there is still inequality in terms of equal pay, stereotyping in the media and discrimination on the basis of sex. Women around the world are still making progress in society and feminism as a movement continues to promote the concerns of women in the UK as well as abroad.