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Oh Crap, Is She Talking About This Again?

Based on my previous blogs, and maybe its obvious if you have had another class with me, but I am completely enthralled by feminism. Most people ask me, how the hell did you become interested in the subject matter and women’s history? It’s simple I tell them. In 8th grade, my mom decided to go back to school and get her masters in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. I would listen to my mother read her reflection papers and thesis aloud every Sunday morning as she meticulously edited her work and reassured that her quotes were exact. She took me to classes when I had off from school, and even had the opportunity to hear her defend her thesis in front of her peers and the department. All these things combined ultimately opened my eyes to a whole new world of exploration and research. In middle school and high school, I feel as though my classes were taught from, “within the box,” meaning, everything was precisely planned and taught to prepare for state examinations. As a history junkie from even a young age, my mom encouraged me to supplement my schoolwork with outside readings, including The Yellow Wallpaperby Charlotte Perkins Gilman, If Men Had Periodsby Gloria Steinem and The Feminine Mystique by Betty Freidan. This was the origin of my interest, and it only grew from there.

Throughout high school, I would try to integrate my ideas into my writing, analysis and class contributions, but I always faced opposition. I was constantly ridiculed, laughed at and taunted. No one understood where these “eccentric” ideas were coming from, and some even thought my mom was doing my work for me since they knew she was back in school. I was devastated and disappointed that people did not think I could have an interest in feminism and that it was so out of the ordinary. I could not wait for college (I actually wrote my common application essay on feminism), where hopefully people would share the same passion for the study and understanding of feminism and women’s history as me. I was ecstatic when I came to Bucknell and saw that the school offered classes like Women and Politics, Women Science and Technology and Introduction to Women’s Genders Studies (which I have taken all three since freshman year). These courses have even opened my eyes to individual’s and writings that actually stand as oppositions to feminism and have gain a better understanding of why feminism is such a controversial and studied theory.

So, what does this all have to do with or class and our course of study? It seems appropriate that my answer to this prompt comes during the same week when we will be discussing framing and social movements. Most people hear the word feminism and think it’s a relatively new phenomenon beginning in the 1960s. However, the roots of feminism can be traced back all the way to 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention, where Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. The conference has been noted to be the country’s first push for women’s suffrage and was the first time this issue gained national attention.

Fast forward to the 1920s in women’s pursuit for the ratification of the 19th amendment.  Two groups emerged during this time and ultimately played a critical role in framing the era. The National American Woman Suffrage Association, which was lead by Carrie Chapman Catt (who took over for Susan B Anthony) argued that women deserved the same rights as men because they were created equally. However, in 1917, Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party argued that women deserved the right to vote because they were inherently different from men. Was is critical to note is despite the fact they preached varying approaches to achieving suffrage, the undertaking of each organization proved vital to obtaining the right to vote. (If you are really interested about the struggle between these two organizations, I highly recommend you watch Iron Jawed Angels… it’s a great movie!)

With the passage of the 19th amendment came a general belief that receiving the right to vote was not enough to bring about significant changes in the lives of women.  Although suffrage was seen as a focal point for the women’s right movement, many recognized that women continued to be misrepresented and restricted within society.  Alice Paul proposed an Equal Rights Amendment in 1923 to combat the inequalities and discrimination that faced women.  The introduction of the ERA created an acute divide within society and especially within the movement itself.  This critical rift, which is provides reasoning why the ERA has failed to be ratified to the United States Constitution. With the ERA’s proposal, a whirlwind of disagreements regarding the language of the amendment erupted throughout the country.  The key questions emerged over how the ERA would affect gender roles and lines and the relationship between men and women in the private and public spheres.

Although the ERA did not pass in the 1920s, in 1970, it reappeared as a forefront issue for Congress.  However, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the inclusion of Title XII (which dealt with banning prejudice in employment, which included sex discrimination), eradicated the controversial section of the original ERA.  This would ultimately allow its reconsideration for ratification. Although there was a constant change in the language of the amendment, Congress would ultimately pass the bill in 1972 and send it to the states to be ratified by a three-fourths majority. As a result, individuals such as Phyllis Schlafly saw the ERA has a determent to women, for it would take away privileges including dependent wife benefits under Social Security. Schlafly began to rally against the ERA in 1972 and played a critical role in its ultimate defeat in the early 1980s. (Check out this clip below for more information about Schlafly and the ERA).

Although this is a brief overview of the first and second waves of feminism, it is clear that opposing groups trying to achieve the same goal or two groups standing in opposition to one another, helped shaped how feminism is perceived today. It has also fostered the emergence of Black Feminism, Chicana Feminism and Global Feminism in response to the lack of representation of these minorities in the general women’s rights movements. I think its imperative that in understanding this social movement, to examine feminist but also their antagonist, as well as their publications and literature. By understanding the viewpoints of all participants, one will have a better framework of the overall purpose of the movement and the significance it holds in our history


About Dana Silverstein

I am a Senior Management and History major at Bucknell University. I currently live in Westchester, New York and am hoping to start a career in advertising upon graduation.


13 thoughts on “Oh Crap, Is She Talking About This Again?

  1. You clearly are very interested in this topic! That definitely makes sense though given your moms background. I’m jealous that you have a topic you have loved for so long–I’ve always wanted that strong of an interest. The idea of feminism and all of the movements through the past century definitely impact BGS. Your post definitely rang a bell when you talked about the public and private spheres. Just looking solely at the public sphere, feminist movements have greatly affected the spaces that are normal for women to move in–specifically in the office. Also, it applies to the idea of globalization in that different countries have different expectations to where and how women can work.

