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Feminism in the 1970’s was branded “second wave” feminism as it was thought of as more radical than the first wave, confronting social and cultural norms asociated with womanhood.


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  • The development of media technology : The cell phone (1973) and the all in one personal computer (1974)

  • The 1970s feminism movement was largely driven by protests and the congregation of women. Feminism faced backlash by conservatives, as the need for social change was branded as “counterculture.” Technological advancements from the 1970’s helped feminists to gain momentum as they were able to access more women. The cell phone allowed for organizers to reach each more efficiently, and the personal computer allowed feminists to create propoganda, literary works, and modern ways of spreading the message of equality via media. 

  • Ex.)  In 1972, Gloria Steinem co-founded Ms. magazine, a way to provide feminist news and information about the movement, as well as inspiring more women to join the movement. 

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  • Gloria Steinem  : Steinem founded the National Women’s Political Caucus 1971 with Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, and Shirley Chisholm. She co-founded the Ms. magazine, which first appeared as an article in the December 1971 issue of New York until it became a stand-alone issue the next year. 

  • Pauli Murray : The first Black person to earn a  Doctor of the Science of Law degree from Yale Law School. She was a founder of the National Organization for Women and the first Black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest. Her legal arguments based on interpretation of the US Constitution helped to win for public school desegregation, women’s rights in the workplace, and more rights to LGBTQ+ people based on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 

  • Gloria Arellanes: She was the Minister of Finance and Correspondence for the founding chapter, where she wrote press releases, penned letters, and edited the group’s newspaper, La Causa. The Brown Berets were similar to the Black Panthers as they were considered an extreme group by the police, however they aimed to make a social change for the betterment of the community. They fought for better education for Chicano youth, promoted pride in their culture, worked to gain improved access to health care and end police brutality against vulnerable populations. 

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  • “The Male Gaze” : This concept was coined by a feminist film critic Laura Mulvey in the 1975 essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Her argument is that cinema perpetuated a power imbalance through appealing to only male views. Plots of movies were centered around sexist and patriarchal ideas and discourses. The male gaze occurs most obviously when the camera places the viewer in the perspective of a heterosexual man, only giving a female character value for her sexuality and femininity. 

  • The song "I Am Woman" by Helen Reddy released in 1972 became a feminist anthem. Reddy came to be known as a feminist icon, telling interviewers " [I Am Woman] song of pride about being a woman". Radio stations started to refuse to play the song as some stations thought the song invalidated the Women's Lib Movement. ​

  • In 1973, a group of five feminists created the first women's owned-and-operated record label, Olivia Records.  The record label was created due to major labels resisting to support female artists. Initially, they were budgeted at only $4,000, relying on donations. Olivia Records created their first LP, an album of feminist songs entitled I Know You Know. The label’s album soon began to be sold in mainstream record stores.

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  • In 1972: After years of campaigning by feminists, Congress approved the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution, which states:

    • “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

  • In 1973: The Supreme Court ruled to prohibit sex-segregated help wanted ads in newspapers. 

  • 1974: The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was amended to prohibit discrimination based on sex along with race, color, religion, and national origin.

  • 1978:  the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.)

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  • In 1971,  gave a public demonstration of how to do self examine your cervix at a feminist bookstore in Los Angeles. This event led to women’s demand for knowledge about their bodies and greater control over their healthcare. 

  • 1973 - Roe v. Wade legalized first-trimester abortion and overrruled many state restrictions on abortions in the US. 

  • 1976- In Planned Parenthood v. Danforth, the Supreme Court overrided a requirement for written spousal consent before a woman could obtain an abortion.

  • In the 1970s, the standard treatment for breast cancer was a radical mastectomy, disfiguring surgery that removed not only the breast but surrounding lymph nodes and tissue. Many activists, includinf Rose Kushner, gathered data and challenged the medical establishment to consider a less invasive operation, so that patients could make informed decisions about their treatment, which has now become protocol. 

  • Women’s health clinics were especially important in poorer communities. CESA (the Committee to End Sterilization Abuse, a precursor of CARASA, the Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse) was founded by Helen Rodríguez-Trías in New York City.

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CULTURE - How Women See Each Other and Themselves

"The women's movement is a non-hierarchical one. It does things collectively and experimentally." 

  • The movement was deeply divided between generations, economic status,  and conservative and radical. Betty Friedan [pictured below], author of The Feminine Mystique, was an example of a feminist who identified as conservative. She wanted to make the movement “a respectable part of mainstream society” and disasociated herself from what she claimed was the "bra-burning, anti-man, politics-of-orgasm" sector of feminism. Friedan even spent years accusing Gloria Steinem of conspiring with the FBI and CIA. As a result, the younger generation of  feminists began to distrust the older generation and viewed the National Organization for Women as missing the point of feminism, still trying to appeal to the patriarchy. 

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The term “Intersectionality” was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989, although the concept had been described by activists for decades before. As Crenshaw states in her paper “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,” “When feminism does not explicitly oppose racism and when anti-racism does not incorporate opposition to the patriarchy, race and gender politics often end up being antagonistic to each other and both interests lose.” 

An example of organizations formed around the concept of ntercetionality are when feminists who began protesting within the labor movement formed more local groups to organize women workers in order to better working conditions, as well as fight for their equal rights on the job. Black feminists targeted such issues as childcare, police repression, welfare, and healthcare, and the National Black Feminist Organization was founded in 1973.

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