Rory Dicker, “Second Wave Feminism: Seeking Liberation and Equality,” from A History of U.S. Feminisms, pp. 57-103

by chunte4

Rory Dicker’s summary of second wave feminism surprised me in its willingness to discuss the internal conflict and eventual fracturing of the movement the plagued every feminist platform including seemingly secure organizations such as NOW. Specifically Dicker addresses an attempt, shared by the first and second wave both, to create a single unifying female identity despite the need for a wide variety of initiatives to address distinct needs from different social spheres. I like, for example, that she addressed the break within NOW over abortion policy and the still fairly conservative attitude of many feminists regarding reproductive rights. Nevertheless I wished she had drawn more attention to the histories of women that lacked the privileges of white, heterosexual middle class feminists and adressed the need for intersectionality in feminism. For example Dicker discusses Betty Friedan in depth and provides numerous descriptions of her contributions to NOW and the feminist movement in general. Yet she fails to acknowledge (in this chapter anyway) her problematic views towards lesbians, who she didn’t think of as an important part of second wave feminism due to the notion that their homosexuality and gender were two completely separate issues that needed to be talked about separately. The history of Gay and queer women in general with regards to the fight for civil liberties, manifested itself in very unique ways as a result of this exclusion, but due to the focus on mainstream feminism, Dicker neglected to explore this ongoing and important chapter in feminist history. Discussing it more in depth would have allowed her to segway more easily into an analysis of the intersectional feminist politics of the third wave which, focuses on awareness of past mistakes and ways to include all women regardless of race, class, biological sex, etc. into the movement, thus making feminism relevant in the lives of all women. The roots of third wave feminism can be difficult to track down but looking critically at the past can provide amble evidence for why some women felt excluded by second wave feminism, and why society still needs feminism today. In this way one can firmly establish that the third wave, did not occur in a vacuum and that the concerns of women of the third wave have a basis in not just logic but history as well. Often issues raised through third wave feminism, in my experience, have been trivialized as “overreactions” or demands for special treatment, thus even though Dicker brings certain flaws in feminist theory to the surface, society as a whole still seems to require a clear and unambiguous explanation as to why such issues remain relevant. And to accomplish this, those who  analyze and contribute to feminist theory must acknowledge all aspects of the past as objectively as possible.

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