    Posted by Catherine Gibbons | February 21, 2012, 6:21 pm
  2. Dana, it’s enlightening to see such great interest in this topic. I agree with Catherine in that I have always longed for having this type of passion! I think it’s wonderful you were able to accompany your Mom to various classes and her thesis, that exposure I’m sure is irreplaceable. Though women’s suffrage is certainly not a new topic, even today there is evidence of continued male-dominated fields and unfair wages between males and females in the same roles. The two groups with conflicting viewpoints, one saying women are created equal and the other saying we’re inherently different, and both stating these reasons for the right to vote alongside men, shows a society split between how women thought of themselves. I find this interesting. I had seen Iron Jawed Angels in a class I took in high school – very emotional! This perspective of the relationship between men and women in the private and public spheres is a nice change to the ethical cases we’ve discussed in class of the downfalls of AIG, Enron and Nike.

    Posted by Danielle Marquette | February 21, 2012, 8:52 pm
  3. Dana – you are definitely passionate about feminism and I think that it’s really great that you have a vested interest in the subject. You seem to have a lot of knowledge about the topic and its relation to business, governement & society, specifically social movements. I liked how you explained the origin and development of the women’s suffrage movement and tied it in to topics we’ve discussed in class. Great job!

    Posted by Lauren McGuiggan | February 21, 2012, 9:41 pm
  4. I assumed you were interested because you are, um, what is it? Oh yeah, female. The question is why aren’t more women?

    Posted by Jordi | February 21, 2012, 9:45 pm
  5. In my opinion, I think the root of why more women are not interested in feminism or women’s history is because they haven’t been exposed to it. We live in a heteronormative society, dominated by maleness and whiteness. I think because of this, we are taught history within the box. As I mentioned this post, I was a victim of this kind of learning, as I think most students are until they come to college and are encouraged, and sometimes forced, to explore beyond the material presented. I think that some women are happy with the positions they occupy today; they have the right to vote and seem to, on the surface, have equal rights. But the true reality is that inequalities still exist, as evident by the high numbers of women being discriminated against in the workplace. I think that if we integrate more women’s history in all history classes from a young age (those histories being American and World), I think that future generations will have a better understanding of why feminism has been and will continue to be an important theory to understand.

    Posted by Dana Silverstein | February 21, 2012, 10:37 pm
  6. So, I thought about the notion that I am interested in women’s history and feminism because I am a female all morning. I do think a lot of this has to do is that I am a woman and I admire those who have paved the way before me. At the same time, there are men feminist, and I don’t think they get enough recognition. Even during the Seneca Falls Convention, abolitionist Fredrick Douglas was a supporter of women’s rights. I decided to do a little more research and found this website http://www.menandfeminism.org/. Men feminist do exist! Lets give them more credit!

    Posted by Dana Silverstein | February 22, 2012, 10:41 am
  7. Dana – just thought I should mention that your title actually made me laugh out loud. And it caught my attention. I’m not on blog council this week, but if it means anything – my vote goes to you for best title!

    Posted by Beth O'Brien | February 22, 2012, 5:17 pm
  8. Dana, I too am fascinated with the ways in which women have made such progress since the early 1900s. It’s amazing that 90 years ago, women could not vote and today women occupy political positions and are the breadwinners of their family. Your blog post relates to my post about KIND, an organization in Nigeria that is training young women to become leaders in their community. The progress in America is astounding, but there are still so many women suppressed around the world. Should businesses operating in these countries such as Nigeria hire and train these women who are suppressed by the men in their community?

    Posted by Lauren Daley | February 22, 2012, 10:00 pm
  9. What was the critical rift around the ERA?

    Posted by Jordi | February 22, 2012, 11:00 pm
  10. If being a feminist means that men and women are equal before the law, then sign me up. I’m a feminist.

    Posted by Jordi | February 22, 2012, 11:04 pm
  11. Relevant speaker coming up…

    Gail Dines is Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Wheelock College in Boston, will be Bucknell’s Women’s and Gender Studies Distinguished Visiting Lecturer for 2011-2012. Professor Dines is an internationally acclaimed speaker and author, and a feminist activist. Her writing and lectures focus on the hypersexualization of the culture and the ways that porn images filter down into mainstream pop culture. Dines’s work on media and pornography has appeared in academic journals, magazines such as Time and Newsweek, and newspapers across the country. She is a frequent guest on radio and television and is a recipient of the Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights. For more information, please see http://gaildines.com/.

    Professor Dines will be on campus on Tuesday, March 6, as well as Wednesday, March 7. On the evening of the 6th, she will give a public lecture entitled “Sex, Identity and Intimacy in a Porn Culture.” (7 pm, LC Forum). Please encourage your colleagues and students to attend. In addition the the colloquium luncheon, iIn advance of her visit, we are also organizing readings/discussion groups for students, each of whom will receive a copy of Dines’ latest book, Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked Our Sexuality (2010, Beacon Press). To date, we are delighted that approximately 40 students have expressed an interest in joining one of the readings groups, each of which will be co-facilitated by members of the Women’s and Gender Studies Coordinating Committee, along with a few other colleagues.

    Posted by Jordi | February 23, 2012, 9:20 pm


  1. Pingback: Blog Council Awards « business government society 2 - February 24, 2012

  2. Pingback: Feminism « Solmaz Hafezi - March 5, 2012

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Blog 5 before session 6 What (interest) or Who (person) Inspires You? For this week’s prompt, the Blog Council wants you to examine how this class relates to your own interests. So, please write about how this class relates to some of your own intellectual or other learning interests. We are NOT interested in how it relates to a specific career goal. Plan B: same idea, but based on a person. See whole post for details.

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