The Women’s Movement Brings Changes
DOORS of opportunity in the workplace, government, and community life have opened as never before to women in many countries of the world since the small beginnings of the Women’s Liberation Movement more than 25 years ago.
Beginnings of Change
“The problem that has no name” was how American writer Betty Friedan described it in her 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique. Back then she identified a malaise among middle-class women who felt trapped in lives lived only through their husbands and their families. In many women who had felt a nagging frustration, an indefinable resentment, the book struck a responsive chord that still reverberates today.
“I felt I was wasting my mind,” said Lyn, a Canadian woman, when speaking of her marriage in the 1970’s. She told Awake!: “I had two children and a husband, but I still didn’t feel fulfilled. I wanted to . . . really be something.”
Individual discontent gave birth to a sweeping social movement that sought to liberate women from male “domination.” The major areas of discontent were the family, which feminists likened to domestic slavery, and the workplace, which limited women’s opportunities and usually paid them less than men.
The Changes Effected
The most significant changes wrought by the movement have been in the collective thinking of society in many lands—in a heightened awareness of issues affecting women, a new sense of fairness in listening to their concerns, and a greater appreciation for their contribution and potential in many fields.
Changes in thinking have translated into tangible reforms. Pink-collar workers now stand alongside men in many industrial jobs that previously were unthinkable for women. Although in smaller numbers, women are penetrating traditional male bastions in management boardrooms too. “There are more real choices now,” said one feminist to Awake!
Women may now be found in the highest political positions in many lands. Some of the world’s most prominent nations—India, Israel, and Great Britain, for example—have recently been or are currently being led by women. Philippine president Corazon Aquino said of the 1986 “bloodless” revolution that brought her to power: “It was the women who were at the forefront of activities.”
Many of the changes that have come about have been beneficial to both men and women. Around the world, there has been injustice as well as unfairness in the treatment of women. Surely it is a good thing that women not be discriminated against in the workplace, or anywhere else, for that matter. A greater awareness of women’s needs, concerns, and abilities was long overdue. Women are certainly no less human in aspirations and the need to be recognized and appreciated for what they are than are men.
But has the women’s movement been an unmixed blessing? There are those who wonder if in some cases the efforts have been too extreme or have gone too far. Women themselves ask: What has been the price paid for liberation? Is the movement as vital a force as it once was? And what is its future? The following article will analyze these questions for us.
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Around the world, there has been injustice as well as unfairness in the treatment of women. Surely it is a good thing that women not be discriminated against. But has the women’s movement been an unmixed blessing?