Life in America: The Reagan Years, A Webography

For Further Reading: Second Wave Feminisms

The Second Sex,  by Simone de Beauvoir (1949)

In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir posed questions many men, and women, had yet to ponder when the book was released in 1953. "One wonders if women still exist, if they will always exist, whether or not it is desirable that they should ...," she says in this comprehensive treatise on women. She weaves together history, philosophy, economics, biology, and a host of other disciplines to show women's place in the world and to postulate on the power of sexuality. This is a powerful piece of writing in a time before "feminism" was even a phrase, much less a movement.

This massive, classic tome is still a delight to read. Simone de Beauvoir is intelligent, scholarly, lucid, and witty; her thesis is simple: early western philosophers established the female sex as "the other" to rationalize and promote the development and growth of fledgling patriarchy. "'The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities,' said Aristotle; 'we should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness.'" Referring to the earlier research of noted anthropologist Levi-Strauss on the development of the category of "other" - "as primordial as consciousness itself" in all known human cultures - Simone de Beauvoir analyses the depth, breadth, purpose, and result of the western notion of woman as not-man. The book is sub-divided into two sections, "Facts and Myths" and "Woman's Life Today," in which she examines and documents such subjects as "The Data of Biology," "History," "Myths," "The Formative Years," "Situation," "Justification," and, finally "Towards Liberation." Simone de Beauvoir - literary artist, philosopher, and founding mother of twentieth-century feminism - wrote The Second Sex "less by a wish to demand our rights than by an effort towards clarity and understanding." Forty-five years after the book's publication, it remains true to its intent.  BUY IT HERE

The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan (1963)

The Feminine Mystique, published February 25, 1963, is a book written by Betty Friedan.  According to The New York Times obituary of Friedan in 2006, it “ignited the contemporary women's movement in 1963 and as a result permanently transformed the social fabric of the United States and countries around the world” and “is widely regarded as one of the most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century.”

Friedan studied decades of women's magazines and found that the editorial decisions were made by men who enforced "occupation: housewife" (a typical answer in the U.S. Census).  Friedan criticized Sigmund Freud, whose ideas had swept America, where they were interpreted literally, as well as functionalism in the social sciences.  She also criticized Margaret Mead, who advocated both theories, and sex-directed (life-adjustment) educators who thought women should be concerned only with marriage and family.  She describes the motivational research behind advertising that "manipulates" women into consumption and perpetuates a "sick or immature" society instead of one that encourages women to develop their human intelligence.  She asserts that the time it takes to do housework expands to the time to be filled, and that housework can be done by an 8 year old child. She regrets the growth of the suburbs and fifteen years or more of propaganda asking women to conform.  Friedan also describes female sex-seeking, quoting the Kinsey Reports and Freud on homosexuality.  She voices fears that progressive dehumanization is passed through generations, finding clues in Korean war soldiers who were ill, the insane, and prisoners in German concentration camps.  She quotes Abraham Maslow at length, as well as Kinsey studies that found that highly-educated women experience orgasm while those who marry young perhaps do not.  Friedan then advocates a "life plan" for women and explains the importance of education.  BUY IT HERE

Source:  "The Feminine Mystique."  Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.  21 Dec. 2010.  Web.  4 Jan. 2011.

The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, by Shulamith Firestone (1970)

Originally published in 1970, when Shulamith Firestone was just twenty-five years old, and going on to become a bestseller, The Dialectic of Sex was the first book of the women’s liberation movement to put forth a feminist theory of politics.

Beginning with a look at the radical and grassroots history of the first wave (with its foundation in the abolition movement of the time), Firestone documents its major victory, the granting of the vote to women in 1920, and the fifty years of ridicule that followed. She goes on to deftly synthesize the work of Freud, Marx, de Beauvoir, and Engels to create a cogent argument for feminist revolution. Identifying women as a caste, she declares that they must seize the means of reproduction—for as long as women (and only women) are required to bear and rear children, they will be singled out as inferior. Ultimately she presents feminism as the key radical ideology, the missing link between Marx and Freud, uniting their visions of the political and the personal.

