Essay on Second-Wave Feminism

Second-Wave Feminism

The second-wave feminism movement, which is also referred to as the feminist movement , refers to an era of feminist activity that started during the early 1960s in the US and it carried on through the late 1990s. The movement led to expansion of the debate on gender equality to a wide range of issues: reproductive rights, de facto inequalities, family, sexuality, the workplace and official legal inequalities.

What is the reasoning provided for framing gender in a particular way?

It is expected that women should pursue one path, that is, get married during their early twenties, start a family quickly, then dedicate the rest of their life to homemaking. Just as one woman at some point stated, “The female does not really look forward to a lot from life. She is here as someone’s keeper- her husband’s or her children’s”. Therefore, wives are forced to put up with the full housekeeping load and child care, spending close to 55 hours per week carrying out domestic duties. The wives were also legally dependent on their husbands through master and head laws, and they also did not have any legal right to own property or earnings of their husbands, apart from restricted right to “proper support”. The husbands would however, control their wives property and earnings.  Whenever marriage deteriorated, it was difficult to get a divorce, since “no-fault” divorce was never a choice, thus women were compelled to demonstrate misconduct on the part of husbands in order to get a divorce (Tavaanatech 1).

The beliefs and arguments about gender held by members of the second-wave feminist movement

The feminists believed that in the workplace, there was gender inequality. In 1960 the 38% of American women who were working were limited to jobs such as teacher, secretary or a nurse. Generally, women were unwanted in professional programs; such as one of a medical school stating, “Hell yes, we have a quota… We do keep women out, when we can. We don’t want them here- and they don’t want them elsewhere, either, whether or not they’ll admit it. As such, during 1960, women comprised of only 6% of doctors in America, 3% of lawyers and engineers were below 1%. Women who worked were often paid lower salaries when compared to men and they were as well deprived of opportunities to progress, since employees believed they would, in no time, become pregnant, leave their jobs and that different from men, women did not have any families to sustain. Therefore, the focus of the feminists was to dismantle discrimination in the workplace (Tavaanatech 2)

According to Maren (2), the Women’s rights activists as well argued that all women, whether married or single indeed had to know how to be in charge of their productive lives in order to achieve equality with men. The activists disputed laws that the limited use of contraceptives, because it was the woman alone who put up with the stress and burden of the pregnancy and the baby (Buzzle 2). Before this technique, people often used condoms though protection attained from them was not 100% and often led to unwanted pregnancies. In the US, two significant legal cases helped in liberalizing access to birth control. During the first case, the Supreme Court Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), reversed the conviction made by a doctor recommending use of contraceptives. The doctors attorney supported their arguments with the constitution and cited married persons should enjoy provisions of privacy, and the Supreme Court approved. The court also ruled that provisions of people’s privacy implied married couples should use contraception freely and that health care practitioners should be allowed to recommend use of contraceptives. During the case that followed concerning the Massachusetts v. Baird in 1972, William B. petitioned his conviction for giving out condoms to single adult females. The conviction was reversed by the Supreme Court, declaring the right to privacy extended to single women as well (Maren 2). The launch of contraceptive measure presented women with the freedom to birth control (Buzzle 2).

Feminist organizations and physicians argued abortion should be legalized. Since, even in nations where abortion is illegal, women still carry it out and often times, in circumstances that are risky which endanger their health. Every year, women wound in emergency rooms because of failed abortions and even several of them lost their lives. The medical doctors argue abortions are supposed to be carried out under supervision of medical practitioners who are qualified and also cites the only means to guarantee this was making the abortion procedure legal. The Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade (1973), extended privacy provisions to incorporate abortions. In that case, the Supreme Court eliminated federal and state laws that prohibited abortion. The court as well stated the resolution was not tantamount to a new law but rather, merely reversed laws that were found to be unconstitutional (Buzzle 3).


The second wave feminist made some incredible milestones for women throughout the last 100 years. The services that were instituted by the movement, such as rape crisis centers, shelters for women and health clinics were incorporated into mainstream cities, religious organizations and universities to offer program funding.


Works Cited

Buzzle. Second Wave Feminism., 20June 2009. Web 28 Feb 2014.

Maren, Wood. The women’s movement. Web 28 Feb 2014

Tavaanatech. The 1960s-70s American Feminist Movement: Breaking Down Barriers for

            Women. Web 28 Feb 2014.