Module 4 women’s liberation in the 1970’s

Analyze one of the required readings from this week (Below), but only one of the articles from the 1970’s. There are several on feminism, from different perspectives, as well as one on the Nixon era.

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To successfully complete this essay, you will need to answer the following questions:

  • Explain the cultural relevance of the article. Who funded this magazine? What are their political biases?
  • What is the main point of the article? What is the writer’s message to his/ her readers?
  • Did the magazine make an impact on popular culture?

Your thesis for the essay should attempt to answer this question:

  • Explain the cultural relevance of the article. How did this particular magazine article reflect and/ or attempt to manipulate the cultural values of its audience? How can you prove this?

This essay should be 2-3 pages, in APA style. Please include at least one scholarly resource as a minimum in your essay.




Women’s Liberation in the 1970’s

Women’s Liberation is also known as “the feminist movement”, or “feminism”. Although much of the successes of feminism took place in the 20th century, it has roots in American history that go back to the late 18th century. Some of the main issues that feminism refers to are woman’s suffrage (the right to vote), political leadership, reproductive rights, sexual discrimination based on employment, and sexual and domestic violence.

The feminist movement can be examined in three “waves”, or distinct periods of time. The first wave of feminism occurred during the 19th century, and was focused upon the issue of unequal rights women had at that time. Women in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s were becoming more educated, and were determined to have the same rights as men. This period of women’s liberation only related to white, wealthy women, as ethnic minority women, and women without financial means had no voice at all in society at that time.

Second Wave Feminism

Second wave feminism, which took place from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, was geared towards removing the gender equality gap through taking on cultural and social issues such as those mentioned above. As discussed in previous modules of this course, the idea of “containment” applies when discussing the second wave women’s liberation movement that began to take shape during the early 1960’s. In terms of popular music for young women in the 1960’s, musicians such as Carole King were writing songs from the perspective of independently minded, and sexually liberated women. This went against the dominant culture’s attempts to contain women, and helped to shift the cultural values and mores of American society.

Gloria Steinem

One seminal contributor to the feminist movement is Gloria Steinem. Since the early 1960’s, she has been a driving force in pushing forward the prosperity of women in the United States, and internationally as well. She began her career as a journalist in the early 60’s, and during that time also worked as an undercover journalist for Show magazine. Steinem worked as a Playboy Bunny in order to study how women were treated at The Playboy Club. This was a groundbreaking look into the popular, or dominant image of women of that time, as seen from new perspectives. Steinem has been an author and activist since that time, and in 2012, at age 78, she is still actively campaigning for women’s rights.

Third Wave Feminism

Third wave feminism began in the early 1990’s, though its roots began to take hold during the mid 1980’s. This new phase opposes second wave feminism, which many modern feminists believe only applied to white, middle or upper-class women. This transformation of the cultural movement of women’s liberation in the United States was also due to the increased presence of media images of women, which often projects gender stereotypes.

During the 1980’s, with more women entering into the male dominated workforce, there was a cultural need for a “de-feminization” of women, which was reflected in a more sexually androgynous look. Annie Lennox, of the British 80’s band The Eurythmics, started a trend by wearing men’s suits, and wearing trademark ultra-short hair.

David Bowie was one of the first men in pop music to feminize his look, and to look more sexually androgynous, by wearing make up and lipstick back in the 1970’s, during his “Ziggy Stardust” period. This is a cultural shift that deserves examination, as it was groundbreaking at the time.

Sexual positivity is another element of third wave feminism, which is the concept that relates to a positive view about sexuality. For example, in regards to pornography, instead of focusing on a woman always being sexually violated or repressed, as second wave feminism would see it, a third wave feminist would attempt to see women involved in the sex trade as a potential personal choice. This does not mean that feminists are pro-pornography, but is meant to assert that value shifts are present within modern feminist thinking. Patti Smith is one female musical artist who became popular in the 1970’s, during the beginnings of the punk movement. She was known for her masculine look, and her powerful onstage presence. Women in music during the 1970’s broke with the traditional feminine image they had been expected to portray in the past, and this also helped to change gender stereotypes in American popular culture.

Finally, it is also important to note that third wave, or current feminism also is focused on political leadership for women. Particularly, women in the United States are now more politically active than ever. Hillary Clinton, and Sarah Palin have both recently run for the White House, and more women will inevitably do the same in the future.

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