In the wake of recent headlines bemoaning women’s squandered fertility and the ongoing debate over the appropriate role of genetics in the future of humanity, The Dialectic of Sex is revealed as remarkably relevant to today’s society—a testament to Shulamith Firestone’s startlingly prescient vision.  BUY IT HERE

Sexual Politics, by Kate Millett (1970)

Praised and denounced when it was first published in 1970, Sexual Politics not only explored history but also became part of it. Kate Millett's groundbreaking book fueled feminism's second wave, giving voice to the anger of a generation while documenting the inequities - neatly packaged in revered works of literature and art - of a complacent and unrepentant society. Sexual Politics laid the foundation for subsequent feminist scholarship by showing how cultural discourse reflects a systematized subjugation and exploitation of women. Identifying patriarchy as a socially conditioned belief system masquerading as nature, Millett demonstrates in detail how its attitudes and systems penetrate literature, philosophy, psychology, and politics. Her incendiary work rocked the foundations of the literary canon by castigating time-honored classics - from D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's "Lover" to Norman Mailer's "The Naked and the Dead" - for their use of sex to degrade and undermine women. A new introduction to this edition draws attention to some of the forms patriarchy has taken recently in consolidating its oppressive and dangerous control.  BUY IT HERE

Against our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, by Susan Brownmiller (1976)

"The most comrpehensive study of rape ever offered to the public...It forces readers to take a fresh look at their own attitudes toward this devastating crime."  -Newsweek

As powerful and timely now as when it was first published, Against Our Will stands as a unique document of the history of politics, the sociology of rape and the inherent and ingrained inequality of men and women under the law. In lucid, persuasive prose, Brownmiller has created a definitive, devastating work of lasting social importance.  BUY IT HERE

Fat is a Feminist Issue, by Susie Orbach (1978)

In one volume together with its bestselling sequel When it was first published, Fat is a Feminist Issue became an instant classic and it is as relevant today as it was then. Reflecting on our increasingly diet and body-obsessed society, Susie Orbach's new introduction explains how generations of women and girls are growing up absorbing the eating anxieties around them. In an age where women want to be sexy, nurturing, domestic goddesses, confident at work - an equal to their male counterparts, and feminine too, the twenty-first-century woman is poorly armed for survival. Never before has the Fat is a Feminist Issue revolution been more in need of revival. Exploring our love/hate relationship with food, Susie Orbach describes how fat is about so much more than food. It is a response to our social situation; the way we are seen by others and ourselves. Too often food is a source of anguish, as are our bodies. But Fat is a Feminist Issue discusses how we can turn food into a friend and find ways to accept ourselves for who and how we are. Following the step-by-step guide, and you too can put an end to food anxieties and dieting.  BUY IT HERE

Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women, by Susan Faludi (1991)

Far from being "liberated," American women in the 1980s were victims of a powerful backlash against the handful of small, hard-won victories the feminist movement had achieved, says Wall Street Journal reporter Faludi, who won a Pulitzer this year. Buttressing her argument with facts and statistics, she states that the alleged "man shortage" endangering women's chances of marrying (posited by a Harvard-Yale study) and the "infertility epidemic" said to strike professional women who postpone childbearing are largely media inventions. She finds evidence of antifeminist backlash in Hollywood movies, in TV's thirtysomething , in 1980s fashion ads featuring battered models and in the New Right's attack on women's rights. She directs withering commentary at Robert Bly's all-male workshops, Allan Bloom's "prolonged rant" against women and Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer's revisionism. This eloquent, brilliantly argued book should be read by everyone concerned about gender equality.  BUY IT HERE

The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women, by Naomi Wolf (1991)

