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Since this nation began in the 1700s, women have been put under the male species. The female race has been looked to as a lesser person and has been working and doing the same things as men do for less. Why? What has brought us to where we are now? What benefits do women get out of it? There are many questions to be answered and to be asked, but the main question is, “What are the women of our nation going to do about it?”
Mary Wollstonecraft was an author from London. Her first book was called, Vindication of the Rights of Men. This lady, at the young age of nineteen is seen as the first feminist activist. Although she was of London and not America, her idea about feminine and masculine roles is what brought Carrie Chapman Catt and Susan B. Anthony to the history books. Mary Wollstonecraft talks about how the men expect to be treated and how they treat other people, “to hold up their thrown” (Wollstonecraft 13) She portrayed men harsh and unreasonable like in this passage, “…an honest man with a confined understanding is frequently the slave of his habits and the dupe of his feelings, whilst the man with a clearer head and colder heart makes the passions of others bend to his interest; but truly sublime is the character that acts from principle, and governs the inferior springs of activity without slackening their vigor; whose feelings give vital heat to his resolves, but never hurry him into feverish eccentricities.” (Wollstonecraft 15) These ideas helped flame the first wave of feminism in America.
The first wave of feminism in America started in the mid-1800s and ended in the mid-1900s. This feminist movement is now called the Suffrage Movement. The feminist leaders, Carrie Chapman Catt and Susan B. Anthony were the most inspirational in this movement. They attracted women by their brilliant speeches (by Susan B. Anthony) and their books. They inspired women to want to change the original ideas of America.
America’s ideas of feminine and masculine roles are a Christian view. It starts out in the book of Genesis; when Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Wrong and of Right. The bible says, “the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” (1st Timothy 5:14) “That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands,” (Titus 2:4&5) this idea is what give women their duties. Why America sees women the way they do. Since America was built on the ideas of Christianity, explains the reason why women are being treated lesser than men.
What Carrie Chapman Catt and Susan B. Anthony did was encounter the Christianity views and place in the minds of many women that they could do what guys could do. That included education (later achieved for women an elementary and secondary education) and the right to vote (which was also achieved in the 1920s.) By 1920 women did achieve the right to vote and all thanks and appreciation goes to Carrie Chapman Catt and Susan B. Anthony. Although there only achievement wasn’t in the fact that women achieved the right to vote or obtain education, there other achievement was the organizations that were made for women. National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) was the biggest and most influential of this time period. This helped the Suffrage Movement move forward. It also brought more and more women to become activists in this time period.
Activism is a form of rebellion, and like most rebellions it has a certain motive and a goal. Feminine activists’ motive was the realization of how much lower they were in society than any race of men. America in the early 1900s was labeled the melting pot because of all the immigrants coming to flood the nation. Races were low or high in society depending on where they had come from. Women though, were the lowest of any male no matter what race. The feminine activists’ goal was to accomplish equality between men and women no matter the race.
After the first wave of feminism, there came a second wave of feminism later called the Women’s Movement. The Women’s Movement was out for complete equality, and maybe even more than equality. Unlike the Suffrage Movement, who had one goal and that was to have equal voting rights; the Women’s Movement was out for complete equality in everything. Activists wanted equality in ever decision, in every right, and in any position. Many movements came out of this second wave.
These movements and organizations (like NOW) covered anything from reproductive rights all the way to job opportunities. Many of these goals failed to be reached. Theologians believe that many of the second wave feminists’ goals failed because there were too many of them. Although those goals weren’t reached at the time, through amendments like the, Equal Rights Amendment, which failed at first was greatly achieved later in the twentieth century. There also came out of the Women’s Movement famous activists. Feminist activists named, Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes.
Gloria Steinem is probably the most well known out of all the activists that played a role in feminism. She edited a magazine in the 1970s called, MS Magazine which was a magazine viewed towards women of the time period. She used this magazine as an anchor to her activism; it stuck to women and inspired them to become part of the feminist movement as well. Gloria Steinem wrote many books that also became momentum to the second wave of feminism.
