Why the Second Wave of Feminism was more effective in addressing the key

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Whythe Second Wave of Feminism was more effective in addressing the keyissues of gender inequality compared to other waves.

Genderinequality has been a controversial issue throughout human history.In most cases, the issue of gender inequality is considered in thecontext of women’s oppression by men, the incumbent leadership,rules, and policies governing the country. Although several measureshad been put in place before the occurrence of the second wave offeminism, oppression of women still occurred in several areas, suchas wage disparity between employees of different gender, sexdecisions, business, and labor market (Gamble25). For example, the increase in the number of women in leadershipand managerial positions was offset by persistent in discriminationthat manifested through gender devaluation (Monroe215). This means that a given authoritative position could bedownplayed when held by a woman and respected when held by a man.This paper will demonstrate how the second wave of feminism addressedthe underlying causes of gender discrimination against women indifferent fields, including education, sex, business, and the labormarket.

Backgroundinformation about the second wave of feminism

Thesecond wave of feminism began in the United States in the 1960sbefore spreading to other parts of the world (Gamble25). Although the second wave of feminism had a similar objective tothe first wave, to fight for gender equality, the second wavebroadened the scope of the fight for equality by including otherissues (such as sexuality, workplace, family, and reproductivehealth) in addition to political equality. It is widely perceivedthat the second wave was started as a reaction towards the renewedperception that women should focus on domestic roles, which beganafter the Second World War. This motivated women to rise again andfight, not only the issue of the domesticity of women, but allaspects that touch of gender equality. Although the movement began inthe early 1960s, it gained momentum in 1966 following the formationof the National Organization for Women (NOW), which created aplatform for women to air their voices in one accord (Farber256). NOW and the movement as a whole were led by vibrant women,including Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, and Gloria Steinem amongothers. This was the major causes of successful bargain for genderequality and achievements made by women during the second wave offeminism.

Equalrights to education

Womenwho initiated the second wave of feminism believed that education wasfundamentally needed if women were to get equal rights to women inthe society. Surprisingly, the education sector ranked among theareas characterized by gender inequality and gave a high opportunityfor men to get education compared to women. Trends in oppression ofwomen in terms of reduced chances of educational attainment wereconfirmed by conversion of women’s colleges (including the SevenSisters Colleges) into a co-education institution (Lyon1). This created a perception among women that women’s chances foreducational attainment were under threat, which gave women a reasonto fight for the equality in the education sector. Although womenwere underrepresented in the decision making executive boards, theymanaged to use alternative strategies under their organization, NOW,to push for the protection of women education. The extension of theaffirmative action and the formation of the Women’s EducationalEquity Act of 1974 were some of the achievements of the second waveof feminism in terms of ensuring equality was in place in theeducation sector (Andrews1). The Equal Education Act also required the boys’ schools tostart admitting girls and adopt the co-education system as a way ofreducing discrimination against women. This brought to an end thepracticing of converting the girls’ schools into co-educationinstitutions, while leaving the boys schools to remain single genderinstitutions. This ensured educational equity for American women,which gave women the basis of bargaining for other forms ofgender-based inequalities.


Theneed to have the right to make reproductive health decisions byAmerican women was another factor that spurred the second wave offeminism. Reproduction rights in this context referred to women’sright to have access to legal and safe abortion, reproductiveeducation and health as well as birth control (Tripp1). The progress in the male-centered ideology, which had resulted inthe consideration of women as others in a patriarchal society reducedthe chances for women to take part in making significant decisionsregarding their sexuality and reproductive health. In a TV interview,Simone de Beauvoir, one of the second wave activists asserted thatwomen were regarded as the second sex, which was a form ofdiscrimination (Mahdlou1). During this interview, Simone expounded on the concepts ofMarcel’s book “The Second Sex”, which created the base for theonset of the second wave of feminism. The intervention by the womenorganization to fight this challenge resulted in legal and policyreforms aimed at empowering American girls and women to take part indecision regarding their sexuality. For example, the Sex EducationAct enacted in 1965 supported sex education in schools in order toensure that both boys and girls could take part in the debate abouttheir sexuality with sufficient information (Medina1). This implies that the second wave of feminism provided anopportunity for women to make decisions regarding their sexuality andreproductive health and ended the perception that women were secondsex persons.

Equalityin the labor market

Genderbased inequality in the labor market is often characterized by denialof employment opportunities to persons of one gender or the use ofdifferent compensation rates for employees of different genderserving in equivalent positions. These features of gender-basedinequalities have been persistent for centuries and the effortsapplied to overcome the challenge during the second wave of feminismwas a continuation of the measures taken during the first wave offeminism. However, the second wave of feminism proved to be moresuccessful in addressing the issue of inequality in the labor marketcompared to the first wave, which mainly addressed gender-basedinequalities in the political sector. The second wave of feminismresulted in the enactment of several legislative acts that wouldensure that American women had an equal right to be employed andcompensated at equal rates to men serving similar positions. Forexample, the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act ensured thatall people are treated equally during recruitment and other humanresource management practices, while the Equal Pay Act in 1963reduced discrimination against women in terms of compensation (Perez1). In a speech on the benefits of the second wave of feminism, BettyFriedan (one of the key leaders of NOW) stated that equalopportunities for women benefitted themselves and their families,including men (CanadaBroadcasting Corporation 1).

Thepush for equality in the labor market and in workplaces resulted inthe creation of Equal Employment Opportunity Communion in 1965, tooversee labor practices in both the private and public agencies(Burkett1). The first and the most important strategy adopted by thecommission in its efforts to address the concern the American womenwas to require agencies and organizations with histories ofdiscriminating against women to submit their own timetables showinghow they would increase their female workers. This was an astonishingmove that would force organizations to adopt an affirmative action toincrease the number of women occupying different job positions. Inaddition, the commission was guided by the Equal Employment Act towarn organizations from discriminating against or firing pregnantwomen. In essence, the second wave of feminism created a platform forfair human resource management practices that ensured that womenreceived equal treatment like men, especially in terms of access toemployment opportunities and compensation. This has resulted in asignificant increase in the number of women occupying importantleadership positions in both private and public agencies.

Inconclusion, the second wave of feminism achieved more freedom andequality of women than any other wave. It made the climax of women’sefforts to fight for their equality in matters affecting their lives.The success of the second wave of feminism was mainly brought aboutcoming together of women and forming organizations (such as NOW),which increased their capacity to make a common bargain. Increasedaccess to education by women was the major breakthrough that wouldhelp women fight equality from an informed point of view. Other formsof equality, including the areas of reproductive health, employment,compensation, and leadership would follow.


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CanadaBroadcasting Corporation. RetroBites: Betty Friedan: Men (1964).YouTube.March 24. 2010. Web. August 9 2014.

Farber,D. TheSixties Chronicle.Westbrook, ME: Legacy Publishing, 2004. Print.

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Medina,A. A timeline of the women’s liberation movement. CWLUHerstory Project.2014. Web. August 9 2014.

Monroe,K., Ozyurt, S., Wrigley, T., and Alexander, A. “Gender equality inacademia: Bad news from the trenches, and some possible solutions”.Perspectiveon Politics6.2 (2008), 215-233. doi:10.1017/S1537592708080572

Perez,E. Equalpay.Washington, DC: United States Department of Labor, 2010. Web.

Tripp,J. National organization for women. Learnto Give Organization.2014. Web. August 9, 2014.