In a country where the average woman is 5-foot-4 and weighs 140 pounds, movies, advertisements, and MTV saturate our lives with unrealistic images of beauty. The tall, nearly emaciated mannequins that push the latest miracle cosmetic make even the most confident woman question her appearance. Feminist Naomi Wolf argues that women's insecurities are heightened by these images, then exploited by the diet, cosmetic, and plastic surgery industries. Every day new products are introduced to "correct" inherently female "flaws," drawing women into an obsessive and hopeless cycle built around the attempt to reach an impossible standard of beauty. Wolf rejects the standard and embraces the naturally distinct beauty of all women.  BUY IT HERE

The Second Wave: A Reader in Feminist Theory, Ed. Linda Nicholson (1997)

The Second Wave collects many of the major essays of feminist theory of the past forty years, essays by the figures who have made key contributions to feminist theory during this period and have generated extensive discussion. Organized historically, these essays provide a sense of the major turning points in feminist theory.  Contributors include: Norma Alarcon, Linda Alcoff, Michele Barrett, Elsa Barkley Brown, Judith Butler, Nancy Chodorow, Patricia Hill Collins, Simone de Beauvoir, Shulamith Firestone, Nancy Fraser, Carol Gilligan, Heidi Hartmann, Nancy C. M. Hartsock, Luce Irigaray, Catharine MacKinnon, Uma Narayan, Linda Nicholson, Ellen Rooney, Gayle Rubin, Gayatri Spivak, Wendy W. Williams and Monique Wittig.   BUY IT HERE

Desiring Revolution: Second-Wave Feminism and the Rewriting of American Sexual Thought, 1920 to 1982, by Jane Gerhard (2001)

There was a moment in the 1970s when sex was what mattered most to feminists. White middle-class women viewed sex as central to both their oppression and their liberation. Young women started to speak and write about the clitoris, orgasm, and masturbation, and publishers and the news media jumped at the opportunity to disseminate their views. In Desiring Revolution, Gerhard asks why issues of sex and female pleasure came to matter so much to these "second-wave feminists." In answering this question Gerhard reveals the diverse views of sexuality within feminism and shows how the radical ideas put forward by this generation of American women was a response to attempts to define and contain female sexuality going back to the beginning of the century. Gerhard begins by showing how the "marriage experts" of the first half of the twentieth century led people to believe that female sexuality was bound up in bearing children. Ideas about normal, white, female heterosexuality began to change, however, in the 1950s and 1960s with the widely reported, and somewhat shocking, studies of Kinsey and Masters and Johnson, whose research spoke frankly about female sexual anatomy, practices, and pleasures. Gerhard then focuses on the sexual revolution between 1968 and 1975. Examining the work of Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Erica Jong, and Kate Millet, among many others, she reveals how little the diverse representatives of this movement shared other than the desire that women gain control of their own sexual destinies. Finally, Gerhard examines the divisions that opened up between anti-pornography (or "anti-sex") feminists and anti-censorship (or "pro-sex") radicals. At once erudite and refreshingly accessible, Desiring Revolution provides the first full account of the unfolding of the feminist sexual revolution.  BUY IT HERE

No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women, by Estelle Freedman (2003)

In the preface to her engaging narrative history of feminism, No Turning Back, Estelle Freedman thanks a woman we should all thank, someone who asked her to recommend one book that best presented feminist scholarship to date. Realizing that her only suggestions would require the woman to read extensively across a range of disciplines, Freedman set out to provide that book herself. The result is an expansive but eminently readable history of feminism, its political roots and objectives, and the case for its centrality to the future of women. While displaying an in-depth knowledge of her field in discussing women's rights, work, and the more recent history of women's political strategies, Freedman also demonstrates a willingness to engage in critical thinking beyond her own sphere and range; she explores subjects ranging from the development of labor and social roles across centuries and cultures to the ways in which race, class, and other social hierarchies inform and define different "feminisms." Acknowledging that her book does not "tell a single, unified history of revolutionary triumph," Freedman examines issues related to politics, economics, race, relationships, health, sexuality, and violence within the context of feminist history. Though it could have been a dry polemic, No Turning Back is, instead, an enthusiastic look at how and why feminist ideas have remained a part of the political landscape since their emergence. Freedman not only recognizes the complex processes of adaptation and redefinition that feminism has undergone, but proposes that this malleability is what has enabled the movement to withstand the test of time. For an obviously impassioned (but still well-reasoned and solidly supported) presentation of the story thus far, Freedman's answer to this book's instigator should now be an easy one.  BUY IT HERE