Gloria Steinem’s best friend, Dorothy Pitman Hughes was also fighting or equal rights, but her motives were somewhat different than Gloria Steinem’s. Dorothy Pitman Hughes fought also for Black Power, which was another huge movement going on during this time period. Dorothy Pitman Hughes was a powerful speaker, reaching out to women of any color but mainly relating to African American women. Working together (Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes,) they reached women of any color and of any background, taking feminism to their full advantages.
Even though the Women’s Movement wasn’t an entire success, it did have its achievements. This movement’s achievements take place in how women are now looked at. Women now have a higher standard in society and are looked at more like men than ever before.
After the second wave of feminism comes the third wave of feminism. It is the movement that we are experiencing now as a nation. The problems we face are still the same as they have always been- women are not equal to men in this nation. In many other nations women are equal to men, but since this nation holds on to its Christian views there seems to be no change in how women are looked to. Women still get paid less on the dollar (seventy-five cents to the dollar that the man makes,) women can hold the same position as a man but she does not get the same recognition or respect for it, and women’s sports are there but they do not get the same audience.
It seems ridiculous to find benefits in not being equal to your spouse or to the opposite gender, but there are always benefits to a situation. When men are given the duty to work for their families and to support them, the women’s job is to be the loving nice one, and that is how they are looked at in society. Though men get a certain respect and intimidation in society, women get a respect that the men have to serve the women in their every need. Last but not least the bible records, “that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man…” (1st Corinthians 11:3), Now if the man is the head of the woman than that makes the woman the neck which directs the head.
Many of those reasons might seem redundant, but those reasons are keeping America’s women where they are today. This nation has been coming to a slow stop in this feminist movement, which may either be good or may be bad. The good means more respect to women and giving all responsibility to the males of this nation. The bad means that there will be no equality on this supposed “Free Nation” and women will be stuck working in the house, living the statistic of being bear-footed and pregnant in the kitchen serving her house, husband and children. The women’s status in society would just be slaves to the family life.
So now we have come to the third wave of feminism, and this wave is not as recognized or accepted like the Women’s Movement or the Suffrage Movement was. This may be because there aren’t enough women in our nation willing to try for more. In other words the women of our nation have officially lost hope in wanting to be equal. Our nation has apparently settled for less than what could have been achieved.
Although feminism today seems hopeless, it is still around and it won’t end until things change. It is an on-going rebellion that wants more. What America needs to look out for is if this rebellion wants more power than men. It started out that women wanted the same equality as men had, but now feminism is looking in the direction of more power than men.
America has been known as the “Free nation”, which is why so many immigrants came over to America; because they wanted to enjoy the freedom their nation couldn’t supply them. In order to be “free”, every person needs to be equal. So should we really call America “The Free Nation”? Nevertheless, it has always been our choice as a nation to be a “Free Nation” or not. It has always been our choice of how we treat others and what respect we give to other people.
To think about it, it has always been our choice to succeed or not. We see in our history books that the first wave of feminism in the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s succeeded. If they succeeded because they had one goal, why don’t the women of our nation today succeed? If they succeeded because they brought something new to the table in terms of literature and speeches, why don’t the women of our nation today succeed? So really, in all actuality it is on our shoulders to decide whether females and males are equal or not, but it also takes the other to agree upon that idea. The real question in all of this, like the one asked before, “What are women going to do about it?”
“Gender Equality Universally Embraced, But Inequalities Ackknowledged.” Pewglobal.org.
Pew Research Center, 2010, July 1, 2010.
“”This Hour Belongs to the Negro””, “Winning the Vote at Last.” History.com.HISTORY,
Steven Kreis. “Mary Wollstonecraft, 1759-1797.” Historyguide.org. The History Guide, 2000.
Holy Bible. Korea: Zondervan Publishing House. 1994.
Wollstonecraft, Mary, and Sylvana Tomaselli. A Vindication of the Rights of Men. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 2007. 01-20. Print.
Catt, Carrie Chapman, and Nettie Rogers Shuler. Woman Suffrage and Politics; the Inner Story of the Suffrage Movement,. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1923. 1-152. Print.
Steinem, Gloria. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. Vol. 1. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1983. 200-242. Print.