The 19th Century and You

Yesterday we began noticing how the emotional process in society operates in the same way the emotional process in a family does. The emotional process of the battle of the sexes, for example, is reflected in the Feminist Movement–a by-product of the societal emotional process of the French Revolution 250 years ago. At that time, non-wealthy citizens–men, women, slaves–began demanding the rights and privileges of the wealthier social classes, symbolized by the right to vote, although democratic governments were still largely non-existent.

Over the next century (the 18oos), social conditions for commoners began to improve, including voting rights for common men, and higher education for wealthy women. Achieving these gains came at the cost of great social upheaval.

Our discussion yesterday brought us up to the 1900s, which saw incredible gains in the social conditions for commoners, with U.S. women achieving the right to vote in 1920.

20th Century Feminism – Equality

Twenty-five years later, WWII required women to do “men’s work,” while men were off at war. The unexpected by-product of that reality was that common women gained economic power, which they had never had before. Rosie the Riveter became the feminist icon of the time.

In 1949, shortly after the end of WWII, Simone de Beauvoir published The Second Sex, arguing that males and females were no different, and that sex is more a result of our choice than anything biological. Her contention that “One is not born, but rather becomes, a women” stirred what would become the second wave of Feminism.

As the next decade progressed (the 1950s), an unrest among educated women developed just beneath the surface. Welcome to the scene Betty Friedan and her book The Feminine Mystique in 1963. In this work, Friedan identifies “the problem that has no name”—the widespread unhappiness of educated suburban housewives, despite having need of nothing. Her contention: finding her identity in her biology as a mother may not be satisfying enough for some women. “I think this is a crisis of women growing up—a turning point from an immaturity that has been called femininity to full human identity.”

In the effort to bring women into the mainstream of American society in fully equal partnership with men, Friedan co-founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. The Feminist movement ran parallel to the Civil Rights Movement, piggy-backing on the public sensitivity to oppression.

20th Century Feminism – Sexuality

Furthermore, the FDA’s approval of the Pill in 1960 allowed women to engage in sex without the fear of pregnancy, which significantly increased the availability of sexual outlets for both sexes, dramatically altering how men and women interacted with each other before marriage. Combine that with an increase of women in the workforce, and the accessibility of marital affairs also increased. Add to that the growing legislative thrust for no-fault divorce, which California was first to adopt in 1969.

Then in 1970, members of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) began to press upon NOW for issues of sexuality to be included in the feminist movement. Friedan’s attempt to separate issues of gender equality and opportunity from issues of sexuality eventually failed, giving birth to the third wave of Feminism. This wave, with its manifesto Woman-Identified Woman, became the next face of Feminism. Betty Friedan withdrew from the movement to put distance between her and radical lesbians whom she called the “Lavender Menace” and whom she felt would illegitimize the movement in the eyes of the public.

20th Century Feminism – Social Upheaval

Is it any wonder why into this social upheaval Alan Toffler introduced the term Future Shock, publishing a book by that title in 1970, to describe “a sickness that comes from too much change in too short a time. It’s the feeling that nothing is permanent anymore. It’s the reaction to changes that happen so fast that we can’t absorb them. It’s the premature arrival of the future. For those who are unprepared, its effects can be pretty devastating.”

And the social upheaval would still continue. Through the 1970s, women continued to gain ascendancy with leaders like Gloria Steinem, founder of Ms. Magazine. “As Ms. Magazine widened the reach of feminism, it helped usher in a new era of the women’s movement. In the years to come, the movement would migrate from an outsider’s insurgency to the mainstream of American life where it would lay siege to the country’s most established institutions, even the relationship between men and women” says the 2013 Documentary film Makers: Women Who Make America, Part 1.

Then in 1973 with the legalization of abortion, women gained even more freedom over unwanted pregnancy than they had even gained with the Pill. Over the next several decades, women climbed the professional ladder at lightning speed.

The 21st Century and Your Next Date

And that brings us up to the present. We’ll bring the historical discussion into the 21st Century tomorrow, and then we’ll take a look at how that societal emotional process comes right down to you and your date…just in time for Valentine’s Day.

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