PROMINENT EARLY FEMINISTS OF 1950’S, 60’S and 70’s
Feminists in the Second wave i.e.1960’s and 70’s began to voice their
discontent of being a female living in a paternalistic (male dominated
society). Women began to believe that socially, culturally and
artistically they were disadvantaged, unappreciated and unrecognised
for their contributions as workers, mothers and home-makers. They
sort equality in the workplace, the gallery scene and on the homefront.
The following women Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem. and Betty
Friedan contributed in promoting awareness by writing ground-
breaking books on the undermining of women in society. Phrases such
as ‘the glass ceiling’ were coined which describes the plight of women to
achieve in the workplace only to attain a certain level because they were
not paid or promoted equally as men. Feminism has changed
dramatically and has now become more focussed on the influence of
women to actively participate in creating change socially, politically,
economically and artistically to give credibility to women. Women have
become more potent and strategic in addressing global issues
internationally (rape, incest and prostitution and more culturally
specific in targeting women in third world countries ( female genital
mutalation, human trafficking, and glass ceiling issues.
Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
Betty Friedan was famous for her writing a book, The Feminine Mystique.
Published in 1963, it depicted the roles of women in industrial societies,
especially the full-time homemaker role, which Friedan deemed stifling.
Friedan speaks of her own 'terror' at being alone, and observes in her life
never once seeing a positive female role-model who worked and also kept a
family. She provides numerous accounts of housewives who feel similarly
trapped. With her psychology background, Friedan offers a critique of
Freud's penis envy theory, noting a lot of paradoxes in his work. And she
attempts to offer some answers to women who wish to pursue an education.
The book became a bestseller, which some people suggest was the impetus
for the second wave of feminism, and significantly spurred the women's
Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch
Greer argued in her book, The Female Eunuch, that women do not realise
how much men hate them, and how much they are taught to hate themselves.
Christine Wallace writes that, when The Female Eunuch was first published,
one woman had to keep it wrapped in brown paper because her husband
wouldn't let her read it; arguments and fights broke out over dinner tables
and copies of it were thrown across rooms at unsuspecting husbands
(Wallace 1997). It arrived in the stores in London in October 1970. By
March 1971, it had nearly sold out its second printing and had been
translated into eight languages."The title is an indication of the problem,"
Greer told the New York Times in 1971, "Women have somehow been
separated from their libido, from their faculty of desire, from their sexuality.
They've become suspicious about it. Like beasts, for example, who are
castrated in farming in order to serve their master's ulterior motives — to be
fattened or made docile — women have been cut off from their capacity for
After conducting a series of celebrity interviews, Steinem eventually got a
political assignment covering George McGovern's presidential campaign,
which led to a position in a New York magazine. Her 1962 article in Esquire
magazine about the way in which women are forced to choose between a
career and marriage preceded Betty Friedan's book The Feminine Mystique
by one year. She became politically active in the feminist movement, and the
media seemed to appoint Steinem as a feminist leader of sorts. Steinem
brought other notable feminists to the fore and toured the country with
lawyer Florynce Rae "Flo" Kennedy, and in 1971, cofounded the National
Women's Political Caucus as well as the Women's Action Alliance. In 1972,
she helped start the feminist Ms. magazine and wrote for the magazine until
it was sold in 1987. The magazine was sold again in 2001, to the Feminist
Majority Foundation; Steinem remains on the masthead as one of six
founding editors, and serves on the advisory board. Contrary to popular
belief, Steinem did not coin the feminist slogan "A woman needs a man like
a fish needs a bicycle."Steinem cofounded the Coalition of Labor Union
Women in 1974, and participated in the National Conference of Women in
Houston, Texas in 1977. She became Ms. magazine's consulting editor .
NOTES ON FEMINIST ART
May be defined as art by women artists made consciously in the light of
developments in feminist art theory since about 1970. In 1971 the art
historian Linda Nochlin published a groundbreaking essay 'Why Have There
Been No Great Women Artists?'. In it she investigated the social and
economic factors that had prevented talented women from achieving the
same status as their male counterparts.
By the 1980s art historians such as Griselda Pollock and Rozsika Parker
were going further, to examine the language of art history with its gender-
loaded terms such as old master and masterpiece. They questioned the
central place of the female nude in the western canon, asking why men and
women are represented so differently.
In his 1972 book Ways of Seeing the Marxist critic John Berger had
concluded 'Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at'.
In other words Western art replicates the unequal relationships already
embedded in society. Feminist art followed a similar trajectory. In what is
sometimes known as First Wave feminist art, women artists revelled in
feminine experience, exploring vaginal imagery and menstrual blood, posing
naked as goddess figures and defiantly using media such as embroidery that
had been considered 'women's work'.
One of the great iconic works of this phase of feminist art is Judy Chicago's
The Dinner Party, 1974-79. Later feminist artists rejected this approach and
attempted to reveal the origins of our ideas of femininity and womanhood.
They pursued the idea of femininity as a masquerade - a set of poses adopted
by women to conform to social expectations of womanhood.