Monday, September 6, 2010

Long Response to 9/7 Reading

In "The Future That Never Happened", Ariel Levy begins with describing the life of Susan Brownmiller, one of the earliest members of the women's liberation movement. Brownmiller is quoted as saying, "we [women] want to be neither oppressor nor oppressed. The women's revolution is the final revolution of them all". Between 1960 and 1964, numerous steps were taken in the direction of women's rights including the approval of the birth control pill by the FDA, Congress's passing of the Equal Pay Act and the passing of the Civil Rights Act, which specifically ade it illegal for businesses to reserve specific jobs for men or women or to fire a woman for getting pregnant. The early 1970's saw the Supreme Court case that extended the right to birth control to unmarried people in Eisenhadt v. Baird, the Equal Rights Amendment being passed by both houses of Congress and the famous court case Roe v. Wade in 1973. Levy describes how these events were considered victories by both the women's liberation movement and the sexual revolution. One of the main goals of the women's liberation movement was to advance women's sexual pleasure and satisfaction, an issue that ultimately proved to be political. Hugh Hefner, who we all now know as the founder and Playboy, was actually a proponent of the women's sexual liberation movement and funded court cases to challenge laws that hindered his vision of healthy sexuality. Hefner's philosophy, however, had a clear double standard between women's sexual freedom and his expectations of total fidelity from his "special girls".
Another one of the topics Levy specifically discussed was pornography and the two primary women's movement reactions to it. In the late seventies, many activists formed a group called Women Against Pornography and argued that "porn is the theory, rape is the practice". Against Our Will was the first complete history of rape published. "Sex-positive feminists", on the other hand, wanted to distinguish themselves from the antiporn group. CAKE, an organization that threw monthly sexual parties, was a group that allowed women to "explore female sexuality" and "experience feminism in action". CAKE parties, as described by Levy, were a reaction to the anti-porn feminists and had themes such as stripping and porn. These two responses to pornography brings up the question of how to publicly express the idea of sexy without relying on the traditional "hot-chicks-in-panties formula". One of the important aspects of the feminist movement during Brownmiller's time was that in addition to being essential and revolutionary, feminism was considered cool. Since then, however, feminism has become more and more of a negative term. Girls now watch tv shows like "Girls Next Door", which tracks the lives of Hefner's three girlfriends on television. Feminism is no longer considered cool or acceptable in today's society as it was during the seventies.
Echols' prologue titled "The Re-emergence of the 'Woman Question' links the emergence of women's liberation movements with the civil rights movement of the 1960's. By giving women more power and responsibility in the civil rights movement, Echols argues that they began to realize that they could make a difference in other issues as well as well as getting the opportunity to develop skills to break out of their traditional roles. As women began to acquire political skills and became community organizers, they began to demand more equality and responsibility in the activist movements. As the civil rights movement progressed, however, the african americans leading it shifted towards a black power emphasis and therefore started to exclude white women more. Although white men appeared to be eager to apologize and atone for their racism, they resisted women's attempts to bring up the issue of sexual inequality. Black power often contributed to the trivializing of women's issues . Echols ends with describing how many radical women "wanted the new movement to remain closely tied to the new left both organizationally and ideologically" (50). The question of the relationship between the women's liberation movement and the larger "Movement" resulted in a divide between women in the early years of the movement. It had a large effect on the developing feminist theory as well.
In the excerpt from the book The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan discusses the how there existed a campaign to convince American women that they could only be happy in life by getting married and having kids. This "feminine mystique" aimed to put women back at home and fill their jobs with the men who had previously had them and intended to instill in women a continuous need and desire for new consumer goods. Friedan describes how the problem of identify is what drove the feminine mystique. She pointed out how girls were getting married earlier, and going to college less. Women who had once had career aspirations found themselves simply having babies and being housewives, with the goal of being a perfect wife and mother. Women, however, were increasingly finding themselves discontent with their simplistic and repetitive lives. This unhappiness was sometimes termed the "housewife syndrome" but was commonly dismissed by telling the woman that she didn't realize how lucky she actually was. This problem, as called by Friedan the "problem with no name" affects women of all socio-economic levels. Friedan argues that the women reading her book can not ignore the nagging voice within any longer and urges them to say "I want something more than my husband and my children and my home". (67)

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