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

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid