News / USA

    As Women's Rights Movement Hits 50, There's More Work to be Done

    Women's Movement Still Relevant 50 Years Lateri
    X
    April 17, 2013 8:19 PM
    Fifty years ago, a book by Betty Friedan sparked a national conversation about gender roles, and launched a movement to empower women both at home and in the workplace. The Feminine Mystique has sold more than 3 million copies since its publication, and it has inspired millions of women to fight for their rights. VOA's Faiza Elmasry explores the relevance of feminism in the U.S. five decades later. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Women's Movement Still Relevant 50 Years Later
    Faiza Elmasry
    Fifty years ago, a book by Betty Friedan sparked a national conversation about gender roles, launching a movement to empower women both at home and in the workplace.

    Over the past five decades, The Feminine Mystique sold more than 3 million copies, and inspired millions of women to fight for their rights.

    The spark

    In 1957, Friedan conducted a survey of her college classmates for their fifteenth reunion.

    Many of these well-educated and well-off women said they were unhappy being housewives, even though many had homes in the suburbs, children and bread-winning husbands.

    Friedan went on to talk with other women about their lives, and how they were portrayed in media.

    She originally intended to publish an article, but no magazine accepted it. So she published a book instead: The Feminine Mystique.

    Breaking ground

    Stephanie Ortoleva, a feminist and human right activist, read the book in the 1970s, when she was in law school. She still remembers Friedan’s words, “...why should women accept this picture of half-life, instead of a share in the whole of human destiny?” 

    “It broke ground that hadn’t broken before," Ortoleva said. "It also really raised very important issues about objectification of women and dressing us up, making us become sort of playthings as oppose to presenting images of women as strong and powerful people.”

    She feels Friedan’s arguments spoke to her generation, especially when she was studying law.

    “Even though my law school was somewhat progressive and that we had a very large class of women," Ortoleva said, "but still, most of our professors were men and that’s why we all decided to sit in the front row of the classroom so no professor could ignore us.”

    Ortoleva belives the women’s movement has made significant strides since then.

    “Women are being involved in some professions that were barred from being engaged in previously," she said. "We’re making some political progress. We're making progress on reproductive health. Economic equality is getting better.”

    Younger generation

    Susan Mottet is president of the Washington D.C. chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which Friedan helped found in 1966. She says the younger generation of feminists has made its own contribution. 

    “We still use the political process, getting the right people elected," Mottet said. "But certainly, and this is something the younger generation of men and women within the movement have helped with, is new ways to engage media, really engaging social media to get your perspective out there.”

    Although Mottet believes there is still a ways to go before women are truly treated equally in America, many in the younger generation don't feel the need to get involved.

    Katayoun Kishi, a 23-year-old graduate student, and her friends don't consider themselves feminists, although they are aware of what the women’s movement has achieved.

    “I think that we are resting on the laurels of the feminists that came before us, that we’re living the lifestyles that we’ve been afforded by them," Kishi said. "That's maybe why we don't feel the need to be out there marching, because we're not feeling the same discrimination they felt before us.”

    Equality and justice

    For Ortoleva, that doesn't mean the women’s movement is no longer relevant, in the U.S. or around the world.

    “I work with a feminist in Colombia. I work with feminists in Egypt, Japan, South Korea," she said. "I think it’s very much of a global movement. There are serious challenges, whether it’s the persistent rapes in India,whether it’s the forced sterilization of either women with disabilities or Romani women in Eastern Europe. That’s why we talk about global feminism.”

    There are different concerns, but the goal remains the same: equality and justice for women and men.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, here's what the history of take-out food tells us about changes in American society

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: oatc from: UK
    April 19, 2013 3:47 PM
    Thank you for marking the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan's book, which was an inspiration for me when I read it in 1967. But the Women's Rights Movement did not start at that point, it had only been largely suppressed at the time. Some would say its real start was when Mary Wollestonecraft, as part of the revolutionary wave in the latter 18th century, wrote 'A Vindication of the Rights of Man' in 1790, followed by her 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman' in 1792, although no organisation of women based on those principles is recorded before one emerged from the anti-slavery movement in 1830. Organised action to obtain the right to membership of professions, to higher education, to vote, etc., all flowed from that in English-speaking countries. However, there is a much older history of movements of both women and men that sought equality for women, and it might really be considered misleading to think of the struggle for women's equality, and rights, as ever being other than a natural aspiration and desire that has always existed. After all, we can see even in the Bible that some women in Greece of Roman times flocked to Christianity as offering equality, until Paul, in his letters to the Corinthians, ordered that they be subordinate to men at all times. But other cultures at and before Roman times were recorded by Romans particularly because of the different roles and status of women. The fact that areas of Britain were ruled by women (and worshipped a female god, whose name was used in naming the island) was particularly interesting to a society where women could never be rulers, or hold any position over men, but it was just part of Northern European culture in which women not constrained just to household roles. There were other cultures like that in most parts of the world, and conflict with other cultures at all levels. There probably always were.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora