Owatonna, MN Correspondent-The women’s lib, or women’s rights movement was a major engine for social change as the Baby Boom generation came of age. Virtually overnight, women began to lobby and protest for abortion rights, equal pay for equal work, access to sports activities via Title IX, and freedom from their subservient role in our male-dominated society. Combined with the Civil Rights movement and anti-war protesting, the Women’s Rights movement precipitated one of the most radical shifts in cultural awareness in our history.
The backlash by women against Donald Trump’s presidency has inspired in women passion not seen since those days. Several younger generations of females are waking up to the fact that it’s possible for a society to backslide on social advancements and civil and legal rights if well-meaning people do nothing. Millions of women voiced their disapproval of a leader who appears to regard women through the lens of the 1960s instead of the lens of today’s reality.
If Trump follows through on his many promises to turn back the clock on women’s issues, including nominating a Supreme Court justice who opposes abortion rights, then yes, today’s women’s movement will grow exponentially. This would bring the weight of more than half the country’s citizens to bear on pressuring the new administration to maintain what has been gained.
However, if Trump chooses to “nibble at the edges” and work more covertly to bring about his goals and fulfill certain campaign promises, the movement may die from lack of interest and focus. Politics today is all about saying one thing while secretly doing another and using doublespeak to make it seem like problems are being solved. The Affordable Care Act comes to mind. It sounded like a good idea—make health care affordable and available for all Americans. But while some have benefitted, many, if not most, have found their health care costs to be greater than they were before the ACA was passed. Today’s women’s movement needs to use the momentum generated from their recent marches to maintain watchfulness of government at all levels and ensure that the rights they currently enjoy aren’t taken away.
Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-The recent protest marches against President Trump may have energized the millions of women protesting across the country in their own minds, but as far as re-energizing the Women’s Rights Movement to the level of influence of the 1960s and 1970s, it is difficult to compare those earlier actions as to what is happening now.
The current movement has taken a different path since the 1960s and 1970s when women were basically focused on changing laws concerning workplace inequality, salary imbalances, and gender discrimination, which were to be resolved in part by an amendment to the Civil Rights Act, and the establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Women weren’t satisfied with the limited accomplishments of the EEOC as laws weren’t being enforced concerning job discrimination and salaries for women, so a group of feminist women, led by Betty Friedan, decided to take matters into their own hands. They established their own organization that would fight discrimination through court and legislative actions. In 1966, the National Organization for Women (NOW) was established, which lead to lobbying Congress for laws of equality and helping women fight legal battles concerning discrimination in the workplace.
The organization wanted to fight the system, not take it apart; whereas the more radical elements of the movement, (women’s liberation movement) wanted to overthrow the system that they felt was subjugating them in every part of their lives. They wanted political power as well as power in their personal lives. Their roles, relationships, birth control, abortion, marriage, and other issues were all considered part of the cause.
Today’s movement has gone beyond the women’s liberation movements of yesteryear, though the main goal or aim of past and present movements has always been the promotion of gender equality within a patriarchal system. The newer movement has become a mishmash of progressive policies that advocate reproductive freedom, economic justice, immigration reform, diversity within their ranks (intersectionality), police culpability, union rights, sex workers’ rights and the recognition of transgender and other sexual identities.
The movement has also sidelined a number of women who have followed more traditional roles and supported the right to life and other issues. They have technically been left out of the mix as women involved in the current movement have aimed their sites at to a pro-abortion agenda as well as one that is anti-male.
The level of influence of today’s movement has been undermined and diminished by the disorganization and focus on frivolous and pointless issues that do not speak to the problems of women everywhere-living in a real world. Rather than focusing on one or two aims or goals, the current movement bombards the system through social media and mainstream media coverage via spokespersons like Madonna and other self-appointed experts who spew hateful, irrational, threatening and nasty rhetoric and accusations that do nothing but make the whole movement look like a mismanaged catastrophe.
The diverse demands and irrationality in dealing with the real problems that face the country and women in general have torn the movement away from its original intentions. It may never regain its original purpose until women are willing to understand what real women everywhere and in every circumstance want and need to lead productive lives whether in a home or work environment.
Irrational, nasty, accusatory and threatening demands and the disorganization, and divisiveness that go with it will never be the answer. Calmer and more rational discussions with others outside of the movement might be a solution in determining what is truly important for all women around the world, but that concept is currently hard to imagine in the day of obstructionists and nasty women unwilling to accept the realities of the real world.
Gastonia, NC Correspondent-When women took to the streets in the ‘60s and ‘70s, they had huge issues to protest about. The ERA was still a possibility, abortion rights were being fought over, job opportunity and pay equality were almost nonexistent and a myriad of other causes brought women into the streets. Their causes were by and large just, and they fought the good fight. The Equal Rights Amendment never made it into the Constitution, but a web of laws supporting equality has been weaved that will bring serious grief to any employer who overtly discriminates against women.
Today’s marchers seem to by and large not be protesting existing injustices and oppression, but against things they fear will happen under the Trump administration. If his first week or so is any indication, the orange-haired one will be giving them plenty of reason to continue to wave signs and block streets for years to come.
One thing we have now that the women of the 20th century didn’t is social media. This makes it far easier to get the word out and organize like-minded people to protest for whatever cause is before the public. The recent Women’s Marches that happened worldwide the day after Trump’s inauguration likely wouldn’t have taken place, or at the very least wouldn’t have been nearly as wide-ranging, without Facebook and other platforms. The thousands of Facebook Live videos posted during the marches kept the fervor going, and showed marchers around the world they weren’t alone.
Of course, social media also makes it easier for couch potatoes to “show their support” by liking and sharing without ever stirring forth. Their online voices are as loud as their sneakers are unworn. This kind of electronic apathy has affected many attempts to organize, but I think the advantage it gives communication among disparate groups far outweighs the couch potato factor.
So, in fine, while their causes may be less prominent, I fully expect to see the women’s movement flower again and become a major political force in 2020 and beyond.