Separate Roads to Feminism: Black, Chicana, and White Feminist Movements in America's Second Wave, by Benita Roth (2003)

This book is about the development of white women's liberation, black feminism and Chicana feminism in the 1960s and 1970s, the era known as the "second wave" of U.S. feminist protest. Benita Roth explores the ways that feminist movements emerged from the Civil Rights/Black Liberation movement, the Chicano movement, and the white left, and the processes that supported political organizing decisions made by feminists. She traces the effects that inequality had on the possibilities for feminist unity and explores how ideas common to the left influenced feminist organizing.  BUY IT HERE

Feminist Coalitions: Historical Perspectives on Second-Wave Feminism in the United States, Ed. Stephanie Gilmore (2008)

Much of the scholarship on second-wave feminism has focused on divisions within the women's movement and its narrow conception of race and class, but the contributors to this volume remind readers that feminists in the 1960s and 1970s also formed many strong partnerships, often allying themselves with a diverse range of social justice efforts on a local grassroots level. These essays focus on coalitions and alliances in which feminists and other activists joined forces to address crucial social justice issues such as reproductive rights, the peace movement, women's health, Christianity and other religions, and neighborhood activism, as well as alliances crossing boundaries of race, class, political views, and sexual identity. The contributors bring fresh perspectives to feminist history by calling attention to how women struggled to include and represent diverse women without minimizing the difficulties of conceptualizing a singular feminism.    Contributors are Maria Bevacqua, Tamar Carroll, Marisa Chappell, Andrea Estepa, Sara M. Evans, Amy Farrell, Stephanie Gilmore, Cynthia Harrison, Elizabeth Kaminski, Wendy Kline, Premilla Nadasen, Caryn Neumann, Anne M. Valk, and Emily Zuckerman.  BUY IT HERE

A History of U.S. Feminisms, by Rory C. Dicker (2008)

A History of U.S. Feminisms is an introductory text designed to be used as supplementary material for first-year women’s studies students or as a brush-up text for more advanced students. Covering the first, second, and third waves of feminism, A History of U.S. Feminisms provides historical context of all the major events and players since the late nineteenth century through today.   The chapters cover first-wave feminism, a period of feminist activity during the nineteenth and early twentieth century which focused primarily on gaining women's suffrage; second-wave feminism, which started in the ’60s and lasted through the ’80s and is best understood as emphasizing the connection between the personal and the political; and third-wave feminism, which started in the early ’90s and arose in part from a backlash against the movements propagated by the second wave.   BUY IT HERE

Radical Sisters: Second-Wave Feminism and Black Liberation in Washington, D. C., by Anne M. Valk (2010)

Radical Sisters offers a fresh exploration of the ways that 1960s political movements shaped local, grassroots feminism in Washington, D.C. While most historiography on the subject tends to portray the feminist movement as deeply divided over issues of race, Anne M. Valk presents a more nuanced account, showing feminists of various backgrounds both coming together to promote a notion of "sisterhood" and being deeply divided along the lines of class, race, and sexuality. Anne M. Valk is the associate director for programs for the John Nicholas Brown Center at Brown University.  BUY IT HERE

Check Out the Documentary:
I Was A Teenage Feminist

DVD copies of the film are available for purchase as the official website for I Was A Teenage Feminist.