Feminism has changed the world, there’s no doubt in that but like every revolution, this movement has in its essence been started by one person. Feminism is a really broad topic, it has been categorized into three waves based upon the timeline. The first wave occurred within the 19th and the early 20th century, the first known woman who for the first time put forth the proposition of gender equality was Wilhelmina Drucker, a politician and a prolific writer. She fought for vote and equality through political and feminist organizations. The second wave, spearheaded by Betty Friedan took place in the mid-twentieth century and lasted till the early nineties. The second wave served as the foundation for the most radical wave of feminism, the third one, which started in the late nineties and is still ongoing. While Wilhelmina started the movement due to the difficult circumstances she faced during her childhood because of his father not acknowledging the marriage with her mother, the whole idea behind it was for equality, but now feminism has grown a lot, perhaps more than she would have imagined.
The contributions to the movement by Wilhelmina are immense but based on the timeline the modern feminism has been affected much more by the second wave.
Betty Friedan, the leader of the second wave feminism is quite unknown, even amongst the modern day feminists. She was born on February 4th, 1921 in Peoria Illionis. Since her childhood she was aware about the politics, she was active in both Marxist as well as Jewish circles. She felt the injustice shown towards anti-Semitism deeply. The idea for change was strong in her but it stayed dormant until the later 1950s.
In 1948 Betty was dismissed from her job since she was pregnant with her second child. She then stayed home to care for her family and took up the responsibility of a ‘house-maker’. She became restless staying home and doing nothing and started wondering if other women her age felt the same. In 1957, during a college reunion she did a survey amongst college graduated women regarding their happiness as just a home-maker. She found out a lot women felt the same way as she did and she believed that women could do both, take care of the family and work if they got the opportunity to. Based on her surveys, she wrote her most famous book, The Feminine Mystique. The book brought forth overwhelmingly positive reviews, putting Betty on the very front of a soon-to-be very large movement.
In her bare principles, Betty believed in equality. She wanted women to get equal opportunities for work so that they can become more than just home-makers. She didn’t yet plan the movement to become political and cultural. But the world was changing, more and more people joined the movement and started modifying it. It took in the LGBTQ community and many others. Slowly the main motive somewhat shifted from equality to the complete transition of power and dominance. Betty was quite unsure and in a way disapproved the path this expanding organization was heading. The movement envisioned by Betty made no mention of abortion and contraceptives, it was completely pro-men and pro-family.
“I’m not anti-marriage and anti-family. I always thought it was dangerous to go against the idea of family. I don’t even like the phrase ‘women’s liberation,’ because that idea of being set free from everything doesn’t seem right to me. I like to think of the women’s movement as a fight for equality.”
But the movement had set forward at an uncontrollable pace. Women all across the world started misusing it for their somewhat personal benefits. Pro-men became anti-men and soon some feminists were seen quoting things like “All men are pigs”. It took in the sexual aspects so radically that men find it difficult and scary approaching women, thinking they might do something inappropriate. There are of course many feminists who are aware about the founding principles and disregard the modern take on feminism but that number is shrinking. Media is pushing forth extremist feminism at an alarming rate and people being unaware are simply taking it all in.
Betty Friedan is truly one of those forgotten ones who made a huge impact on the modern-day society. She was just a restless house-wife who wanted women to be more and achieve more, who through her book based on a survey out of curiosity started one of the biggest movement in the world.
Just to put an example of the contrast, have a look at these quotes:-
“Men are not the enemy, but the fellow victims. The real enemy is women’s denigration of themselves”
“The more famous and powerful I get, the more power I have to hurt men.”
Image Credits: history.com.